Like so many networking groups STEM advisers began with a group of like-minded people with shared interests meeting up regularly over a few drinks. STEM Advisers Hub now draws in practitioners and service providers from a wide geographical area who are working in the science, tech, engineering, maths, medical and manufacturing sectors.
“There are some very good cross-sector networking groups around but, as I had been moving increasingly towards specialising in the STEM sectors, I realised that I didn’t know the depth of service specialism within my network.”
Copeland says that her clients need to draw on her connections to find specialists with experience in their sectors. The wider business networks were good but generalised:
“Providing marketing strategy meant I was often asked ‘Do you know a good videographer, website or brand designer with clients in the space sector?’ or ’Do you know an expert in finance, insurance or recruitment with experience in life sciences?’ I wanted to answer with greater confidence and to be able to offer choice.”
She put feelers out with a few local contacts and suggested meeting in a nearby pub, making sure that the gatherings had a clear business purpose as well as a social one.
The group quickly outgrew its pub setting and has since developed into a large regional think tank for advisers and practitioners in STEM sectors. Its core aims are to support and connect business owners and advisers who specialise in one or more of the STEM sectors.
“From the start our priority was to give business leaders and their advisers a choice of options and a quality resource for finding connections and advice in STEM sectors,” explains Copeland. “This is why the hub has developed into a think tank to address STEM-specific issues and challenges, as well as a forum to build relationships. And this is why it appeals to business leaders as well as service providers.
The hub operates on a structure of closed member meetings, open events for guests and social gatherings, which all work together to provide a foundation for members and guests to make connections, build relationships and to expand the network. It expects its members to know each other well enough to provide qualified, meaningful introductions and referrals, and be generous with their support of both members and guests.
Topics for discussion are decided among members or guests and therefore current and relevant. Recently the group has covered international trading, marketing and remote working technologies. “We invite all to contribute their questions before each meeting, and these can be submitted anonymously if required, we just ask that they are positive.”
Copeland insists the network rules are kept to a minimum, and are designed to bring in people from a variety of backgrounds and willing to take an active part. Service providers must already be working with clients in one or more of the sectors and be prepared to share useful experience. The network is non-exclusive, so business leaders have access to different points of view from service providers: “This is a forum for practical problems and building relationships, and no pushy sales are allowed,” she adds.
Copeland admits she gets as much out of the group as the members. “It’s pleasing to be part of a quality business discussion which helps people to air their views and come up with solutions to problems. I continually hear good feedback from members and guests that the hub is facilitating quality business introductions.”
Details on membership and upcoming meetings at stemadvisers.co.uk.