Leveraging the Power of Networking for Women Entrepreneurs
With so many online forums and other opportunities available, networking has become even easier, leaving us with almost no excuse not to do it
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Business networking is important as it helps an entrepreneur to connect with other people that might help them along the way. Networking can be especially useful when it comes to overcoming the multiple challenges faced by women entrepreneurs – one of which is the constant battle of juggling work and family life. Things like lack of family support and not being able to achieve an ideal work-life balance can serve as major deterrents when it comes to entrepreneurship or scaling the business. This is where feedback and friendship from other women entrepreneurs, who have managed to work through these challenges, can help us and show us other ways to deal with our own business travails.
Funding is another challenge that many business owners must contend with. A recent survey by BCG revealed that investments in female-led start-ups averaged $ 935,000, which is less than half of the average $ 2.1 million investment in companies founded by male entrepreneurs. It can be motivating and inspiring to seek advice from other women entrepreneurs who have addressed this issue in their own business and managed to raise funds.
With so many online forums and other opportunities available, networking has become even easier, leaving us with almost no excuse not to do it. No longer do we have to be traipsing around the city, attending one in-person networking event after another, when we can easily attain the same results on relevant online platforms. Online offers you multiple ways to build connections and share your digital business cards and CVs, including such professional networking groups and platforms as GlobalLinker, LinkedIn, Federation of Indian Women Entrepreneurs, Her Entrepreneurial Network, just to name a few that come to mind.
So how do you do it? Before you start networking, it is important to ask yourself, “What is the outcome that you are seeking ¬– Do you require a mentor? Just some friendly support and an occasional sounding board? Are you looking to expand into new markets? Find suppliers?”
Next, remember that networking is about relationships and any successful relationship requires giving as well as taking. Therefore, you should also think about what you can offer to others in the networking process. What valuable experiences and hard-earned wisdom can you share?
Once you have determined your goals and what you, yourself, have to give, and utilizing a mix of online and in-person networking events, aim to make one or two meaningful connections per month. This is especially important when starting out in the business world. View this as part of your job, approaching it just as methodically. When you meet people and collect business cards, write a quick note to yourself on the back of a business card or in a “networking notebook” to remind yourself about who you met and what you discussed. And then, follow up, perhaps even putting a note on your calendar or “to do” list. This can be as simple as sending an email. Reference a topic that you discussed. Share an article or other resource that may be helpful. Offer to make an introduction. Send a holiday card. And last but not least, don’t be afraid to ask for help. You may feel awkward or shy at first but hang in there; as with any skill worth mastering, becoming a successful networker takes some practice.
I remember all the support and mentoring that I benefitted from as a new entrepreneur, making meaningful connections that still stand me in good stead even today. Given my positive experience with networking as a woman entrepreneur, I firmly believe that a strong professional network enables business owners to achieve goals that they might not have accomplished on their own. In fact, many successful entrepreneurs got to where they are today because of the help of others.
Today, when women entrepreneurs ask me for the one best piece of advice I can give, I urge them not to do it alone. You, too, could be one click away from making the most meaningful connections that could be vital for your business.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house
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