"99% of people hate walking into a room to network," is a brave opening gambit from the woman responsible for Chester and North Wales' busiest business networking company, but spend a few minutes with entrepreneur, founder and director of the Business Network Chester, and you quickly realise the woman who's been described as Cheshire's 'Mrs Business', doesn't mince her words.

Tracy had a successful senior management career with multi-national brand Adidas before setting up her own business and eight years on since it started operating in Chester in June 2010, Business Network Chester has helped to create over £10 million worth of transactions across the Cheshire/North Wales region.

"I'd left a big job working for Adidas to set up my own business and quickly thought 'oh my gosh, what have I done?' because I had to go out and network," she remembers. "I tried lots of different types of networking that I knew weren't really for me because they were all so structured and dogmatic and I'd left my job to be more free.

"I came across the business network in Manchester and loved the way they worked which was about building long-term relationships and having senior members in the room who could actually make decisions.

"I joined the network and they were embarking on an expansion programme and suggested I could work as a host and I thought 'actually I could be quite good at getting lot of people in a room and having good time' and making networking fun and relaxed."

Tracey, a mother of-two teenage girls from Manchester, but with family roots in North Wales, did plenty of research before bringing her ideas to the area and didn't let the naysayers put her off.

"I had lots of people saying to me 'if you're coming to Chester, don't waste your time love' and lots of people told me it wouldn't work in Chester so that was a bit of a red rag to a bull really," she laughs.

"I wasn't deterred and for our first event we welcomed 140 people to the racecourse and we picked up 40 members and the majority of them are still with us eight years later.

"We put so much time into each event making sure people are not sat with competitors but rather people are sat with people they can collaborate with.

"It is very diverse as we only allow 5% of members to come from a certain sector so you don't get any events that are overrun with accountants or solicitors."

Gaining a foothold in North Wales was also very important to Tracey who found the border a frustrating divide when it came to dealing with business.

"It was odd," she says. "People were very insular about how they did business and speaking to some of the larger companies like Chester Zoo they had always been drawn to Liverpool or Manchester or even London for their creative and digital contracts. Over time we've now managed to persuade many of them that there are brilliant companies on their doorstep in Chester and North Wales.

"The network, has over times, fostered those relationships, but the net result is around £10million of business that has stayed in the area rather than go elsewhere."

It was this philosophy that enabled Tracey, along with her business partner Hayley Brown, to do one of their best pieces of networking with Edge Transport, which had outgrown its previous site near Wrexham, and were looking to move to a new facility on the Deeside Industrial Estate.

"They asked if there was anyone in the network which ould help them and during the course of one lunch I was able to introduce them to an architect, a structural engineer, a surveyor and a construction company that could help them," she says proudly.

"There was a team who were already familiar to them all ready to work together - a flick through the Yellow Pages or a Google search could have cost them a huge amount of money and taken that money elsewhere."

When it comes to the key of how she makes her networking sessions work and avoid the cliches of business, Tracey is willing to poke fun at herself.

""I'm not the most reserved of people," she laughs. "I think because I'd lived in corporate land, it's my way of sticking two fingers up at it. People have this perception that networking is hard because we're always taught from a young age not to speak to strangers but I'm one of those weird people who likes meeting new people because I'm curious and I want to know what makes them tick.

"We have a laugh and I'm very happy to act the fool sometimes and share members' successes - success breeds success and once a month we get to do business but in an environment which is nurturing, positive and full of fun."

One company happy to endorse Tracey's methods is Wrexham-based Moneypenny, which was recently named among the best workplaces in the country.

Set within 10 acres of landscaped grounds, phone answering firm Moneypenny’s vast array of amenities, include a treehouse meeting room, village pub with a decked terrace and a sun terrace with astro-turf flooring and picnic tables.

"I'd been a member of the network in a previous job and always found it very rewarding," says Louise Wilson, business manager at Moneypenny, "When I came here to Moneypenny I wanted to join and after one year it's really helped raise the profile and let people know we are in the area.

"I've tried a lot of networking events but this is the only one I've stayed with consistently - we are in this fabulous, purpose built office and the business has gone from strength to strength.

"Our clients are based across the world because we're 24/7 but we are encouraging more and more members of the network and other local business to try us out."