Ex-banker creates networking events company for like-minded professionals
"With new meetings come new opportunities. Always continue expanding your network and keep it fresh," said Salima Manji, 40, who runs upmarket networking company City Networking Events.
The ex-investment banker worked at Credit Suisse and JP Morgan before starting her own business having seen a gap in the market for quality networking events.
But she had been in the people business before, having set up dating websites and dinner clubs.
She said: "I started my career at Credit Suisse in Canary Wharf in 1998 and really enjoyed working in product control before getting married and starting a family.
"I decided to go back in 2006 when the children were a little older - but things had changed.
"There was not a good vibe in the City and the people who were working long hours to cover other people's jobs during cuts, were complaining about dating and the lack of time to meet like-minded people.
"They had tried various online dating sites but were disheartened by the experience.
"I realised I was unhappy in my job and wanted to spend more time with the kids so I thought about launching an upmarket dating service that wasn't online - you met people at dinner parties.
"After a lot of research and setting up a website while I was still working, I finally quit the day job in 2008.
My first business was Asian Dinner Club. I organised dinner parties once a month at different restaurants in Mayfair, Chelsea and Kensington for single Asian professionals.
"This was a great success and in 2010 someone asked me why I was only dealing with single people - so I expanded to London Dinner Club and had over 1,000 members.
"I decided to sell the company two months ago and move away from dating - this is when City Networking Events was born."
Salima is hosting her first event on October 10 at Hush Brasserie in Mayfair, with tickets costing £70 including a pre-dinner drink and two courses.
You can register free online, with no membership fees - you just buy a ticket to an event you would like to attend.
She said: "There are so many networking events in London but they are all drinks based - I saw a gap in the market for networking dinner parties.
"It's intimate, usually 10-15 people in top restaurants. Everyone is introduced over a pre-dinner drink and then chat over dinner, very informally to create a really nice evening.
"It has to be the right venue - not too quiet where everyone can hear your conversation but not too busy that you struggle to talk - and there has to be a buzz.
"I love bringing people together and organising an event once a month doesn't impact on family time. The business could be bigger - I have already been contacted by people on LinkedIn about taking the idea to Dubai on a more commercial level.
"It's not about getting drunk. I bring like minded people together. Business cards will be flying around and partnerships can be formed.
"London can be a lonely place. This is a fun way to meet people and it's important for people to be open to all kinds of networking.
"The dinner party format is my slant on it and I have seen this format work for dating. I have been invited to so many weddings of people I have matched. Its informal, without distractions and a great way to get to know someone.
"I love running my own business - smartphones now give you the flexibility to work on the go which means I can be flexible and adapt. I'm in control of my own career."
Salima will be looking into hosting events at restaurants in Canary Wharf in the future and believes networking is important for everyone from start-ups to the heads of multi-national banks. She said: "Go with an open mind. Whether you come away with a business contact or just make a new friend, you have connected with someone."
Go to citynetworkingevents.com