Connecting with a community of entrepreneurs and support organizations can make the world of difference for entrepreneurs and startup founders. There is no roadmap for starting and growing a business but there is a lot of great knowledge and expertise to share and learn from.
A Startup Community is a collective of entrepreneurs and enterprise support partners who come together to connect skills, resources, knowledge and experience to help each other navigate the complexities of starting and growing a business. From figuring out hiring best practices to learning how to properly utilize bookkeeping software, Startup Communities give entrepreneurs access to experts, mentors and resources. Such a community is inclusive to all industries and stakeholders both public and private who can help to advance entrepreneurial success.
Here are a few ways to leverage your local Startup Community.
- Familiarize Yourself with Community Events
Startup Communities can hold hundreds of events per year including hackathons, financial literacy training, industry networking meetups, training courses, mentoring and so much more. A thriving Startup Community holds more events than you can possibly attend as a busy entrepreneur. Follow local community organizations online, subscribe to newsletters and choose events that peak your interests. Are you looking to learn about sales and marketing? Are you looking for a coworking space? Are you looking for connections, advice or mentorship? Are you looking for talent to help you code your latest project? No matter where your interests and needs lie, find the events and organizers that speak your language and get yourself out there.
- Offer to Volunteer
A great way to get involved is to make contact with community leaders and volunteer at events. Volunteering allows entrepreneurs to give back to the community, contribute to its growth, and develop meaningful relationships with others in the ecosystem. Just as you might be looking for answers, there are others seeking your knowledge and expertise. The difference between an advisor and a mentor is that an advisor seeks to gain a reward or transaction for his or her involvement. A mentor gives back not knowing what the reward might be, and this often results in a much higher return on your investment for both the mentor and the mentee. So get out there and help others while you help yourself.
- Help Promote Your Startup Community
As an entrepreneur you have the ability to build community from the ground up. A successful Startup Community should be entrepreneur-led and and inclusive to all stakeholders within the ecosystem. Community leaders act as a point-on-entry for entrepreneurs in their local ecosystem, providing a connection to other startup founders as well as easy access to mentors, space, funding and support. Community leaders proactively engage with local stakeholders in government and industry, as well as with investors, to form a partnership with a common goal of supporting the creation and growth of new companies locally. As a community member, you have the capacity to share the great work of others, including local entrepreneur success stories as well as sharing resources from local organizations. Spread the word in your community.
- Build Your Network
By now you have attended events, volunteered, promoted the community and its members through your network and social media accounts, and helped other entrepreneurs find resources and connections. By now you have built your network. As a networked professional, don’t forget to think long-term with relationships. It is best practice not to ask everything of everyone. Slow down and build rapport. Forget the pitch, and simply give before you take. As a busy entrepreneur, you can’t do it all yourself, nor do we all have the skills of a bookkeeper, lawyer or marketing guru. As you expand your network you will have access to these resources and will be able to work with other professionals to build mutually beneficial relationships.
Now that you are putting yourself out there and connecting with like-minded entrepreneurs and members of your community, don’t forget to listen. Genuinely listen to what people say and forget about your own goals for just a moment. If you read any books on networking, they will all explain how powerful genuine listening is. People often perceive you based on your listening skills. Entrepreneurs LOVE to talk about their businesses…just ask!
- Find a Mentor / Be a Mentor
Mentorship is a powerful tool for startup founders who are often travelling down uncharted territory or so it may seem. Leveraging your Startup Community to find a local mentor can be extremely valuable and rewarding for all involved. First you need to understand what type of mentorship you need. More often than not, that person is probably already a part of the community. Reach out to your community and let them know you are seeking help in the form of expertise. There are most likely programs in place in your community where you can apply for mentorship, however a networked community can quickly connect you with those who might have the answers for you.
As with all suggestions within this post, be grateful of people’s time and offer to help others first. Get yourself out there, get connected, engage, listen and give back. It takes a community to support a startup and it takes everyone working together to build a Startup Community. To find a Startup Community near you, visit startupcommunities.ca.