Tips & Insights

Get Connected

Social events offer excellent opportunities to build your business network

"If you're not networking, you're not working," says motivational speaker Denis Waitley, and there is no better place to work your home furnishings network than the High Point Market. Every spring and fall, about 75,000 retailers, designers, suppliers, reps, reporters, editors, customers, potential employees, interested investors, colleagues, and competitors come to experience the most important event in our industry. While they're here, they're not just buying and selling products and services, they're building business relationships. While it's certainly true that an unexpected hallway encounter can create a new opportunity, every seasoned Market pro keeps a personal list of can't-miss events. We asked a few industry leaders which ones they make a point to attend.

"You get to see key executives and create relationships … which helps your business."
- Randy Coconis, Coconis Furniture

Randy Coconis, president of Coconis Furniture in Zanesville, Ohio, has been coming to Market for 42 years. In that time, he has honed his High Point schedule to a science. Right at the top of his networking list is National Home Furnishings Association's (NAHFA) Retailer of the Year dinner, held every spring at the Furniture Industry Awards Gala. It's an event with special meaning for Coconis, as he was named Retailer of the Year in 2013.

"At these big dinners," say Coconis, "you get to see key executives and create relationships with manufacturers, which helps your business. There are more big industry manufacturing executives in High Point than any other market."

While the NAHFA dinner is a spring highlight, there are plenty of major networking events at both the fall and spring Markets. Sara Lyke, executive director for WithIt, attends the American Furniture Hall of Fame dinner. Every fall, the Hall of Fame inducts new leaders into its ranks, and the recognition is considered one of the highest honors in our industry. "The dinner is an opportune time to see CEOs in a relaxed setting," says Lyke. "It's an ideal place to thank them for all their support."

"You have a chance to meet and chat with top executives from furniture companies and design firms, as well as publishers, editors, educators, students and industry friends."
- Jason Phillips, The Phillips Collection

The Pinnacle Awards Banquet, sponsored by the American Society of Furniture Designers, is also held each fall. Jason Phillips, vice president of sales and marketing for The Phillips Collection, was the event’s chair for 2014. “The Pinnacle Awards is a celebration of furniture design and is the highest achievement a designer can receive in our industry,” says Phillips. “At the event you have a chance to meet and chat with top executives from furniture companies and design firms, as well as publishers, editors, educators, students and industry friends. There is a complimentary cocktail hour before the awards and a dinner during the ceremony. Perfect opportunities to rub elbows!”

Stefanie Lucas, CEO of Boston Interiors, understands the importance of networking, but she has a tight schedule. However, there is one event that she doesn’t miss. “I attend the City of Hope dinner,” she says. “It’s a good cause.”

It's also a great place to meet influential executives in the industry. The dinner that benefits cancer research is held every spring, but there are City of Hope events at fall Market as well.

"We often find great support and wonderful networking opportunities from the seminars …"
- Lori Negrinotti, Stoney Creek Furniture

Lori Negrinotti has been part of the buying team for Canadian retailer Stoney Creek Furniture for 14 years. That adds up to 28 High Point Markets and innumerable events ranging from seminars and award dinners to educational meetings and private gatherings.

"We often find great support and wonderful networking opportunities from the seminars and events at Market," says Negrinotti, a merchandise manager. "I always walk away from these events so pleased that someone has been kind enough to pass along a lead on a great line or a tip that could essentially make our business more profitable. Taking the time to attend is definitely worth it."

Her never-miss event? "The WithIt Educational Breakfast is always a must for me," says Negrinotti. "Even if the topic or speaker is not necessarily related to our business, I'll attend just for the chance to meet and chat with someone new at my table. There are some pretty amazing industry women in that room and I still have a lot of them to meet."

There are amazing people in every part of the home furnishings industry, male and female, young and old. They all come to High Point twice a year, and they all make sure to mark their Market calendars with important networking events. Every day of Market Week, from breakfast and on into the evening, you will find multiple opportunities to connect with people who can help further your business goals. To discover all of this Market's networking opportunities, just take a quick tour of the Social Events pages in Find Events. Select the ones that seem right for your business and your schedule, pack a stack of business cards, and get ready to grow your network.