When asked about the greatest challenges faced by female business owners, Carolyn Leonard, CEO of DyMynd, told Business News Daily, “One of the biggest challenges for a female entrepreneur is not understanding how important it is to have networks and trusted advisors.” Networking is vital to any form of career success, and it’s especially important when you have your own business. By following through on introductions and referrals and being open to new meetings, you will always gain new knowledge and possibly gain new connections that will help you grow your business. Expanding your current network can happen organically, but it’s important to take steps to meet people who can help you out.
At a high level, there are many resources to help small businesses get off the ground, from government associations to trade groups to academic institutions, and it’s the people you’ll meet through these organizations that will make all the difference. Dr. Deborah Osgood, president and CEO of Knowledge Institute for Small Business Development (KISBD), recently put together a list of groups that can help you establish new connections and obtain assistance and information. As an expert in small business development, Dr. Osgood has contributed to many small business success stories. She recognizes that there are bumps in the road for any business and advises “don’t try to do it alone.”
There are many national and local organizations that focus on providing resources and information to help women-owned businesses, in particular. For example, the U.S. Small Business Administration offers resources and advice on finding a mentor for women who are starting a business. But what if you find that there isn’t a group that suits a specific need or niche, or there’s something lacking in the network you’ve established? While it is a lot of work to start your own networking group, it can be accomplished with passion and focus. The fact that you recognize the need for a new kind of organization means you’ve done the informal research to get one started, and it’s likely you’ve found other women in the same boat.
As you speak with more people in your business circles, start thinking about who can help and how they can contribute. One fellow business owner may have a space where she can host group events, while others may be the perfect speakers on topics like taxes or small business loans. You’ll find that when you ask for help, your fellow business owners will be willing to pitch in to connect with other entrepreneurs and share the lessons they’ve learned. It’s certain that your new network will grow as others join you to expand their connections and share information that can be difficult to get otherwise.
Frederique Irwin had that realization and established Her Corner to expand “access to other motivated and ambitious women business owners.” By establishing a resource to organize events, share information, and facilitate locally-organized group meetings, Frederique has brought together like-minded female business owners to collaborate and expand their businesses. Building new communities isn’t easy, but her advice to find experienced partners, build a core group, and keep your focus on your members will help you make new connections for yourself and for the rest of your business community. With dedication and connections to the right people, you can build a core team that will establish a wider network and help you and your business grow.