Do you have a network? (not the “Do you hear me now?” type)

I am big on the importance of finding a mentor and creating a support network as a mompreneur, entrepreneur, solopreneur, or whatever-preneur.  I do not mean the same type of support network that we have with our close friends and family, but rather a group of individuals or peers that share ideas with one another in a mutually beneficial way (Of course, I do not mean a cellular network).  I think when looking for a specific mentor, that person should have some similar circumstances like you, as in be the same whatever-preneur you are or work in the same vertical as you.  On the other hand, your network is different.  Creating a network is similar to when you set yourself up for success in those college group projects so many years ago.  If you surround yourself with others that hold different strengths, you know that you can all come together and make headway.

Mastermind groups, or peer networks that collectively brainstorm, share support, and hold one another accountable are becoming increasingly popular.  Peer accountability is a great way to create checks and balances for yourself and gain important information. These networks or mastermind groups are often officially created or formed, but also sometimes, they develop organically.  Take for example, right here on StartUpNation, a few of the women entrepreneurs and myself formed a blogging circle.  What this means is that we support one another’s blogs by reading and commenting.  Over the last few months, this blogging group organically transformed into a bit more.  We now follow one another on twitter, tweet each other’s links, and we increasingly turn to one another for specific questions or suggestions.  We are a group of women entrepreneurs, who are all in different categories and stages of small business, yet we connect in some way and provide various pieces of useful information to one another.  We have not officially called ourselves a mastermind group, but we certainly have turned into an amazing peer network.

Another crucial part of a small business network is FEEDBACK.  It does not matter if you are developing and testing a product, setting up a new website, rolling out a services plan, or any other small business initiative, you need to get feedback.  A peer network provides you with OBJECTIVE feedback.  Of course, we all seek out opinions from our friends and family, but it is our whatever-preneur peers that are really going to give solid feedback.  Yet another example from right here on StartUpNation, I met a fabulous woman in biz named Geraldine here.  Geraldine was looking for women testers for her body scrubs.  I decided to help Geraldine out because I knew that at some point I was going to need testers.  Paying it forward, I signed up to test a few scrubs for Geraldine.  It turned out to be a win-win for both of us because I provided Geraldine with OBJECTIVE FEEDBACK, and as it turns out, in an extremely saturated market, Geraldine’s Serenity Lure scrubs are amazing (so I had a fabulous user experience).

Finding a network can either be orchestrated or cultivated naturally, and either way, this network can provide awesome information like feedback.  As for the mentor part, that is much more personal, and I think the relationship takes time to grow and must have some type of natural connection.  I hold a few women in a mentor-capacity, and I think as particular sides of my biz develop, I will think of different women as mentors in various aspects.  Do not force finding a mentor, but seek out relationships, get to know other women entrepreneurs, and as time evolves, you will find your mentor and see how mentor relationships grow into a very trustworthy phenomenon.

Do you support other women entrepreneurs? In a formal network capacity or something that grew over time?  Please share your experiences, and also check out http://backngroovemom.com to see who I hold up in high regard in my network.

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