USA/“So you’ve been laid off. That sucks. But it doesn’t have to.” Those are the first words of encouragement offered up to visitors upon landing at the website for The Runway Project, a new venture that helps recently laid-off individuals start their own companies. Call it small-business networking, recession-style.

The project’s more than just a virtual affair, though. Since launching the group in March, founder Tony Bacigalupo and his affiliates have been busy hosting free get-togethers in New York City for would-be entrepreneurs on everything from the mechanics of starting a business to tips on building a personal brand. Another upcoming session promises a crash course on bookkeeping for startups.

The meetings are also a forum for brainstorming with other like-minded people and small-business experts. “Insanely helpful! Having a group of people to brainstorm with is priceless,” wrote one woman, who attended an April session, in a comment on the group’s website. And other comments suggest some are eager to get branches up and running in other U.S. cities, too.

LaidOffCamp is another organization that helps out-of-work types follow their entrepreneurial aspirations. The venture, which started out as a loose collection of community based groups, has expanded into a sharply focused multi-city network that’s hosted events in San Fransisco, Dallas, Los Angeles and New York, with upcoming summer meets planned for Miami and Chicago.

What can you expect to get out of a LaidOff Camp event? In the organization’s words, they are “ad-hoc gatherings” that “feature an open, participatory discussion forum designed to educate, empower, and connect community members.” If all that talk of community and empowerment has you cringing, seminars on topics such as the legal and accounting demands of launching a new business and finding alternative working spaces seem to promise more than just a bunch of hand holding.