Networking in Marin: An Innovative Guide

Ah, networking.  For some people it's a breeze, and for the rest of us the idea of "networking" is as beguiling as an afternoon at the DMV.  However you feel about it, we've got all kinds of ideas from super-talented Marinites, all with their own version of tapping into the massive networking potential of Marin County.  And we're not just talking about joining the yacht club or schmoozing at dull cocktail parties...

Networking done right (above, at Mill Valley's co-working space, The Hivery) can be inspiring, fulfulling - and luxurious.  

Networking done right (above, at Mill Valley's co-working space, The Hivery) can be inspiring, fulfulling - and luxurious.  

Social Media.  Because you have to. 

For those of us pre-Millenials (ahem) who wistfully recall life before zero privacy, when you could eat a fancy restaurant dinner without the nearby table snapping photos of their beef kohlrabi for Instagram, we feel you.  But unfortunately, those days are long gone, and the rewards for business on social media are too big to ignore.  

Recently, we sat down to lunch at Left Bank, Larkspur (where we reluctantly snapped photos of our Salade de Poulet before tucking in) with Allie Wandner, founder of Marin-based digital design and marketing company Knockout.design.

Allie Wandner gives us some serious insight into social media and brand marketing, and her Marin-based consultancy, knockout.design

Allie Wandner gives us some serious insight into social media and brand marketing, and her Marin-based consultancy, knockout.design

“On social media, it’s all about exposing your brand's personality – it’s not about the hard sell – but about creating personal connections with your audience," Wandner explains patiently.  A-ha, we think!  So it's not just cliche photos of the Golden Gate bridge and $8 cupcakes?  “Your potential customers look at your social media profile and will hit the follow button if they relate to you. It’s a great way to organically market your brand in a fun, casual way."

Wandner has worked for 10+ years in marketing and social media.  As she puts it, she first joined Facebook when a college e-mail address was required to join and she's never looked back.  (Some of us were just excited to sign up for our first e-mail address in college, but shhh!)  For her and most 35 and unders, social media feels as natural as getting out of bed in the morning.  For others, it's a learning curve.  That's why Wandner started knockout.design to help local businesses grow their social network and brand exposure on Instagram among other social channels.  She recommends posting at least one photo a day, with a 40% ratio of business to 60% lifestyle being the “sweet spot." 

Whether you do it yourself or get outside help, getting involved in social media is such a powerful tool to reach your audience, it's a low-hanging fruit that a modern networker should definitely add to the tool belt.  

Join a Networking Group

In industries where staying connected and in the loop at all times is vital - like real estate, tech, or entertainment - being part of a networking group can be worth its weight in gold.  We caught up with Carey Hagglund Condy, networking pro and Marin County realtor, about how networking groups have impacted her super-successful business at Pacific Union buying and selling homes in Ross, Kentfield, and other tony Marin communities: "Humans are relational - we like to feel connected," Carey explains, taking a quick break from ongoing real estate negotiations in her elegant Ross office.  "As a society, we're increasingly isolated in our own 'phone worlds.'  We used to have sewing bees, family nearby, and community social networks, but that's changed for many of us. Networking groups are invaluable.  It's a place to share best practices, off-market listings, buyers with special needs. It's huge."  

Grace Kraaijvanger, founder of the much-buzzed about Mill Valley co-working space / women's inspiration lab, The Hivery (pictured at top) experienced a similar lack of interconnectedness when she retired from professional ballet and modern dance and shifted into a marketing career.  She missed belonging to a creative community, and was inspired to create The Hivery as a totally unique "collaborative and creative coworking space where women can pursue their work, passions, and ideas."  More than a work space, it's a flexible, women-only work community and entrepreneurial powerhouse where women gather to work, collaborate, attend events, and get inspired in a beautiful space that makes networking as light and breezy as the bright and elegant interiors.  

Explore Work Clubs!

Which brings us to our final point.  No man (or woman) is an island.  But many of us in Marin work from home, which can be both lonely and prone to distraction. Maximize your productivity - and increase your connection to other Marin entrepreneurs and businesspeople - by checking out a local work club, where people work together in a shared, communal setting.  

Sally Newson, owner of Mind Tank Work Club in Ross, was inspired to start Mind Tank after years of operating a successful marketing business out of her home office.   "Being a part of a co-working community can be a very enriching experience, professionally and personally.  Mind Tank members find they’re way more productive because they’re free of distractions, they have a better work/life balance because they’re able to separate work life and personal life, and they’re happier because they’re connecting and sometimes collaborating with others. We all love it here!"

Sally Newson at Mind Tank Work Club, Ross. 

Sally Newson at Mind Tank Work Club, Ross. 

Occupying part of the charming Ross Garage building in downtown Ross, the old brick walls and casement windows are painted in a sleek black-and-white color scheme, and the space includes a conference room, quiet desks and chairs, and full hospitality for Mind Tankers and visiting clients.  Mind Tank has proven so successful that Sally plans to expand to nearby Deer Park Villa in Fairfax to provide a vibrant and expansive co-working setting for San Anselmo, Fairfax, and West Marin residents.