Free and Affordable Networking Events for B2B Small Businesses in the DMV

Free and Affordable Networking Events for B2B Small Businesses in the DMV

We’re numb to the relentless bombardment of digital ads, and we’ve learned to send the spammy sales pitches straight to our junk folder. Worse, all that internet marketing is actually more expensive than it used to be, thanks to stricter privacy measures that make it hard to target your ideal customer.

That’s why old school networking is more important than ever. As business guru Simon Sinek has famously said, “We don’t do business with companies. We do business with people.” That’s particularly true in the B2B services space — when a client signs on for a relationship that could last years, they want to be sure they know, like and trust you.

But in the Washington, DC region, even networking can be expensive. Chambers of commerce and referral-based business networks charge members anywhere from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars in annual dues. And those golf outings and fancy galas aren’t cheap. Plus, in our region, your business development is likely spread over two states, a district, and more than a dozen sizable towns and cities.

What you really need is an a la carte approach, with an option to pop in on a variety of hyper-local events, without the expense or commitment of multiple memberships.

Fortunately, there are plenty of networking options for the thrifty small business owner looking to find new business on a budget.

In this blog, we highlight organizations in the DC metro area that provide free and affordable networking events for local small businesses. While our region has no shortage of networking groups that cater to tech start ups or government contractors, this comprehensive guide focuses exclusively on the best networking events for local, service-based businesses looking to do business with other companies.

Further, we focus on free, in-person events that don’t require you to join a chamber of commerce or business group. But we’ve also included some good-value events in the $15 to $50 range (but only if there’s food!).

B2B Networking Events in Washington, DC

Greater Washington Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

The GWHCC is one of the most active chambers in the National Capitol Region, and offers both free and paid events for members and non-members alike. It’s an inclusive environment for not only Latinx businesses, but businesses owned by women and people of color, and as well as anyone who wants to support a diverse local business environment.

  • Its signature Business Expo in April attracts more than 100 exhibitors and thousands of attendees. It’s free to attend and a great way to meet other local businesses.

  • Coffee Networking events: free for members and just $15 for non-members.

Hera Hub

Hera Hub is a women’s co-working space with offices and event space in the Tenleytown neighborhood. They host regular “dolphin tank”-style pitch competitions, art nights and training to boost your business. Many are free for non-members, and a good opportunity to network, particularly if your target market is solo entrepreneurs in service industries.

DC Chamber of Commerce

The DC Chamber of Commerce tends towards pricy luncheons and golf outings where tickets cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars. But keep your eye out for the occasional networking happy hour — these events tend to come with a corporate sponsor, so you can attend for a nominal fee.

Nexco

Nexco is a networking community with local virtual chapters that meet twice per month to share referrals and engage in professional development discussions. In that sense, it’s similar to the long-established Business Network International, but unlike BNI, non-members can visit chapter meetings or attend national speed networking events for free. Nexco has a deep bench of chapters in the DC area and you can sign up online to pop into a meeting. Chapters include Washington, DC, Montgomery County, Baltimore, Frederick, Reston, Springfield, Tysons and Loudon.

B2B Networking Events in Montgomery County

The Greater Bethesda Chamber of Commerce

The Greater Bethesda Chamber of Commerce offers two regular free events for non-members:

  • ChamberConnect: a breakfast event every fourth Tuesday of the month at 8:30am at the Chamber’s office in downtown Bethesda.

  • “Off the Clock”: a networking happy hour at 5:30pm every second Tuesday of the month at a local restaurant. Attendance is free and lite fare is provided, with cash bar.

The Greater Silver Spring Chamber of Commerce

The Greater Silver Spring Chamber of Commerce offers Business After Hours happy hour that non-members can attend. The event tends to be Wednesdays at 5:30 pm several times per year. Tickets are $25.

The Greater Rockville Chamber of Commerce

While the Greater Rockville Chamber of Commerce is primarily oriented towards events for members, it does host a Cocktails and Commerce mixer with the Olney Chamber of Commerce that is free and open to non-members.

The Olney Chamber of Commerce

The Olney Chamber of Commerce offers a periodic networking happy hour at a local bar that is open to non-members.

B2B Networking Events in Prince George’s County

Maryland Women’s Business Center

The Maryland Women’s Business Center offers a number of free networking events each month, some virtual and some in-person. For example:

  • The monthly MoCo mixer: a lunchtime networking event in Rockville for women business owners in Montgomery County.

  • Coffee & Connections: a virtual networking event and lecture series for women business owners in Frederick County.

  • Women in Business Virtual Networking: a monthly virtual networking event for women business owners in Prince George’s County.

Minority Christian Women Entrepreneurs Network

The Minority Christian Women’s Entrepreneurs Network offers a meet-up for women business owners of faith every third Friday evening of the month in Riverdale, MD. Tickets are $20.

B2B Networking Events in Northern Virginia

Arlington Chamber of Commerce

The Arlington Chamber of Commerce has one of the most active and varied schedules of networking events in the National Capitol region. Plus, it generously allows prospective members to attend up to three networking events in a calendar year for free. Regular (mostly monthly) events include:

  • Women in Business Networking Series

  • Breakfast Connection

  • Business After Business: a happy hour

  • Small Business Roundtable: a lunch event with a speaker and networking

Tysons Regional Chamber of Commerce

Like Arlington, Tysons Regional Chamber of Commerce offers varied networking events and a liberal welcome policy for non-members.

  • The TIPS Lead Share Group: A referral networking group that meets the first and third Wednesdays of the month at 8:40am virtually. Non-members can visit twice.

  • Cocktails and Connections: the last Thursday of the month, with cocktails and light food service. $35 for non-members.

Tysons also offers other periodic events, such as a lunch and learn or movie night. Non-members may purchase tickets.

Alexandria Chamber of Commerce

The Alexandria Chamber of Commerce offers regular networking events open to non-members. At $30 to $50 for non-members, they are pricier than other options listed here. But we’ve included them for those with a specific interest in connecting with other business owners in Alexandria:

  • Networking Breakfast: an in-person event with speed networking. Hosted once per quarter at an Alexandria-based business.

  • After Hours: a happy hour once per quarter, typically on the third Thursday of the month.

Falls Church Chamber of Commerce

Informal Networking Breakfast: a monthly no-host breakfast for members and non-members. Free to attend, and you simply pay for your breakfast at a local eatery.

Networking Lunch: A monthly event, $35 for non-members.

Networking Mixer: A regular Happy Hour, free for non-members.