How to Find Your Local Business Community
The value of having an active and supportive community of fellow business owners to go to whenever you're looking for advice is incredibly powerful. But not everyone has that kind of group around them, or you just may not be aware of it.
Finding that community can mean incredible stability and success for your business. With a strong community, you can shed the weight of what may be an overwhelming list of things to deal with, because you have a family of experts who can help you get things done, and stay on track.
We know to find that community can be challenging if there isn't an active group around you, but we're going to show you a few ways to find those groups.
If your business is located in a pretty active area, it's likely that there is a collective of businesses called a Merchants Association or Business Coalition. These are groups of businesses that are specific to an area, many have membership fees, but can be well worth it because the money from those fees goes right into improvements and events for the community. Associations are great because they provide you with a wide variety of business industries, ages and experience to help you with just about any problem... and they're right down the street.
To find out if there is a Merchants Association near you, just ask your neighbors or a quick Google search.
Chamber of Commerce
It is almost guaranteed that there is a local chamber of commerce in your city. A Chamber of Commerce can be a great community for any businesses, there is an even broader range of business types and experience in a chamber as well as regularly scheduled networking events, and educational lectures. A chamber typically costs much more than a Merchants Association and it covers a more generalized area, but in turn have more benefits, a stronger voice in local legal changes, and the regular events.
A trade association is exactly what it sounds like, instead of being focused on locality, it's focus is on bringing businesses together around their industry. There are trade associations for just about everything: Specialty Coffee Association, Professional Lighting and Sound Association, American Pie Council, etc.
These groups are incredibly helpful for advice that is hyper-specific to running your type of business, such as how to organize inventory, how to find distributors, how to deal with permits. These groups are also great for working together to make industry changes to government laws and regulations. For instance, the Texas Craft Brewers Guild created CraftPAC, a collective of breweries working to change the antiquated and seemingly arbitrary distribution laws here in Texas that make it difficult for them to make, sell, and distribute their goods.
The internet was built to share information and connect people, and it's still great at doing that. There are communities for every niche. Joining an online community can not only connect you to a group of people across the globe with similar businesses, issues, and perspectives, it can help make the connections that you have with businesses in your area better, because a lot of the time it's easier to communicate on your own time versus waiting until the next meeting for your group.
Some great groups to join are:
- The Google Small Business Group is a great place to get a lot of new insights
- If you're building an eCommerce platform on Shopify join the Shopify Community.
- If you're looking for like-minded female entrepreneurs the #FemaleFounders Slack Group is a hub of encouragement and advice.
- If you're looking for a better way to connect and work with the businesses in your area the Weird Street network is a vital resource.
You use Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to bring in customers, but these social channels can also be a great place to connect with other entrepreneurs. Follow them, Share each other's posts and start chatting with each other, you're not only going to help boost each other's customer visibility, but you could create a great partnership through the process.
Meetups and networking events
There are 50,000 Meetups are scheduled each week on Meetup.com. So there is likely some business lecture, networking event, or discussion for business owners in your area. Even if there isn't an event that is specifically what you're looking for, there will be business owners just like you at many of these networking events.
Connect with your community
No matter where you are, there are dozens of ways to connect and build relationships with other business owners. Having a wide variety of knowledge and advice from businesses down the street to across the globe, trades from real-estate to eCommerce, and businesses ranging from just starting to generational institutions. Connecting with a community will help you achieve your goals faster, effortlessly solve problems, and help you build great partnerships. Having a support network is a fun, and important, part of your entrepreneurial journey.