Your Local Women Entrepreneurs

As Handshake 2.0 approaches its second anniversary, I have been reflecting on my two-year passage as a woman entrepreneur. 

Anne Giles ClellandWhen I wrote ten questions for aspiring women entrepreneurs to ask on college visits for SmartCollegeVisit and included "Is there a mentoring and support network specifically for women entrepreneurs in the local community?", I was wistfully citing research from the Kauffman Foundation on how to foster success among women entrepreneurs, particularly in technology and high-growth industries: 

“Efforts to provide women the types of mentoring and support networks that they view as especially critical to their success should be a priority for entrepreneurship support organizations. The high-growth marketplace – and the U.S. economy – could only benefit from increased gender diversity."

Is there a mentoring and support network specifically for women entrepreneurs in my local community?

No.  There is not.

My memberships in VT KnowledgeWorks, Presidents’ Council, and the technology council, NCTC, have been invaluable.  At times, though, I would like to have conferred with another woman entrepreneur.  Among those memberships and in my locale, women entrepreneurs are hard to find.  Experienced women entrepreneurs with proven business models with salaries they’ve created from creating their own companies?  In “the high-growth marketplace,” I know of one.

I would seek from a local mentoring and support network for women entrepreneurs:

  • A make-it-happen commitment. Buy a round of my products or services, or find someone who will. Give me feedback on the entire process, from pitch, to sales, to delivery. No sales, no company. No feedback, no growth. Help me grow a company and help me grow in leadership.
  • Listening. In speaking my thoughts and concerns, I often generate ideas that match my talents and vision. Interrupted with advice, problem-solving, or brainstorming in new directions, I lose my creative process and where it might have taken me. From a support network for women entrepreneurs, I would welcome help discovering my best ideas.
  • Post-listening advising. Once I have expressed who I am, what I’m doing and why – and had insights as a result of that process – I am ready for my turn to listen. Tell me everything.

According to The Wall Street Journal, lack of networks is a restraint holding back women entrepreneurs:

“Networks are a vital source of business and industry knowledge, leads on contracts, and access to decision makers in finance, purchasing and the community…we find that most women don't have the connections for credible introductions into industry associations, chambers of commerce, venture-capital groups and other key networks.  When women venture into diverse networks, they too often are not taken seriously and frequently are shut out of conversations and deals."

Time to band together and help one another.  This two-year passage has been harder than it needed to be.  Enough.

A local mentoring and support network for women entrepreneurs is forming.  For more information, please contact Handshake 2.0.


These posts may be of interest:

Bank Loans and Women
My Hometown's Women Angel Investors

VT KnowledgeWorks is a client of Handshake Media, Incorporated, the parent company of Handshake 2.0.

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  1. A networking group of other women would certainly be helpful. For you, does it need to be an in person, local group or do you think you could get similar benefit from an online network?

  2. Great Comments. Yes, we need to work together. Really work together. M2

  3. Fantastic networks for women are online. I’m sure I could benefit in many ways from many of them.

    As a start-up, my company’s intital offerings are service-based. Sales of services are almost always begin with it’s-who-you-know, word-of-mouth referrals. When I have a product, the product’s features will play a huge part in its sales. For now, I welcome an in-person, eye-contact, body-language-reading network.

    Thanks for the great question.

  4. Thank you for your comment, Mary.

    “Experienced women entrepreneurs with proven business models with salaries they’ve created from creating their own companies? In ‘the high-growth marketplace,’ I know of one.”

    You’re “the one.”

    Thank you for your leadership and example.

  5. Great thoughts. I hope the group you are forming happens and thrives so future women entrepreneurs can find the network already in place.

    Mary, you are a gem in this town.

  6. Yes, Gail! Hardest insight I had was that the last two years didn’t have to be this tough. May the network be in place for new founders so they can get on with execution and not have to wander around, disconnected!

  7. And thank you for your comment, Gail. You are an entrepreneurial leader of a non-profit. Radical! Thank you for the gift you give of example and connection!

  8. Maybe it’s perception. I don’t feel a lack of support from other women owned business. Just yesterday I had lunch with a women who owns a very successful business here in the valley; she was such a delight and of course we shared from our unique perspectives on a variety of topics. BTW, there is actually more than one making salary(s) in the high growth marketplace. ( grin) Not without a lot of hard work and sweat, but it is happening.
    I agree with Mar2, ” really” work together, can bring valued insights, partnerships, and a good general over all ” I am not in this alone” feeling.

  9. Why identify yourself as a “woman” entrepreneur ?

    You are an entrepreneur plain and simple, the market does not care about your gender, it is only a big deal if you make it one.

    You have the courage, moxie, intellect to build something out of nothing and try to make a go of it. Congratulations!

    Your success or lack of it has nothing to do with the lack of local resources for Gyno-American business owners, it has to do you you and the market.

    The last two years have contained a brutal recession and you are still alive and moving forward.

    There are thousands of business that simply do not exist anymore.

    To be candid, I am a little uncomfortable with the pulling of hair and gnashing of teeth about how tough it is contained in the entity that you want other business owners to buy into.

    Probably more appropriate for your personal blog, even there is questionable. If I buy a round of your services, I would be uncomfortable to stumble upon angsty posts about your own business. I admire your honesty, but I wonder about the wisdom of these posts sometimes.

    I wish you the best.

    Dante Cox

  10. Thanks for your questions and comments, Dante. Yes, you are right, what to post online is always a judgment call. Where the line is drawn between caution and risk, silence and candor, I have chosen risk and candor. Not everyone’s choice, but a path of integrity for me. Am I an entrepreneur, woman entrepreneur, neither, both? I look forward to answering that two years from now on my four-year anniversary. Thanks for your praise about making it two years in a tough economy. I look forward to celebrating that on July 28, 2010! Thank you very much for your good wishes!

  11. Thank you so much for your comment, Monica. For me, it’s more than perception. I welcome lunches with fellow women business owners. That doesn’t usually translate into the networks that are a “ vital source of business and industry knowledge, leads on contracts, and access to decision makers in finance, purchasing and the community.” In a highly connected local network, which women are doing well in the high growth marketplace would not be private knowledge. In my view, they would be well-known for their leadership, support and mentoring of new enterprises and start-ups.

  12. ok for clarity; you want a formal committed group or ” brain trust” if you will, to access knowledge, leads, etc.
    As far public knowledge about these women, where ( or what ) then is the platform for the successful biz women to become public?

  13. Great question, Monica! To clarify, I don’t think successful women entrepreneurs “should” help other women entrepreneurs or are in any way obligated to make their success public. Choices made to give out of duty and obligation deplete the morale of both giver and receiver. I believe profoundly that quality of life, in both the personal and professional realms, is determined by individual choice.

    The challenge for our locale is we simply don’t have many women entrepreneurs, period. If we had 1000, and 10% of them were interested in forming a network for women entrepreneurs, that would be a pretty powerful network of 100 members!

    Building a local population of women entrepreneurs will take time. Here’s more on my ideas about how that can happen:

    Again, thank you for your thoughtful contributions to this conversation.

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