IT all started out with a group of 12 business people who met over a bowl of mussels.
Now, six years after that first meeting on Tyneside, The Mussel Club is coming to Hartlepool.
The latest branch of the North-East business phenomenon will be launched at Krimo’s restaurant on Hartlepool Marina on Wednesday, March 24. It gives entrepreneurs a chance to network while enjoying a meal.
Hartlepool becomes only the fifth town to join the Mussel Club movement.
In 2005, a handful of like-minded company bosses decided they wanted to form a networking group with a difference. The difference was the informal nature of the meetings.
Mussels were on the menu – hence the name which has stuck ever since. The Newcastle Mussel Club has continued to grow year-on-year and now offers a selection of starters and main courses with coffee for £20 per person
Co-founder David Cook explained why he and colleagues set it up. “I had done the breakfast networking events. I had done the lunchtime ones. I didn’t like any of them so I set my own up. It seemed to be a good way to meet people.”
From little acorns grew an organisation which now has branches in Newcastle, Sunderland, South Tyneside and Durham. It has 1,000 regional members and a website which gets 11,000 hits a month.
Members who attend get to exchange ideas, possibly make new contacts, and promote the restaurants where the meetings are held.
David added: “People talk about the global network but in reality, 90 per cent of people do business with other people who are within an hour’s drive of themselves. We are using the power of the global network to create a local network.”
Meetings often include a guest speaker. In the past, they have included MPs, company chief executives and heads of councils.
Sunderland Football Club chairman Niall Quinn is due to speak at the April meeting of the Sunderland branch.
The first guest speaker at the inaugural Hartlepool meeting is Mail editor Joy Yates.
She said: “It is an honour to be asked to speak at this exciting new venture for Hartlepool. I am looking forward to the event and to welcoming an organisation that is recognised as a success throughout the region.”
The first meeting will start at 6pm at Krimo’s. Restaurant owner Krimo Bouabda said: “I think it will be well received. It is not the normal kind of networking event and perhaps it will give people a chance to sell each other’s products and services.
“In these hard times, people need to get together.”
People can reserve a place by booking up at www.eventelephant.com/marchhartlepoolmusselclub
More details are available from (0191) 5163100 or via the group’s website at www.themusselclub.com