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5 ways networking can support your startup

Networking for small-business owners

If you want to be a successful entrepreneur in today’s competitive marketplace, it’s not enough to hang a virtual shingle on the Internet announcing that you’re open for business, and then kick back.

“If you’re really determined to create a thriving small business,” says Dave Schrader, a small-business consultant and instructor in the University of Phoenix MBA program, “you’ve got to go out into your community and network.”

Here are five ideas to help you make key connections to bolster your new venture:

1

Become familiar with the Small Business Administration.

“The government-sponsored SBA.gov is the best one-stop portal an entrepreneur can go to in order to get connected and network,” Schrader says.

He recommends reading through the peer-reviewed SBA community blogs to find entrepreneur experts with like-minded goals. “You can interact with them by posting comments or asking questions,” he says.

You can also sign up to receive information about no-cost webinars that can help you launch your business. Finally, you can use the website to find small-business development centers in your community that can help you apply for business loans.

2

Get SCORE on your side.

This national organization, staffed by retired business professionals, offers opportunities to make community connections for free, says Schrader, who is a SCORE member.

He suggests using the group’s mentoring services, where small-business entrepreneurs meet one-on-one with retired business professionals who review your business plan, offer marketing advice and provide professional contacts.

3

Look for small-business incubator programs.

Many community colleges and other higher learning institutions run small-business incubators where you can get mentoring for your business idea by experts in the field. They can connect you with investors and other professionals to help you create a marketing plan and generate business.

The University, for instance, is a partner with The Cleantech Open, a program to foster and encourage small-business development in the sustainable energy field.

Another resource is the National Business Incubation Association.

4

Join relevant trade associations.

By attending regular meetings and taking advantage of what trade associations have to offer — or even volunteering for the organizations — you can make a name for yourself among seasoned professionals in your field and cultivate contacts.

Every small-business niche has a relevant trade association, Schrader emphasizes. You can check out the trade association directory and look up pertinent organizations for your line of work.

5

Give back to the community.

If you want to forge strong bonds in your community and plant business roots within your local economy, it’s a good idea to volunteer or help a local charity, Schrader says.

Sponsoring a Little League team or a Scout troop, or participating in a church community service activity will get your name out in front of the community and demonstrate your values and commitment to others. Schrader adds, “It’s also a great way to meet local business leaders.”

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