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When I was in law school I was a part of a program for minority law students. The program included mandatory study groups and networking events.  I didn’t really understand the importance of this program, however, until I went to business school.

In business school, I was the only black female in the MBA program.  On top of that, I was also the youngest (a ripe 22 LOL). I struggled through my course work for the first semester and I mean STRUGGLED!  But, Instead of asking for help, I just cried all the time and spent long hours trying to figure out why my answers were always wrong.  Everything came to a head during an embarrassing breakdown in my accounting teacher’s office where I cried over a math problem.  I think in a desperate move to get me out of his office, my teacher asked me why I wasn’t doing my work with the rest of the group…

I was just like, “What group?”

He said, “I’m not telling you to copy from your classmates, I’m saying to work with other people.  The other students come to me to ask questions in a group. You should find one.  If there’s a question you don’t understand I’m sure someone in the group can help you  out. Everyone else in the class does their work in a group. Why aren’t you in one?

Really… Why wasn’t I?

This experience just STICKS out in my head. It wasn’t that I refused to join a group because I didn’t want to talk to people. It was because I didn’t want people to see my weaknesses. I didn’t want my classmates to think I was too young or not smart enough to be in the program. I assumed everyone else was more privileged, experienced, and confident than I was.  I just felt so different and inadequate, and tried to hide it with pride. What I didn’t realize was that I was only hurting myself by silently struggling alone.

I tell this story because it’s a bit like creating a business.  When I first started, I didn’t know many entrepreneurs. I didn’t know how to start a business or what questions to ask. Most of my time was spent alone, surfing the Internet, trying to figure ish out.  I’m talking hours and hours of struggling and brainstorming.

 It was so lonely.

But then I remembered my experience at law school studying and brainstorming with my classmates. It was so helpful to bounce things off my group mates. I also remembered how much happier I was when I FINALLY did join the study group in business school.  My grades and confidence improved tremendously.  This was all because I decided to stop struggling alone.

I think it’s time you stopped struggling too. That’s why I want to share with you the 5 ways I created the support circle that helped me end the frustrating Google sessions and FINALLY start getting ahead.

 

1. I Joined A Co-Working Space – A co-working space is a shared work environment where people meet, work, network, share ideas and collaborate on projects.  These spaces are so awesome because they bring together entrepreneurs and business professionals from different industries like designers, marketers, programmers, writers, lawyers, creatives, etc.  Even though I didn’t have a business name or website, it was motivating and informative to be around people who were DOING things instead of just brainstorming! Here I met my core group of friends who consistently encourage and share awesome knowledge with me.  PLUS I was able to get my membership for free!  I volunteered 6 hours a week in exchange for membership. That’s $350/month SAVED!

 

2. I Joined Facebook Groups  Whether you’re just getting started or need advice to move the dial on your business or idea, definitely consider joining a Facebook Group.  Facebook groups are great because they provide a community of varying experiences.  You can get ideas and advice on how to grow your list, gain new customers, create Facebook ads, create content, find a new email provider, or troubleshoot.  The list is endless really.  Groups like these were perfect for me when I created my website.  I was much too shy to ask my friends for their opinions.  I also wasn’t confident that they were thinking about the details that I was such as if my opt-in form was obvious enough, or if the site navigation was intuitive, etc.  If you want a list of spam free, useful and engaging Facebook groups that I recommend, shoot me your email below and I’ll send it to you.

 

3. I Joined Meet Up Groups – Meetup.com is awesome because it facilitates offline events for people with different interests.  So I signed up for meetup.com and typed in “entrepreneur.”  I found so many groups and started going to events.  This is how I got plugged into the events that helped motivate and provide me the training to grow businesses.

 

4. I Created A Mastermind – A mastermind is a group of people who come together regularly to brainstorm, educate, and hold each other accountable. There’s a classic book for entrepreneurs called Think and Grow Rich written by Napoleon Hill.  In his book, Hill interviews hundreds of wealthy people to see if there are common habits that led to their wealth.  He comes up with a set of principles that all the wealthy people he interviewed stand by. One of the principles Napoleon Hill mentions is the mastermind group.  My mastermind group is hands down THE best thing I did for myself this year.  After a year of networking and befriending entrepreneurs in my area, I asked 3 other people that I felt close to and whose experience I admired if they wanted to be in a mastermind.  It’s been awesome for all of us.  We’ve been able to set and meet goals, give and receive feedback, and discuss our worries in a safe space.  It’s like having a board of people who truly care about your success.

 

5. I Put Myself Out There – Personally, my big hang-up has always been fear and pride.  I tend to keep my dreams to myself mostly because I just don’t want anyone to criticize my ideas and hurt my feelings. (Lame. I know)  So I just have a bad habit of struggling through things alone.  I took a big leap last year and shared with my boss, family, and friends that I was starting my business.  Low and behold, they all supported and wanted to help me!  My boss took me under her wing and shared training resources.  My friends emailed me ideas for websites.  My family held me accountable by checking on my progress.  You have to give people a chance to help you even if it means you’ll be vulnerable.

Alrighty so those are the 5 things I did to create the community that helped me FINALLY start my business.

The great thing is that you can do all 5 of these things even before you have your idea down! So go ahead and start creating your community.  If you need a list of Facebook groups to join shoot me your email and I’ll send you the ones I love.  See you there!

 

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