Wendy Lloyd Curley, the 312th person I’ve met on my quest to have lunch with 500 strangers, became so good at networking that she decided to do it professionally.

Back in 2005, after building a successful career in the telecommunications industry, Wendy happily accepted a redundancy, knowing that she wanted a change but having no idea what it should be. She tried a few business ventures, and the one that ultimately stuck was something unconventional – selling candles through a network marketing organisation.

Over the next 15 years, Wendy became a master at running successful candle parties where she not only sold product but also recruited new salespeople. Wendy ultimately brought more than 600 people on board; because she collected a percentage of their sales, her ‘downline’ became very profitable.

Part of the reason Wendy was able to build such a successful candle business was because she stumbled onto BNI, the world’s largest business networking organisation. Showing up to BNI meetings each week and mingling with other entrepreneurs inspired Wendy to turn what was just a side hustle into a slick, professional business. It also allowed her to hone her marketing and create a valuable network of referral partners.

The common thread between BNI and the candle business was understanding how to build relationships and identify win-win opportunities – which is the essence of networking.

In 2020, Wendy moved on from candles and launched Strategic Networking, a training and consultancy business that helps individuals and companies with networking. Not long after, she heard that a BNI franchise, BNI Sydney North East, was up for sale, and snapped it up.

For Wendy, networking has become both a passion and a profession.

As I was lunching with Wendy, I had a revelation about networking. It’s commonly assumed that being good at networking means being good with people – and, indeed, Wendy has excellent social and conversational skills. But as I was listening to Wendy’s story, I realised that being good at networking also requires a strong mindset, because you need to be willing to leave your comfort zone, chase opportunity and accept rejection.