10 Ways Founders Can Create New Communities & Feel Less IsolatedDec 09, 2022
After the death of my son and my father (both named Clark) within 15 months of one another, I moved to Austin in 2020 to be near my other 2 children. Along with a steady diet of reality TV, I built my own community of entrepreneurs – deliberately – to minimize loneliness and distract myself from my losses at a time when I could have been thrown into a complete downward spiral.
But it doesn’t take that kind of loss for entrepreneurs to feel isolated and lonely.
In 2021, small business owners reported working far more than the national average and feeling much more lonely than any other group of adults.
Creating community among like-minded entrepreneurs is the most effective way that I've found to combat feelings of loneliness and burnout.
Here are 10 ways for entrepreneurs to connect and build relationships in order to increase social fulfillment and work-life satisfaction.
1. Network Online Or In Your Community.
Meeting new people as an adult can be a daunting task. Life moves really fast, and oftentimes, making time for fostering social relationships gets overlooked. However, connecting with other entrepreneurs who share the same values and business ideals as you can do wonders for your mental health.
The internet has been a great asset to business networking, in that you no longer have to wait for events and conferences to make business contacts; you can now connect with them online via a plethora of networking apps and online niche communities. Some of these include:
If online networking doesn’t scratch your social itch, meetups and in-person networking groups are excellent places to meet people and start new friendships. Joining local networking groups can be remarkably advantageous for your business, as you can connect with other entrepreneurs in your area to learn from and grow with.
Because it is nearly impossible to run a business entirely on your own, making the effort to meet other entrepreneurs in your community will undoubtedly benefit you in the long run. You can find local meetups on websites like Eventbrite.com, Meetup.com, and Facebook.com, as well as through local channels like colleges, museums, and coworking spaces.
If your community doesn’t hold an event that meets your needs or suits your interests, plan your own!
2. Join A Support Group For Entrepreneurs.
Entrepreneurial organizations and associations can enrich your professional network and put you in contact with leaders in your industry. No matter where you are in your entrepreneurial journey, every business owner can benefit from a little support along the way.
Professional development is one of the most significant effects a support group can have on your business. Joining an entrepreneurial organization provides you with exclusive resources such as business consulting coaching, online downloads, and networking events to help you grow your company.
There are several organizations that cater to budding entrepreneurs (Business Collective), more established business owners (Vistage), and the most upper echelon entrepreneurs (Entrepreneurs’ Organization). While these groups can be expensive, they are designed to help you master the art of entrepreneurship and flourish your leadership skills.
Below are some of the most well-known organizations to support you as an entrepreneur.
Elite and Established Organizations
These types of organizations require that you have reached certain revenue thresholds. Most require an application and a membership fee.
- Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO)
- Young President’s Organization (YPO)
- Business Network International (BNI)
- Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC)
- Social Enterprise Alliance (SEA)
Organizations for Rising Entrepreneurs
- Business Collective
- The Entrepreneur’s Club (TEC)
- Tech Cocktail
- United States Association Small Business and Entrepreneurship (USASBE)
- Small Giants
- Startup Grind
- Edward Lowe Foundation
- Association of Private Enterprise Education (APEE)
3. Connect With Others From Your University Programs.
Connecting with the other students in your college and university programs can add so much value to your entrepreneurial spirit and the growth of your business. Not only can you formulate deep and meaningful relationships, but you can also bounce ideas off of others.
The coursework in college courses typically requires students to explore new ways of thinking and problem-solving, as well as work in groups. This can lead you to connect with others who have similar interests and can add value to your business ideas.
After graduation, most institutions have alumni programs and events where you can continue to connect and collaborate with others.
4. Find An Accountability Group.
Small business owners typically work alone or with a small team in the early stages of building a business, so they miss out on having a group of coworkers to socialize (or commiserate) with. Compounded with the isolation brought about by Covid-19, entrepreneurs have created hybrid accountability groups that meet both online and IRL (in real life).
These groups usually meet on a regular basis and are designed to help entrepreneurs find accountability partners and receive honest feedback without feeling too exposed. These groups provide a safe space for entrepreneurs of all levels to share what they are working on, report triumphs, collaborate, and support one another in goal achievement.
Furthermore, in a 2019 study, Ohio State University researchers found that accountability makes a significant difference in achieving your goals. The American Society of Training and Development (ASTD) discovered that when you share your goals with others, you are 65% more likely to achieve them and 95% more likely when you share them with a group with whom you check in regularly. [Stay tuned! I'm launching my own membership for entrepreneurs in 2023.]
5. Join A Co-working Space.
We used to have offices at WeWork and it was a great place to launch our small business. Joining a local co-working space can be a great way to meet other professionals and to partner with like-minded vendors.
One of the most widely discussed advantages of joining a co-working space is the ease with which you can network in a more casual setting. While there is nothing wrong with traditional networking, in which you dress to impress and put on your best behavior, people in a co-working environment tend to just engage in conversation with those around them throughout the day.
Consequently, since you can work, socialize, and network all in the same space, working in a co-working space can actually double your efficiency as well as introduce you to like-minded individuals who can collaborate with you to grow your business.
6. Research Accelerators and Incubators In Your Area.
Incubators concentrate on early-stage startups that do not yet have a business model and are still in product development, whereas accelerators serve to speed up the growth of already established companies. While accelerators tend to operate like a start-up boot camp and typically have a 6-month time frame, incubators work slowly to flesh out every detail required to build a successful company.
Startup accelerators and business incubators both provide guidance and support to companies in the beginning stages and throughout the entrepreneurial process, especially when it comes to making connections and creating community.
Both provide entrepreneurs with an incredibly valuable space to bounce ideas off each other, as well as opportunities for training and mentoring. A start-up accelerator can even put you in contact with prospective business partners and potential investors.
7. Engage Mentors and Advisors.
All business owners can benefit from a mentor or advisor, no matter how successful they are. While having an advisor may offer value to your company in a variety of ways, the most essential benefit is that a mentor can help you find more networking opportunities, as you would have access to their connections and community of professionals as well.
Most mentors have access to a large network of executives (CEOs, CFOs, etc…) and other significant professionals. You can use your mentor to broaden your network and create avenues for growth for your business. Plus, receiving knowledge, connections, and advice from a business owner more successful than you is never a bad thing.
8. Teach Or Take A Class In Your Field.
Enrolling in workshops and courses at your local community college, rec center, or library can help you overcome loneliness, network with other entrepreneurs, and improve your expertise. Not only will you meet other local business owners, but you could also learn something valuable for the growth of your business.
For subject areas where you excel, volunteer to teach a class, head a workshop, or share your leadership experience. Not only will you help other entrepreneurs and make connections in your community, but you can also gain more confidence and expertise in your field.
9. Build A Team of Collaborators.
According to recent studies, the biggest thing entrepreneurs miss about a corporate setting is working with a team of people toward a common goal. Teamwork offers coworkers stimulating discussions, powerful brainstorming, and a sense of purpose.
Combat the loneliness of being a Solopreneur by building a team of powerhouse business people (in whatever way you can) to drive your company forward. Each of these team members comes with a network of professionals, as well, who could add value to your entrepreneurial journey.
10. Don't Be Afraid to Ask Your Network for Connections.
Take a moment to consider all of your existing relationships; family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, etc… Each one of your contacts has a network of connections that could benefit you. How can you capitalize on this? Simply ask.
Contact those with whom you have personal relationships and ask if they know anyone who could advise or assist you in any way. You may find it helpful to keep a list of connections in a spreadsheet to maximize potential. Keep in mind, this is a two-way street, and you should seek out others to help as well.
Fight loneliness before it overwhelms you. Establishing a solid network during the startup phase in your business can nip isolation in the bud. Be proactive and look out for yourself. Your business will appreciate it.
Some final words of encouragement: most people are not dying to run out and introduce themselves to a group of strangers. But if you can just get yourself into a room armed with a couple of opening statements (HI, I'm Deb Perkins!), questions (What brings you here tonight or, have you been here before?), the willingness to listen, and a cellphone for those awkward moments where you can look down and text, you will be all the better for it!
Let us know if you have additional ideas for where entrepreneurs can find community!