Thirsty Thursday is a relaxed, informal business networking event regularly held in Stokesley. Its purpose is to help support local business and provide opportunity to meet likeminded organisations in the region.
I met with Founder, Sue Thompson to find out more.
In the beginning
In 2015 Sue, owner of Catch Design Management, met PR Consultant, Anna Murray at a networking event in Stokesley. Although they both ran similar businesses and lived only a few streets away they had never met.
The pair quickly spotted an opportunity. Despite Stokesley being home to hundreds of businesses, self employed people and home workers there was a distinct lack of opportunity to meet other organisations and network. Being from similar industries, Sue and Anna had the confidence that they could create a suitable community and Thirsty Thursday was born.
Wanting to keep the networking relaxed and informal they set up at the Mill in Stokesley. They set the first date and nervously awaited their guests, each with a cold glass of pinot grigio in hand! Thankfully there was no need for nerves as over 40 businesses eagerly arrived at that first event.
“We knew there was an opportunity to support the local business community but even we were surprised to see so many people attend. We’ve never really looked back since.”
Going it alone
After 4 years of successful events, Anna took up a full time employed position and no longer had the time to dedicate so Sue decided to go for it alone.
Sue said “In the early days we didn’t have an agenda as we wanted to provide a free and easy environment. Guest feedback proved that people loved the relaxed aspect of being together in the pub with no pressure to perform, or pitch. But some structure and a membership feel to the event was welcomed. So I created the format that we follow now.”
The event starts at 5pm with a very casual meet & greet. Sue will try to introduce people with common interests. Around 6pm, Sue will make her introduction which includes alerts about local business news and then introduces the speaker.
“There’s a big effort to find the right speakers. Ideally I’m looking for someone with a good story to share or something generic that has value for a variety of businesses.”
Once the speaker is finished the last hour is relaxed, informal business networking and enjoying the free canapés kindly provided by the Mill.
From the Tees Valley to the Loire Valley
“We’ve had a real variety of speakers over the years but from the feedback we’ve had the stand outs are Bob Cuffe MBE, Managing Director of Trinity Mirror North, who shared some really great stories. Laurent Allimant, ‘The French Man’ went down really well too. No doubt down to the selection of meats and cheeses that he brought with him. Our crowd certainly love to eat!”
“I’m really proud to say that business has been generated as a result of Thirsty Thursday. I often hear that funding has been secured or apprenticeships placed as a direct result of a connection with our local authorities made at one of the events.”
The pandemic was a double whammy for Sue with government restrictions removing the ability to network face to face in addition to losing the regular venue.
“As soon as we lost our venue it did feel that that the correct way forward was to go digital. So we held regular Thirsty Thursday informal business networking meetings via Zoom throughout 2020. These were well attended and we received good feedback. However I, like many people, started to feel ‘Zoom fatigue’ towards the end of the year so decided to have a break and resume in the new year.
Business park support
“Sue and Mark have been great supporters of Thirsty Thursday and have been to almost every live event. They share all of our event information with every new tenant and encourage collaboration.
I really appreciate the support from them and I’m grateful to everyone that attends Thirsty Thursday. Although it’s difficult to replicate that in person, relaxed atmosphere on a video call I’m determined that Covid will not stop us networking so we’ll be holding bi-monthly events through 2021 to keep people connected. It would be so good to see more people on Zoom!”
The first virtual Thirsty Thursday is on 25th February at 5pm on Zoom.
All regular members will receive an invite via email.
Watch out on social media for more dates!