Entrepreneurs are risk-takers — but risk management is essential in every smart game plan. One critical way to manage risk is to create a support network that gives you feedback as you go along. Knowing other entrepreneurs plays a vital role in elevating your aspirations as you start your own business. Successful female entrepreneurs don’t fly solo.

Find Appropriate Role Models

Whether it’s Mia Hamm inspiring a generation of girls to play soccer or Sheryl Sandberg encouraging women to lean in, women look to other women as role models. Even fictional role models have significant influence. Reshma Saujani, founder of Girls Who Code, points to women featured as lawyers and doctors on TV shows such as “LA Law” and “ER” for the tsunami of women who subsequently entered those fields.

Sources of Inspiration

  • Bizwomen — Features stories about entrepreneurial and professional women in the 43 markets that The Business Journals are in.
  • Broadmic— Spotlights the unique accomplishments of women entrepreneurs, investors and industry leaders to inspire the next generation of female innovators.
  • Broadsheet from Fortune — Daily stories (not just from Fortune) about female role models from corporate, entrepreneurial and political sectors and more.
  • Female Entrepreneurs — Information and advice from female founders.
  • Forbes@Women — Stories about women who are starting their own companies, changing careers and sharing their stories about success and failure.
  • Lioness — An online magazine covering startup topics such as marketing, capital, tech and more.
  • Women 2.0 — Stories about women in technology whether they work in a corporation or have their own companies.
  • Women Entrepreneurs — The women’s business channel from Entrepreneur.com.

Establish Better Connectivity

Entrepreneurs with larger and more diverse networks grow their businesses bigger. Women have the communication and collaboration skills, but sometimes don’t excel at building power networks to help fuel their endeavors.

This might be, in part, because women don’t like to ask their network for favors. But the bigger problem lies in the nature of the networks themselves. Women’s networks tend to be narrow and deep, while men cast wide and shallow. In the case of networking, many casual acquaintances are more useful than a few close connections.

To build a wider network, you can join a business association; though selecting the right one is crucial. The one or ones you join should have these four characteristics:

  1. People who provide resources, information and expertise and are willing to share
  2. Some power players whose influence can be leveraged when needed
  3. Frequency and professionalism of communication and member interaction
  4. Substantive support for your professional challenges

Networking Groups

  • OWN IT – A supportive network of small business owners and the self-employed, dedicated to helping each other grow.
  • eWomen Network — Dedicated to helping women and their businesses achieve, succeed and prosper through client acquisition, marketing and access to resources.
  • National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) — With nearly 60 chapters with 5,000 members, they provide networking and educational opportunities for women entrepreneurs.
  • U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce — Advocates on behalf of women entrepreneurs to create government policies that support women entrepreneurs. It helps them gain access to government contracts.
  • Sheworx — Helps women create successful, scalable companies through networking and mentorship events to meet angels and venture capitalists, educational opportunities and peer support.
  • The Vinetta Project — Connects high-growth female founders to angels and venture capitalists.
  • Deals & Divas — Provides networking events, educational forums and social activities for women in the deal space.
  • WE Festival or Women’s Entrepreneurial Festival — A global community of women entrepreneurs that is supported by networking conferences.

Get Social

Women dominate social media for personal use, but it’s an important time to become omnipresent in social networking for business as well. Social networks are a great way to magnify your message, connect with an audience of like-minded thinkers and build your network.

LinkedIn, the most business-centric of the popular social networking sites, is a rich resource to find other women in business. Find groups — whether local or global — that align with your interests and business vision. You’ll find general and niche groups on LinkedIn; join the ones applicable to you. You’ll find solace with women who are in the same position you are and you’ll get support from those more experienced in your industry. Remember, casual online networking can lead to more formal in-person connections later.

Don’t Exclude Men

Just because you’re working to build your female support network, don’t forget about men. Men control the vast majority of leadership positions and can provide a valuable, alternative point of view. They play a critical role in helping women make the connections to money, markets, vendors and employees that grow businesses.

Chapter 3.
Close the Gap with Education3 min