Many entrepreneurs are eager to help new business owners find success, either through networking, mentoring, or even investing in startup firms. Fortunately, meeting them is not difficult and it can be a powerful way to obtain vital information and contacts in your industry. “Networking takes an investment of your time, but it can be a very sound investment with excellent returns,” says Palm Desert small business consultant Dee Helfgott.
Once you have identified individuals and organizations that you want to contact, decide what goals you have—your reasons for contacting them—and prepare specific questions you would like to ask. That way, you won’t feel like you’re spinning your wheels and you won’t waste busy entrepreneurs’ time without getting solid information from them.
Robin Stein, co-owner of PortaMEe, a New York City maker of baby carriers, joined a women entrepreneurs group when she was getting ready to launch her company in 2006. She also got substantial advice and guidance from her local chapter of the nonprofit SCORE organization after seeing its advertisement at her community center. “The ad said they run all kinds of free or low-cost seminars, and free was in my budget. That’s how the relationship started,” Stein says.
Charles Sobel, her adviser at SCORE NYC, reviewed her business plan and helped her improve it, recommended a contractor for her Web marketing and Web site design, and helped her through the patenting process.
Small business consultant Paul O’Reilly of Los Angeles recommends that you contact your state’s economic development organization. “They provide technical assistance and access to capital. And they sometimes have peer groups that provide a setting for small business owners to work together in small groups to share expertise and insights and experience with each other,” he says. “For example, one entrepreneur may have expertise in marketing, while another may have raised capital or obtained a patent. These economic development organizations may also be able to refer you directly to a previous client they know that has already obtained capital and a patent.”
Photo by MSDesigns.