SAINT JOHN – A networking event in uptown Saint John has been bringing workers in the city’s tech sector together over beer since 2017, and plans to grow with different types of events in the future.
Geek Beers is a monthly networking event held on the last Thursday at every month at Peppers Pub in uptown Saint John. The event is geared towards those working in the tech sector but is open to any working professionals and entrepreneurs.
“I’m passionate about small businesses and learning about who, like me, is doing business and tech; I also like to like to meet new friends,” says Paul Dixon, creator of Geek Beers, freelance web developer and graphic designer and CEO of local design agency Beyond the Pixel.
“Launching simple, organic networking events was a no brainer for me.”
While living in Vernon, British Columbia Dixon ran a similar Geek Beers social and networking event and when he moved back to Saint John two years ago, he saw an opportunity.
“Fostering community and collaboration is important, especially in the tech and small business sectors. Many of us don’t see beyond the sixteen inches of the laptop screen that we sit behind,” jokes Dixon.
He believes the strongest way to grow economically is through small businesses, with true collaboration instead of being in competition.
The next Geek Beer’s event will be on November 28 at Peppers Pub, with a hiatus in December due to the holidays.
Originally Dixon wanted to move around to different locations uptown, but everything clicked at Peppers.
“We found in B.C. people habitually learn about an event when it has a static location and time, and I loved Peppers’ location,” he says. “The staff is amazing, and the menu and beer are phenomenal.”
Since Geek Beers began, he has seen friendships develop in a general sense, with people stopping by because they want to check-in and see somebody or learn about how someone’s business is doing.
“Some people who come claim it’s one of the most important events on their calendar each month because they really value the connections made there.”
Dixon’s own profile and company’s brand awareness has increased through Geek Beers.
“When I have appointments uptown with clients I have to build in 10 to 15 extra minutes when walking because I’m inevitably going to run into somebody I knew and have a conversation,” he says.
Attendance fluctuates from 15 to 30 people each month, but generally, about 20 people come out to Geek Beers events, with Dixon noting an increase since starting the events. He is tentatively planning some Geek Beers extracurricular events in the future.
Dixon believes intimate networking events such as Geek Beers are crucial for networking and small businesses, especially in cities like Saint John where smiles and handshakes are bread and butter for businesses, even more so than good SEO and Facebook posts.
“Connections and meetings are absolutely crucial,” he says. “I know with my own business most of my clients come from people who referred me, or they hear about what I do, or they’ve seen my work.
Geek Beers also helps combat feelings of loneliness, especially those working in the tech sector.
“A lot of people whom we would call nerds and geeks work in tech; they’re people who are a bit more introverted, keep to themselves don’t reach out as easily,” says Dixon.
He has reached out to some larger companies such as Innovatia to build networking events into their work calendar and encourage their workers to come to Geek Beers events.
“I think if we’re going to grow the city’s population, we need to connect people,” says Dixon. “If something as simple as Geek Beers can become a communal connection that makes workers feel good about being in Saint John, then hopefully they’ll decide to stay and contribute all their amazing skills and abilities to the greater community of the city.”
“These events are my own little way to combat that isolation and foster connections.”