To provide you with a comprehensive guide on building a supportive network during your entrepreneurship journey, we’ve gathered 13 insightful responses from successful entrepreneurs and founders.
From learning how to participate in events and be authentic to understanding the importance of networking in co-working spaces, these industry leaders share their valuable experiences and recommendations.
Participate in Events and Be Authentic
“During my entrepreneurship journey, building a supportive network has been instrumental in my success. One of the key steps I took was actively participating in industry-related events, conferences, and networking groups.
“For instance, I joined local entrepreneur meetups and industry-specific conferences. These gatherings provided opportunities to connect with like-minded individuals, share experiences, and learn from others’ journeys. By engaging in meaningful conversations, I built relationships with fellow entrepreneurs, potential collaborators, and mentors.
“A recommendation I would share based on my experience is to prioritize authenticity in your networking efforts. Instead of simply focusing on what you can gain from the connections, approach networking as a way to offer value and build genuine relationships. By helping others, sharing insights, and being open to learning, you naturally attract people who resonate with your values and goals.”
Find a Like-Minded Community
“As a woman of color, navigating the business world is different because I’m underrepresented and underestimated in certain spaces. My journey to success has been expedited by finding a community of like-minded leaders who value community over competition, are affirming, and share insights so we can collectively rise.
“The best thing you can do is find people who have achieved what you’re striving toward and build genuine, reciprocal relationships so you can rise together.”
Hayley Haywood, Founder and Chief Equity Officer, Elevating Access
With Small Business Digital Ready, you gain access to free events hosted by industry experts. Plus, get opportunities to network with peers in your area.
Deliver Exceptional Work and Engage Peers
“In my journey as an entrepreneur, delivering exceptional work has been the cornerstone. It naturally inspires positive referrals. I’ve invested time in building authentic relationships, engaging with peers at industry events, and connecting genuinely online using platforms like LinkedIn.
“I’ve found immense value in asking satisfied clients for referrals—a simple, polite request can go a long way. Sharing expertise is essential. I’ve offered insights through blogs, seminars, and mentorship programs, aiming to provide real value to others. Collaborating with complementary businesses has opened doors for both parties involved. Maintaining regular, meaningful contact with my network, separate from immediate business needs, has been a golden rule for fostering long-lasting relationships.
“Last, showcasing client testimonials has been invaluable. It’s powerful social proof of our commitment and quality. In entrepreneurship, your network is one of your most valuable assets. Take care of it.”
Elevate Your Environment
“Early in my entrepreneurship journey, I realized that the five individuals I invest the most time with have a substantial influence over my mental, emotional, and financial well-being. I consciously elevated both myself and my environment and set minimum standards for the people I was spending time with in order to maximize my chance of success.
“I offer the same advice to my students; your circle has the power to propel you forward or hold you back. The path of the entrepreneur is stressful enough, and it’s crucial that you have an environment where you can get feedback, guidance, and solace. Self-improvement isn’t enough; crafting a supportive environment is essential.
“Not long ago, I found myself again unfocused and distracted and realized I needed to once more elevate the quality of those I spend time with. It wasn’t easy, but today I am rewarded by being surrounded by people who are taking gigantic steps to 10x their lives, and we keep pushing each other forward.”
Leverage Family, Friends, and Mentors
“The concept of a supportive network is quite broad. Certainly, support is extremely important during the entrepreneurial journey, especially in the beginning. Family and friends, as well as business mentors, make up a supportive network. As for the first ones, they have always been there, and we hope they will be in the future.
“Through industry conferences and training, we can find mentors. Properly presenting yourself and your ideas is important, as is showing respect and interest in the other party. Many of these contacts, with time and constant nurturing, have grown into lasting collaborations.”
Prioritize Quality in Connections
“I focused on purposeful networking during my entrepreneurial journey. Attending industry events and connecting with like-minded individuals was key. At a tech conference, I met an entrepreneur whose startup aligned with mine. We integrated our products, benefiting both ventures and offering mutual mentorship.
“My advice is to prioritize quality over quantity in connections. Meaningful relationships provide insights and emotional backing. It’s an ongoing effort that pays off in mentorship, collaboration, and growth.”
Be Earnestly Helpful
“Being earnestly helpful, when you’re running your own business, you inadvertently come across similar people who are at different stages in their entrepreneurship journey. At events, during meetings, and client pitches, I meet people who are struggling with some aspect of their business, whether it’s marketing or operations. I always make it a point to connect them with someone I’ve worked with or offer them suggestions based on my experience.
“Sometimes, these recommendations work out great, and sometimes not, but the people I talk to always appreciate someone helping and watching out for them. This has helped me build a diverse and wide network that I can rely on to get support, advice, recommendations, and feedback.”
Prepare an Elevator Pitch
“Prepare an elevator pitch in advance. Use it to explain your business within a minute or so. This will help you get to know more people. It will also help you network and reach out to investors and partners.
“I had one prepared at all times and would share it with anyone relevant. This helped me make a lot of contacts. Building contacts is very important. It helps create a strong network. The contacts I’ve built over the years have given me a lot of benefits. I’ve found affordable suppliers and even massive investors this way. These have even helped me come up with amazing product ideas.”
Partner with a Co-Strategist
“A solid team is crucial for any entrepreneur to help run a business or, at the very least, a co-founder and co-strategist to help lead the way. Without a co-founder and business partner, it would be challenging to reach the current position.
“Relying on family for support is essential, but in running a business, it’s even better to have someone who’s actively invested in the same project. This allows for effective idea exchange, priority sorting, and team leadership, translating into better performance and more precise objectives.
“Another recommendation is to share a common purpose with your support network. Running a company as a business but being primarily motivated by a shared desire to serve women of various experiences and mitigate the symptoms and stigma they experience as they approach a certain age is an example.”
Join Entrepreneurship Groups on Meetup
“When I started my first business, I was lonely because, although I had many friends, none were entrepreneurs. I couldn’t network and talk about my entrepreneurial struggles and successes. So, I joined Meetup and searched for entrepreneurship groups. I met up with a couple of these groups and quickly made some friends, some of whom I still hang out with today.
“If you’re looking to build a support structure around you comprising other entrepreneurs, consider signing up for Meetup. It’s free, and you can make friends quickly.”
Build Genuine Relationships on LinkedIn
“As the first entrepreneur in my family, building a supportive network of people who understand the business world has been essential to my journey. One of the key platforms I leveraged was LinkedIn. Instead of just collecting connections and aiming to get more people in my circle, I built genuine relationships, even if not as many compared to others.
“For example, instead of sending generic connection requests, I usually take the time to write personalized messages, show genuine interest in people’s work, and share thoughts when I have some perspective to add to the table. I actively engage with their posts and provide value whenever I can, asking nothing in return.
“Over time, these connections grow into valuable relationships, leading to collaborations, friendships, and building my reputation as a reliable professional.”
Treat Interactions as Long-Term Investments
“We realized very early in our journey that the strength of our support network could make or break our startup. So, we made in-person interactions—events, conferences, meetups, meetings, adventures, whatever—a “blank-check” expense category.
“Of course, we did it the cheapest possible way, flying economy and taking public transport wherever possible, but the general approach was to treat interactions with other people as priceless long-term investments. Ten years later, it’s paid off many times over.”
Network in Co-Working Spaces
“Co-working spaces are great, but there sure are a lot of them these days. I make sure to buy a day-pass to each one in my local area from time to time, and go to the local events. Knowing someone who works at each co-working space is such a boon—they invite you for the free days, keep you apprised of networking events, and share the word about opportunities. It’s like having colleagues in dozens of fast-growing companies, all sharing the same space.”