Business Networking in Dorset
Dorset has a vibrant business networking scene. A large number of groups and events are focused on Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch, and there is plenty of networking activity in Dorchester and Weymouth. The smaller towns, such as Blandford, Bridport and Sherborne, also have reasonably active networking groups.
I created and maintain this list is to help you discover the business networking opportunities available in Dorset. It was last updated in October 2018.
Business Networking Opportunities in Dorset
#dorsethour is an informal gathering of Dorset businesses that takes place on Twitter every Monday, from 7.30pm to 8.30pm. To join in, get online from 7.30pm on a Monday, search on the #dorsethour hashtag and start joining in the conversation.
5@7 Networking is a small networking group based on the Ferndown industrial estate, which has been meeting every week for over two years. Membership is limited to one person per trade or profession but visitors are welcome from across Dorset, or even further afield. About 20 people attend each meeting. Find out more from their website or their Facebook page.
AFC Bournemouth Business Club This is a free to join group based around Dorset’s only Premier League football club, AFC Bournemouth. Click here for more information about the group.
Athena Dorset Structured networking for women in business, part of the Athena Network. Meets once a month in Bournemouth. Visit the Facebook Page for more information.
Beaminster & District Business Chamber There is not much information available about the Beaminster Chamber online, and different sites offer different contact details. If you’re interested in this Chamber I recommend looking it up through a search engine.
Bizzy Networking and support group for the smaller business - particularly sole traders and those working from home. Meets fourth Tuesday in the month at Weymouth College, 9.30am to 11am. Organised by Weymouth & Portland Chamber of Commerce. Click here for Facebook Page.
Blandford Business Club Meets for a networking breakfast every other Wednesday, from 7.15am to 9am, at Hall & Woodhouse Brewery. Click here for more details.
BNI This is a referral marketing organisation, with only one person per trade or profession per group. Several Dorset branches seem to have folded recently, but replacements are springing up. For more information visit their Dorset website.
Bournemouth Chamber of Trade & Commerce Breakfast meetings, training events and more from this large and very reasonably priced networking group. Discover more benefits on their website.
Bournemouth Property Association If you’re a property professional operating in Dorset, you may find this group useful for staying informed and for networking. They run a variety of networking events – click here to see what they’ve got planned.
Bournemouth UX If you're interested in the ideas and technology around UX (that's 'digital user experience'), you should connect with the @BournemouthUX crowd. They meet a few times a year.
Bridport Business The town’s Chamber of Commerce is presenting a more contemporary image with its ‘Bridport Business’ branding. It holds regular networking event. Click here to view the website.
Business 4 Bridport (B4B) This group runs on the same principles as BNI, that is, only one member per business sector is permitted. It meets every two weeks. More information is available from the group’s website. (Note - website unavailable when last checked in October 2018)
Business Breakfast Club This group is based in Bournemouth. Learn more from their Facebook Page.
Business Hive This weekly networking group meets on the Isle of Portland. Membership is restricted to one of any type of business. Learn more from their website.
Cornerstone Networking This group meets on the far east of the county, at Ringwood. It gathers twice a month and there appears to be no annual membership fee. For details, see their Facebook Page.
Creative Women in Business With monthly meetings in the Bournemouth and Poole area, this describes itself as 'a supportive space for creative women to meet, share, get support and inspire each other in developing and building our businesses.' You can learn more from its Facebook Group.
Dorchester and District Chamber of Commerce This group has around 100 members and holds regular meetings. You can find out more from their website.
Dorset Chamber of Commerce and Industry. While it covers the whole county, in practice the majority of DCCI events happen around the Bournemouth area. We hear that new Chief Exec Ian Girling wants to broaden the Chamber’s appeal across the county.
Dorset Echo Granby Breakfast A networking initiative in Weymouth, organised by the Dorset Echo. For more info about their free breakfast event email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dorset Entrepreneurs Network hold meetings twice a month in the Bournemouth/Poole area, alternating between morning and evening events. The meetings feature a specific topic, a guest speaker, and the chance to build relationships with other local business owners. There are no limitations per trade or profession, all are welcome. Find out more on their Meetup Page, or their Facebook Group.
Dorset Growth Hub This business support organsation runs seminars, workshops and other events across the county, all of which present useful networking opportunities. Click here to visit their website.
Dorvil Visited in October 2016. Meeting half-way between Dorchester and Yeovil, the Dorvil meetings bring together businesses from Dorset and Somerset. Meets at the George Albert Hotel on the first Friday of the month for informal networking, breakfast and a presentation. No membership fees. Click here for the Dorvil website.
Dynamic Women in Business (previously Dorset Women in Business) The name says it all, really, and I can’t go because I’m a bloke. Meets several times a year in Boscombe, Wimborne and Christchurch. This is not the same organisation as WIBN (Women in Business Network).
Early Bird Business Exchange Founded in early 2013, this independent, Sherborne-based group meets every other week. Find out more from their website.
East Dorset Business Network (EDBN) Meets once a month for a breakfast. There’s a bit more information on their website.
Elite Business Women Clubs There are two groups, Bournemouth and Poole, and Christchurch. The format of the meetings is timed, structured and highly commercial. Visit the website for more information.
Federation of Small Businesses The FSB has two groups covering the county: Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch, and Rural Dorset. Both groups have access to meetings under the wider Wessex events calendar.
“Fore” Business Bournemouth Based around golf, “Fore” Business has groups across the UK. The Bournemouth branch, based at the Knighton Heath Golf Club, has been running since early 2015. Click here to view the group’s website.
Jelly An informal co-working event for freelancers, home workers and small/micro business. A chance to work, chat and collaborate with other small business owners. Free except for refreshment charges. Described as co-working rather than networking, it seems a like a great opportunity to meet others. There are several Jelly groups in Dorset – click here to learn more.
Leading Edge This Poole-based group, founded in 2010, meets monthly. It prides itself on high integrity and trust, and membership is restricted. For detail visit its website.
Lemur Link Up This business networking group was set up by busy mums and it’s open to all. Meetings are held at Lemur Landings soft play in Poole. Find out more here.
Lyme Bay Ladies. Offline and online networking for women based on or near the West Dorset coast. This group offers various levels of membership. Visit the website for more information.
Meetdraw Informal networking group for Dorset-based creative types involved in digital publishing. According to their website that includes developers, designers, marketeers, SEO writers, journalists, entrepreneurs, students, PR experts and copywriters.
4Networking This national networking organisation appears to currently have groups in Bournemouth and Dorchester. For more information visit their website.
Network Dorset This is an independent referral networking group that meets weekly in Dorchester. As with other referral groups, it’s limited to one person per business category. Click here for more information.
New2Business Networking There's a clue in the name - this group is for people with little or no networking experience. It's run in East Dorset (Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch) by Outset. Visit the website for more information.
North Dorset Business Group Informal, low-cost networking with no membership or event fees, and a monthly meeting on the second Tuesday. Find out more from their Facebook Group.
PHP Dorset A community with a shared interest in web development in general and PHP programming language in particular. Open to all, it meets on the first Monday of the month in Westbourne. See website for more details.
Poole Bay Rotary Established in October 2016, this describes itself as ‘for younger people active in local businesses keen to be involved with community-based projects’. Visit the Poole Bay Rotary website to learn more.
Purbeck Network Focused on the Swanage and Wareham area, this network only accepts one business per business category. Click here to find out more from their website.
Pure Networking Formerly Bournemouth Networking, this group holds one morning and one evening event each month. The format includes speed networking elements. There don’t appear to be any membership requirements for this group – just book your ticket and go along! Click here for the website.
Shaftesbury Chamber This north Dorset Chamber of Commerce runs networking events from time to time. For more information about what they're up to, click here to visit their website.
Sounding Board A round table forum for growing businesses, where business owners discuss their challenges and opportunities. It's free and places are limited. Click here for more details.
Startup Grind Bournemouth The Start Up Grind network inspires entrepreneurs across the world. Its meetings are based around an in-depth interview with a successful entrepreneur. The Bournemouth group is new in 2016 and you can follow it on Twitter as @startupgrindbmth. It has no website, but can be found on the overall Startup Grind site.
Successful Women in Business Successful Women in Business Spanning Dorset, Devon, Hampshire and Somerset, this group has monthly breakfast meetings in Dorchester, Bournemouth, Poole, Exeter, Taunton and New Milton. Each meeting has structured development sessions as well as structured networking. There are several tiers of membership. For details, visit their website.
The Boardroom Network runs monthly breakfast clubs focused on bringing together business owners, directors, decision makers and managers. They operate an agenda with table plans to ensure they provide a friendly and engaging format, encouraging good conversations, connections and potential collaborations. Only open to organisations that can both buy and sell. Click to find out more from their website.
The Breakfast Board (pictured below) meets every 2nd Friday of the month at Urban Reef on the Boscombe prom. Each meeting tackles a different focus topic, with the discussion led by an expert guest-chair. Organised by The Boardroom Advisory – see the website for more information.
Trade 2 Business Forum Blandford Meeting every Friday for breakfast, this group’s website says it offers friendly, informal networking with minimal rules. However, it does limit membership to one person per trade or profession. Click here to visit the group’s website. (Website unavailable when checked October 2018).
UXBournemouth This is a quarterly meet-up for professionals interested in UX. Stay informed via Twitter.
Verwood Business The Verwood Chamber of Commerce has a Facebook Page, but the last post was in late 2017.
Weymouth and Portland Chamber of Commerce Networking breakfast review June 2016. WPCC organises a monthly networking breakfast at various local venues, along with running other events for organisations in the area. Website here.
Weymouth Business Exchange (WEBX) This is a referral-based networking group meeting three times a month for breakfast in Weymouth Pavilion Theatre, and it follows a format similar to a BNI meeting. Visit their website for more information.
WiRE Dorset Network A Dorset branch of WiRE (Women in Rural Enterprise) launched towards the end of 2016. The group meets monthly in the Wimborne area and it’s open to all women, particularly those involved with a rural enterprise. To find out more join the WiRE Dorset Facebook Group.
Young Executive Club Since 2009 this group has been providing networking opportunities for up and coming professionals, aged under 35. The club website and its Twitter account imply it may have gone dormant in mid-2018.