Gina Johnson: Networking with Purpose
Gina Johnson was tired of going to the same old networking events over and over. In looking for a new way to network while also helping out the community, Gina took matters into her own hands and formed the group Networking for A Cause to help both nonprofits and business owners.
“I wanted to network with a purpose,” she tells the Harbor News during a recent chat. As an entrepreneur herself, Gina was very familiar with going to networking events which she terms “the same old, same old,” where business owners just pass around cards and make conversation. She was ready for something different.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, as networking events slowed and then restarted again, those feelings of wanting to do something new increased.
“I wanted to do more, and after looking around and not really finding anything, I decided to start it myself,” Gina says.
“As someone who is passionate about philanthropy, I thought, why not combine both and help businesses network but also help out these nonprofits? I thought it was a win-win,” she explains.
In January, Gina started Networking for A Cause — a group of about 50 entrepreneurs who meet every other month meets at Filomena’s Restaurant in Waterford to network as well as give back to different organizations. As she speaks to the Harbor News, she is preparing for an event that collects sneakers and bras for the nonprofits Community of Hope, Inc., and Bra Recyclers.
“We like helping the smaller random nonprofits. We’re still networking for business, but we’re also bringing people together for a good cause,” Gina says.
The next event takes place on Aug. 22, where Gina says the group will collect hair and body care items, gently used duffle bags, and Target and Walmart gift cards. The donated items will go to a nonprofit called Fostering Family Hope.
“This particular organization helps foster kids so they have a place they can go to collect donations,” Gina explains.
She says Networking for A Cause is still looking for new members and asked all those interested to follow her on Facebook under the name Gina Raposa Johnson. Gina can also be emailed at email@example.com.
“I’m excited to meet newcomers and bringing more nonprofits to be shared with people,” she says.
Volunteering is nothing new for Gina.
“I’ve been doing volunteer work since I was 18 years old, and I’m very excited about it,” Gina says. That passion has continued to her adult life, where she still volunteers with the Shoreline Soup Kitchen as well as an organization called Caritas Smile which helps women and children in developing nations.
For the past 10 years, Gina has also held purse-stuffing events where gently used purses are stuffed with feminine hygiene products and given to women’s shelters.
“I’ve always liked giving back,” she says.
Asked her favorite part about volunteering, Gina says it’s the hands-on part.
“My favorite part is getting down and dirty and being hands-on instead of just writing a check. Don’t get me wrong; we do need people who are able to write checks too, but looking in people’s eyes and knowing you’re making a difference is my favorite part,” she says.
There is also a lot of learning that comes with volunteering, Gina adds.
“Meeting new people and new nonprofits I never would have known about and hearing all the wonderful things these people do is also great,” she says.
Helping others is even something Gina has made a career out of. She is an entrepreneurial business consultant.
“I help entrepreneurs and those two or three years into a business. You name it; I do it,” she says.
Everything from marketing to branding to social media posts to web content she is able to do. Prior to her business coaching career, Gina was also a chef, which was her first introduction to the shoreline area.
Gina grew up in Massachusetts but moved to Westbrook two years ago.
“I worked as a chef at a bed and breakfast in Old Saybrook 20 years ago, and that’s when I first fell in love with the shoreline,” she says.
In her spare time, Gina can be found traveling, cooking, entertaining, or just relaxing on the beach. Asked her favorite aspect of the shoreline, Gina says, “The view. The ocean never gets old. And I never take it for granted. I’ve met some amazing people here.”