COLUMBUS, Ohio — A Columbus business owner took a step back and then a step forward to help other business owners get through the last nine months.
Entrepreneur Manny Larcher's workspace tends to be in the corner of a Columbus coffee shop. Spectrum News caught up with him while he was updating his websites with a little mixed martial arts in the background.
Larcher used to host networking events through his business Collaborate and Elevate, where hundreds would show up. That ended when the pandemic started.
So, he ditched his office space and hired a college student to help out.
“You know, we saved about $5,000, you know, just from not having that office."
Hopping up to grab a quick cup of coffee, Larcher said there was a push to move the networking events online.
“The community really just started to overwhelm us with with emails and just encouragement to kind of keep Collaborate and Elevate going. It really enabled us to continue to share relevant helpful free information, but really give those who want that one on one attention.”
With that, he started offering $5 memberships to help businesses stay afloat while consulting, mentoring and assisting them in becoming more efficient.
“I knew that the internet was fragmented and the tools to help, you know, students, entrepreneurs, business owners was fragmented. So, I knew that there was a need.”
A need that turned into a plus for Gaea Kassatly. She opened up a virtual law firm in December of 2019. With about 10 in-person networking events set up to jump start her virtual business, that went out the window quick with COVID.
“A good word for it: I felt very defeated, you know? Like, very defeated. Like, oh my gosh, this was my plan for 2020. In January, actually I wrote down my vision. I was so excited about it, and I'm like you know, I'm gonna do all these great things and grow this fantastic company," said Kassatly.
Forced to network virtually or close up shop, she decided to join a few online groups, including Larcher’s Collaborate and Elevate. Dead set on networking in person, she wasn’t so confident that virtual networking could work.
“My mindset was you meet people in person and you get that, you know, personal touch this is how they meet you, this is how they trust you, how you build relationships," Kassatly said.
But she got quite the surprise.
“It worked out very well in the sense that I got my ideal clients this way, too. Tech savvy entrepreneurs who appreciate, you know, more innovative modern law firms. I got more than I asked for where a lot of my business started to come from Collaborate and Elevate network.”
And it appears to be the same for a number of others Larcher’s been able to help.
“Members we've been able to connect them with national companies or fortune 500 for sponsorships. A few members who've been able to connect them with customers, we've been able to help members get jobs," Larcher said.
Surprised at how the community’s grown so fast over the last year, Larcher’s just glad he can help connect others with opportunities, while helping them to grow.