As a novice entrepreneur, I was full of questions:
What is considered a deductible expense?
Should my business be an LLC or a sole proprietorship?
How can I increase my presence on social media?
These are the types of questions that every entrepreneur has asked themselves at one point or another. And as a solopreneur or freelancer - someone who is truly doing it alone - these types of questions can sometimes just compound an already present sense of isolation. All I kept thinking was: wouldn’t it be great if I could discuss this stuff with a fellow entrepreneur rather than ask Google?
It was clear to me that I needed some support if I was going to keep my momentum going. My business was thriving and I had my graphic design skills in check. What I needed next was to increase my small business skills, while also finding a source to sustain my creative energy with some accountability and encouragement. In short, I realized that I was craving the connection of other small business owners who had the same questions and concerns I did.
So I decided to start a group, loosely based on the concept of Mastermind Groups. I put out a call on social media, and in my personal life, to women who were running their own business in and around Durham. The response I received was overwhelming. It turns out I was not the only woman running her own business and looking for some camaraderie.
After a few months of careful planning and discussion, a group was born, and we named ourselves the Women Solopreneurs of Durham. We committed to meeting each other once a month in person, in addition to a host of other ways we would connect during the rest of the month. I’m so proud to say that that original group is now nearly two years old, and the interest in the group has been so great that we have added a second sister group.
Our mission is simple: We are a community of women who support, connect, and engage with fellow female entrepreneurs in and around Durham. We are an inclusive group committed to diversity, authenticity, accountability, and collaboration. Our meeting topics range from effective invoicing, website critiques, and tax and legal issues, to balancing work with motherhood, charging what we’re worth, and making time for what matters. We focus on the business - first and foremost - but as women and as mothers, we know that the lines between personal and professional often blur. Especially when we are the one and only person in charge of the health and growth of our business.
Here’s what this group has taught me.
We have so much to learn from each other. I am continually grateful to this group for teaching me and supporting me and my business. The range of women I have met through this group is phenomenal. Nearly all of us represent a different type of business and - as such - we all bring a unique viewpoint to the group. It is an honor to get to know these women and to engage with them on this professional level.
Committing to a group provides accountability and momentum. When we commit to the group, we are committing to each other and to ourselves. We are taking a concrete step to grow our own business, and also to show up - literally - for the other members so that we can help them grow theirs. So many of the group members - including myself - have morphed our businesses since joining the group. We have used the meetings and the members to practice our pitches and to test out our ideas. We have created a space that is rich in trust, experience, truth, and skill - it’s a great sounding board for propelling us forward in our business goals. We hold each other accountable and push one another to take the next step; it’s a powerful thing.
It is incredibly important to seek out and find your people. If you are running your own business and you feel like you’re alone, know this - you’re not. There are countless other people out there with the same questions, victories, and doubts that you have. You just need to find those people and start collaborating. As another strong woman has said, we truly are stronger together. Ask yourself: Who is in your circle? Who do you have to turn to for questions and support when you need it? Who is rooting you on in your professional goals? Cultivate these relationships - let these people know that you appreciate them. And if it’s just you - give yourself a pat on the back. And keep at it, even when it’s tough.
Do you think you could benefit from a group like this? Do you want some guidance on how to start your own? Contact us. Let’s talk about ways to grow your business support circle.
In the meantime, do yourself a favor and check out the highly talented current and past members of the Women Solopreneurs group. They are all contributing something pretty amazing right here in Durham.
Architectural lighting designer: www.glimmer-glow.com
Certified holistic health coach: www.nourish-healthcoaching.com
Coffee shop owner: www.cocoacinnamon.com
Co-working and childcare business owner: www.nidodurham.com
Dog trainer: www.marciasbestdogs.net
Family and wedding photographer: www.morganhendersonphotography.com
Graphic designer: www.detailanddesignstudio.com
Integrative health coach: www.ginkgohealthcoaching.com
Interior designer: www.studioevloh.com
Lactation consultant: www.durhamlactation.com
Landscape designer: amystrunkdesigns.com
Maker, crafter, and teacher: @freemanscreative (Instagram)
Massage therapist: meganmrowell.com
Mental health therapist: christinahower.com
Mompreneur blogger and small business resource: quinnyi.com
Nonprofit consultant: www.janeengingrich.com
Piano teacher: www.hellopianostudio.com
Prenatal yoga instructor: www.mindfulmaludurham.com
Textile designer: www.thetextilecreative.com
Textile instructor: www.rivtak.com
Trauma informed health coach: www.outsidethemombox.com
Wedding photographer: melissamaureen.com
Wedding, portrait, and lifestyle photographer: www.merrittchesson.com
UPDATED TO ADD: In March 2017, we renamed ourselves WE Collective. WE as in women entrepreneurs. WE as in WE come together, WE support each other, WE are the face of women-owned small business in Durham and the surrounding areas. WE even have a logo and a website now. Check us out here.