Unless you're talking to a fellow entrepreneur, it's hard to make others comprehend your struggles. That is why it's essential to get plugged into your entrepreneurship community. No successful founder reaches his or her goals without the help of someone else. Meeting with fellow entrepreneurs is a great way to create the support network you need to build an amazing company.
If you are not involved with your entrepreneur community right now, don't worry. Here are three simple ways for you to get started.
1. Use social and events websites
A common excuse I hear among entrepreneurs is that they don't know of any events in their area. I used to use this excuse all the time as well until I found out about Meetup.com. I've used the site to recruit talent, make new friends, and even get introductions to investors. The best part is that you can pick groups to join that interest you or you want to learn about. This will also help you save money on buying educational tools, because you'll have a community to learn with.
While finding these events is a great start, it's also important to make the most of each one. Bring your business cards with you. Have your 30-second pitch down, and open yourself up. Make sure that when you find people you like, you get their contact information.
Being entrepreneurs, we always need help from other people. The great thing is that people who usually go to these events are looking to help people as well as be helped. Whenever I go to these meetups, I purposely try to connect as many people as possible. Offer advice, refer them to someone in your network, or just listen to their story. Follow this strategy, and you'll be amazed at how many people you'll get in your support system from just one meetup.
2. Get involved with your alma mater
I'm a huge believer that the perfect time to start a business is in college. First, it's easier to meet fellow students to build your business with. Second, your school probably brings in speakers to give advice on entrepreneurship.
What you'll discover is that many universities still allow alumni to come back and listen in on these lectures. Stanford is famous for its Entrepreneurship Corner. Babson College goes above and beyond to help its alumni start companies. My own alma mater, the University of San Diego, holds a Legacy Conference every year. Attending that conference is what sparked the fire for me to become an entrepreneur in the first place.
The more involved you become with your alma mater's community, the more doors will open for you. Successful alumni will become part of your support network. Also, your university may help you with interns or research. Who knows, one day you might even get invited back to speak about your company.
3. Join an incubator or start your own group
Incubators are one of the best ways to meet fellow entrepreneurs. The nice part of incubators is you can get steep discounts and sometimes even free co-working space. You'd be surprised at how many incubators or free workspaces you can find around you. Also, once your company starts to see some traction, your incubator can help connect you to investors and the press. Usually, they also have incubator-sponsored events that are perfect for networking with fellow founders.
If you live in a place that doesn't have an incubator, get creative and make your own group. I remember a friend who would just get 10 to 15 people together a couple of times a week to meet at a coffee shop. They'd work on their own companies, but would bounce ideas off one another. This group ended up growing and now my friend has a network of more than 50 entrepreneurs he can reach out to in his town. You don't have to live in Silicon Valley to be a part of an entrepreneurial ecosystem. You just have to put in a little effort and give before you take.