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Why We Need to Harness the Power of Community to Overcome Entrepreneurship Challenges When founders flounder, the best way forward is often to seek support from a community of like-minded people — and in the modern age of global commerce, this has become a global issue.

By Diane Wang Edited by Micah Zimmerman

Key Takeaways

  • Community fosters entrepreneurial growth by sharing knowledge and support globally.
  • Cross-border ecommerce thrives with community-driven empowerment and resource sharing.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Over the past few decades, the Internet has dissolved international barriers and opened up the floodgates for cross-border ecommerce. The rise of ecommerce micro, small and medium-sized businesses (MSMEs) is a testament to this. It is now easier than ever before for new entrepreneurs to dive into ecommerce and become very successful. Social commerce tools even make selling products over social media possible without setting up a dedicated website.

However, there are still barriers that need to be overcome. A lack of access to training, information, funding and other resources still holds entrepreneurs back from cross-border ecommerce opportunities. Most people do not even know the first thing about getting started in ecommerce, leaving most people unaware that it is an option they could pursue.

I have recently realized that community-building is key in opening more doors for entrepreneurs, especially in the cross-border ecommerce space. Over the past year, I've launched a global female empowerment organization called The Inner Mountain Foundation. This spring, my other company, DHgate — a leading cross-border ecommerce marketplace — ran the Foundation's side activities at events we hosted and participated in. I was extremely impressed by the high impact achieved by these community-building activities.

Without going into too much detail about my own business, I would like to explore some of the takeaways I've learned about the power of community for entrepreneurs and MSMEs. I now truly believe that connecting with real people about real issues is one of the best things we can do to remove cross-cultural obstacles and truly embrace the global village that humanity is growing into.

Related: 3 Values That Empower Entrepreneurs As They Start Their Business Journeys

Find yourself by connecting with others

I always believe that the journey doesn't have to be traveled alone, no matter where it leads. There are other people just like you who are chasing entrepreneurial dreams just like yours—and very likely making the exact same mistakes that you're making, too. When we come together to share experiences, we can learn and grow from our mistakes collectively. This also means we can celebrate our successes together, which is even better!

Recently, we held an offline event as part of DHgate's Seller's Conference. This event was also a local gathering for the Women Going Global program under The Inner Mountain Foundation's China Chapter, which brings female entrepreneurs together through various activities. We conducted a fun seminar with a mindfulness meditation session, introspective free writing, group sharing of personal stories, and other community-building activities.

Activities like these can connect people who might otherwise not meet in a regular networking event. Participants also found that these combined methods of self-exploration went a long way toward stimulating intuitive wisdom, fostering creativity and inspiring new ideas in all who attended. Through our community involvement and creative idea-sharing this year, we brought everyone closer together, which helped them all learn from one another (and from us).

The Women Going Global participants, who operate micro-businesses, shared that they had significant difficulties overcoming language and cultural differences when dealing with buyers from other countries. The past year has seen many sellers turn to AI to overcome this barrier — and now thanks to community-based knowledge-sharing I think we'll see this trend become more and more common.

Another community-building event my team hosted this year was a ladies' party bus at ASD Market Week in Las Vegas. The small business owners bonded and traded notes about their cross-border commerce challenges and tips for success — and we found they were encountering much the same difficulties as our sellers in China.

One of the things that everybody agreed on was how helpful it is to connect with other female professionals. In a traditionally male-dominated business space, it can be challenging for women to find someone with whom to discuss their problems. It can be a tremendous relief to have a support network of similar-minded people.

I can't stress this enough: community sharing and coaching really can open doors. One of our China community members shared a heartfelt story about how she often used to feel confused, endlessly pondering her inner thoughts without any resolution. However, by participating in guided self-exploration activities, she finally found the answers she had been seeking.

Related: How Digital Entrepreneurship is Helping Women Overcome the Glass Ceiling

Community brings more resources, accelerating greater growth

Of course, you don't have to host or attend extravagant events just to connect with your fellow aspiring entrepreneurs. Networking on social media or at local trade conventions is a great way to meet others on similar journeys. Better yet, start or join an entrepreneur support community. Some good fits might be an in-person club like a 'mastermind,' meetup group, or even a local chapter hosted by an accelerator or an organization like The Inner Mountain Foundation.

But don't just follow people's social accounts or collect business cards and forget about them. Engage! Connect on a personal level! Most importantly, we need to find ways to help each other grow. Any way you can find to benefit someone else's business will almost always benefit you in the long run.

On that note, I am reminded of what Serena, an American entrepreneur who recently joined The Inner Mountain Foundation's California-based community, told me. She hopes to "become friends" with local women and sellers abroad "because friends' products are always more trustworthy."

I wholeheartedly agree: when it comes to online retail, overseas suppliers are a perfect match for local social commerce, and I am passionate about helping these two groups develop connections based on shared values.

Diane Wang

Founder of DHGATE Group & The Inner Mountain Foundation, TEDx Speaker

Diane Wang is founder, chairperson, and CEO at DHgate, a leading cross-border B2B e-commerce marketplace. Founded in 2004, DHgate serves 59.6 million buyers from 225 countries and regions by connecting them to 2.54 million sellers. In 2020, DHgate launched the social commerce SaaS platform MyyShop.

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