As Handshake 2.0 approaches its second anniversary, I have been reflecting on my two-year passage as a woman entrepreneur.
When 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:
VT KnowledgeWorks is a client of Handshake Media, Incorporated, the parent company of Handshake 2.0.