ST. CLOUD -- On the first Monday of every month, a group of about 50 "good people" meet at Midtown Square to strategize how to make their small businesses grow and succeed.

The Good People of Central Minnesota networking group is the brainchild of Mandi Moon of Sartell. Moon, a former mortgage broker, left the industry several years ago to start her own business helping other small business owners build and market their brands.

“It was a very scary decision," Moon admitted. "I had no idea what I was doing, but I jumped anyway and did it.”

Moon founded the Good People when she realized that her clients – many from the world of sales, real estate, and insurance – would benefit by getting to know one another to share business development tips and ideas.

"What they all had in common was that they were good people trying to be honest and make it in sales," Moon explained. "So, instead of trying to meet with all of these people individually, I thought I would just gather a group together. We can all talk about business-building ideas together and I can give them all of this information in one place. And, I could probably learn something about the industry as well!"

The group, which began with about 10 members, draws between 40 and 50 people from small businesses or nonprofits to each monthly meeting. Each session focuses on a particular topic particularly relevant to fledgling businesses – a niche that was previously unfilled, says Moon.

"The traditional way of networking is a great way to promote your business, but there wasn't a way to grow your business," Moon said. "So, we were getting all these people together to learn to grow and promote their businesses while they're still in a growing phase, versus traditional networking which is all about sales and promotion."

Moon says anyone plotting to start their own small business would be wise to investigate the resources at the Small Business Development Center, located at St. Cloud State University.

“Find someone who can help guide you,” Moon said. “But really, you just have to jump. There’s no amount of planning or thinking that is going to get you over the fear. You just have to go for it.”

The Good People of Central Minnesota's next "Power Hour" is Monday, April 6 at 11:30 a.m. It's free and open to all. For more information, visit their website or Facebook page.

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