Chad Gourley, by all accounts, is a great young networker. Just as importantly, he’s a decent enough guy. “You can know a million people, but if they do not like you, they will not give you business,” Bob Willis, the director of Business Networking International (BNI) Ohio, said. “Chad is one of the most likeable people I have ever met. He is a genuinely nice guy that wants to help others more than he cares about them helping him. But because people like him so much, they want to give him referrals. His efforts and his good nature make Chad a great networker that I wish I had more of in BNI.” Gourley did his best in 2015 to spread around his networking talents. With BNI, he helped re-create the Cardinal Connection chapter in Mentor. In 2014 the chapter had bottomed to four remaining members, including Gourley. Officials considered folding the group, but another area BNI director, Tony Stastny, rescued the chapter and gave it a new plan of attack. Included was a goal of reaching 20 members (two more than usual) to recapture its official chapter status. In May of 2015 the chapter launched with 23 members, including Gourley, who was named president. “At 26 years old it was a little overwhelming, as everyone else in the chapter was much further along in their respective careers,” Gourley said. “When it all boiled down, BNI leadership felt strongly about having the most positive and upbeat person lead the chapter in its inaugural kick-off year.” By the end of the year, the team had grown to 32, making it one of the largest chapters in Northeast Ohio. Roughly $160,000 in closed business was passed among chapter members, more than 600 referrals were given out, and more than 500 one-to-one meetings were completed. As the director of marketing and community outreach with Torva Local, a downtown Willoughby-based marketing firm, Gourley joined six local networking organizations: Willoughby Western Lake County Chamber of Commerce, Mentor Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Willoughby Business Association, Downtown Willoughby Bar and Restaurant Association, Lake Communicators, and Future Emerging Leaders of Lake County.
Runners-up: John Fouser, Sales and Operations General Manager, Interstate Kitchen Supply; Kevin Grissinger, Special Events and Communications Coordinator, Greater Cleveland Food Bank; Cristina Lowenfeld, Catering/Sales Manager, Hilton Garden Inn Cleveland Downtown.
2015 — Chad Gourley
2014 — Ashley Basile Oeken
2013 — Adam Rosen
2012 — Anne H. Doyle