When it comes to starting a business, entrepreneurs are short on time, money and resources.
But one no-cost tool that often gets overlooked is the community. From mentors to free services for startups and access to prominent officials, a founder’s local network can be used to help start, grow and sustain a business.
Recently, we were part of the Rise of the Rest tour, a road trip designed to celebrate entrepreneurship across the U.S., and asked entrepreneurs across America to share some tips on how founders can make the most of the resources in the community to grow their business.
Here is what a few had to say:
1. Give first.
Don't seek absolute answers from others and avoid networking for networking's sake. As an entrepreneur, we have a fear of missing out on connections that could end up as missed opportunities for growth and business development. Instead, keep your head down and put in the hard work needed to continue building. Before you seek gain for yourself from the community, invest in helping others succeed. However first, you need to create a foundation of wisdom and experiences to share.
-- JT Marino and Daehee Park
Co-founders of Tuft & Needle, a Phoenix-based ecommerce mattress company
2. Ask for help.
My biggest piece of advice: Don’t be afraid to ask. Leaders want to provide entrepreneurs with the resources to grow their businesses and create jobs for the community. They rarely hesitate to offer that support – be it through advice and mentorship, making connections or removing roadblocks, and even financial incentives to help your business succeed in their community.
A key takeaway for us, and one that many of our mentors frequently call out, is that almost everyone is willing to make 30 minutes to grab a cup of coffee and help a young entrepreneur get started. Whether or not they’ll come back and spend another 30 or 90 minutes depends on if you’re respectful of the conversation and clearly want to listen and learn.
-- David Graff
CEO and co-founder of Hudl, a Lincoln, Neb.-based platform providing video analysis for sports teams
3. Select your network carefully.
My advice is twofold, but ties to the same premise rooted in surrounding yourself with the right people. Entrepreneurs should absolutely leverage both peer groups and mentors, as it has proven incredibly helpful to me along the way.
I’ve learned that the best peer groups are ones that value confidentiality and have an environment that fosters honesty, open sharing and knowledge transfer.
As far as mentors go, it’s a quality over quantity thing. Mentorship, whether I am the mentor or mentee, should be rooted in one primary qualifier: Can the relationship extend beyond the current hurdles? Have conversations with advisors and subject matter experts to gain understanding for decision making, but look to a mentor for someone who is focused on your growth both personally and professionally. A true mentor makes a commitment to who you are as a person and all that encompasses your time.
-- Brad Jannenga
Co-founder of WebPT, a Phoenix-based physical therapy software