An Introduction to the What, Why, and How of Entrepreneurial Networking
What is Networking and Why Should I Do It?
AMI exists to make an impact, and it was with that enthusiasm that I marched into a local networking event for small business owners. I was nervous, to be sure – it’s not easy going somewhere unfamiliar surrounded by strangers to peddle your ideas, but I learned quickly that the business community is a friendly place, and within minutes, I had gotten to chatting with another attendee, one who was incredibly passionate about his olive oil business. This passion for business is infectious – and in being receptive to that passion, and sharing my own, AMI was able to build a relationship with him. Networking means a lot to AMI – it helps us connect with the community, our reason for existing. But as a small business owner and entrepreneur, why should it matter to you?
Consider this: Forbes reports that half of all small businesses fail within the first 5 years, mostly because of the following reasons:
No market need
Not enough capital
Not the Right Team
Each of these falls into a few major categories that demonstrate the value of networking: Knowledge Sharing, Financial Resources, and Building Your Business Network.
Let’s take a closer look at each:
Starting a small business is difficult, especially if it’s an entrepreneur’s first time. While you might have a detailed understanding of your product and the problem it solves, running a business requires a wealth of knowledge to do correctly; finding customers, best accounting practices, how to price your products, finding suppliers and distributions, and changing your business to remain relevant are just a few.
Other entrepreneurs have experiences that you can learn from and vice versa. Learning from and sharing with others is a great way to grow without making mistakes yourself.
Whether through your own savings, investors, donors, or grants, businesses need capital to start, stabilize, and grow. Networking is a great way to collect information on what financial resources are available in your local and greater community.
Small business organizations, professional development groups for entrepreneurs, and individuals who want to help are all common players. Networking is a great way to find them.
Building Your Business Network
Businesses thrive on the support of people and meeting them through networking is a great way to help take your business to the next level. Networking could lead to a new business partner, a key supplier or distributor who understands the value chain, or it could lead to meeting other like-minded individuals who can support you through your entrepreneurial journey.
There are so many ways people can support you, whether by improving your business operations or through moral support – building the relationships to help make these things happen is key.
How to Network
Have an Objective
Are you looking to learn from other entrepreneurs? Meet business partners? Connect with suppliers? It’s important to have a clear objective of what you hope to get out of networking; this can change with your needs, but deciding on one helps shape your next steps.
Practice Your Pitch
When networking, your opener should convey who you are, what you do, why, and what you’re looking for. This introduction should be no more than 30 seconds long but should give others a quick overview. Practicing this can make delivering your intro easier
If it’s a single person, learn about their background using the internet or LinkedIn. If it’s an organization, learn more about what they do, why, and how. If it’s an event, try to learn who will be there. Being prepared can make conversations go more smoothly.
Ask questions about others’ experiences and share your own. Remember your objectives and the research you conducted. Networking is a two-way street: exchange information and resources and ask how you can help in addition to how they can help you.
Always Follow Up
Make sure to exchange contact information after your conversation; always try to get theirs so that you can be proactive and continue the relationship. Remember to follow up via phone or e-mail a few days after your initial meeting; hopefully there’s a lot to talk about!
Where to Network in Arizona
One of the most difficult parts of networking is finding out where to network. A good place to start is by looking at your local small business associations, chambers of commerce, or other entrepreneurial groups, especially on social media platforms like Facebook. For our readers in the Phoenix Metro area, here are a few resources to get started:
Local First Arizona
Local First Arizona is a nonprofit focusing on community and economic development. Local First connects people, businesses, and communities to achieve a more prosperous Arizona*.
If you do not live in Arizona, look for similar nonprofit organizations that foster connectedness in business.
FABRIC is a fashion incubator, business accelerator, design studio, academy, and manufacturer for the fashion industry. Their resources include classes, business services, and a community.
Industry-specific organizations are a great place to find like-minded entrepreneurs in your field.
Tempe Chamber of Commerce
The Tempe Chamber of Commerce represents over 600 businesses and supports business owners through advocacy, connection, and visibility. TCC hosts network development and panel events to meet entrepreneurs and experts in your field*.
Almost all cities have a Chamber that serves its communities in similar ways. Consider becoming a member and engaging in the business community.
*Some of these organizations may have membership dues; make sure to visit their website or contact them to find out more about the membership process.
Arizona Microcredit Initiative (AMI) has consulting and microloan support for yourself and your business. If you have any more questions, you can schedule an appointment today through https://www.azmicrocredit.org/schedule-a-consultation-1 or reach out to us at email@example.com.