5 Networking Tips for Female Entrepreneurs
Female entrepreneurs who want to grow their businesses and brands would be wise to make networking one of their top priorities. By connecting with people in and out of your industry, you can better understand your audience and your role. The more you know, the more you can grow. But when it comes to networking effectively, the process may be easier said than done.
Where do you start? How do you make time? And how do you overcome the awkwardness one might feel when meeting new people? Here are five tips that will lead you to make meaningful connections that can help you grow your business.
1. Start Small
Sometimes, the hardest part is getting started — especially if you aren’t surrounded by obvious networking opportunities. In this case, bloom where you’re planted. Look for local networking events in your community, such as clubs, groups, classes or shows.
Start by checking with your local Chamber of Commerce. Many have events, such as breakfasts or meet and greets, specifically for female business owners and young entrepreneurs to help them connect. You can also contact your local community college or university as they sometimes offer workshops for business owners. Check your city’s Meetup page for informal gatherings. If you can’t find any, don’t be afraid to start one!
2. Join Larger Organizations
Plenty of organizations are available today to help female business owners, both in person and virtual. You can choose a gender-specific group, such as Create & Cultivate; an industry-specific organization, such as the Retail Owners Institute; or a general group, such as BNI.
Many of the organizations for business owners have online forums where you can connect, as well as regional events for meeting up face to face. When you participate in a business organization, go in with the intention of helping others as much as looking for help. The best connections are mutually beneficial ones.
3. Leverage Co-Working Spaces or Incubators
Some cities have established resources for entrepreneurs, such as co-working spaces or incubators. While you may have to pay to use the space or apply for a program, you’ll feel connected with other entrepreneurs who take their businesses seriously.
The ability to strike up conversation over coffee could lead to new ideas or growth through collaboration. You might also find a mentor or future business partner. These types of arrangements also help remedy the isolation that can happen when you’re a solopreneur.
4. Create a Mastermind Group
Once you start to expand your network, take it to the next level by forming a mastermind group, ideally with six to 10 people. The idea is to meet on a weekly or monthly basis to discuss business challenges, concepts and goals. You can hold meetings in person, over the phone or via video.
Mastermind groups can be especially powerful for entrepreneurs because they multiply the brainpower available to address your biggest challenges. Find people who will commit to regular meetings; masterminds don’t work without full participation. At the end of a session, you’ll walk away with a list of ideas and action items for growing your business.
5. Keep It Going
Networking isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it task. You need to make it a regular part of your marketing efforts to see success. Once you make a new connection, take the time to follow up and nurture the relationship.
Consider putting a networking activity on your to-do list every day. In addition to attending events, you can do smaller things, such as sending an email to a new contact, sharing a news article or inviting them to lunch.
When you look for opportunities to connect with others, you may surprise yourself by how quickly your network can grow. Put yourself out there by taking small steps at first. One success will fuel your confidence to go after another. Before you know it, you’ll be making connections that open the right doors for you and your business.