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Posts tagged networking
5 Ways to Benefit From MED Week

consulting and networkingAs cities across the country celebrate Minority Enterprise Development Week, some smaller cities still struggle to get local business owners involved in the weekly activities. Here are some of the benefits of attending local MED Week activities in your area.

  • Gather information on new opportunities in your area

Most local governments have tons of programs in place geared towards increasing the economic influence of minority business owners. However, these programs and services aren’t always widely publicized. Attending a MED Week Event in your area may uncover new opportunities for your company such as product placement, funding, or relocation services.

  • Network with like-minded business owners

There is a growing number of solopreneurs in today’s marketplace. While being a solopreneur may be a good fit for the business down the street, not every business is meant to run in this fashion. Finding others who share the same vision, and perhaps similar services can help expand your business and increase your bottom line. Attending networking events opens up the door for interaction with others that may spark new ideas or partnerships. 61fa9-women-smallbusinessowners

  • Discover new services

Oftentimes we launch our businesses with an intention to share a certain product or service that we deem important. But as our business interests grow, and as the marketplace evolves, these goods and services may not be enough to keep your business sustainable. Implementing Add-ons such as new retail products or consultation opportunities may help keep your business afloat while you work on improving your original arsenal of services. You may also find that the questions you had about improving certain products may be answered with a completely new product.

  • Inspiration and Motivation

Being an entrepreneur is definitely not for the faint of heart. There are ups and downs, and twists and turns that you probably didn’t expect to pop up during the journey. It is especially daunting when these twists and turns end up having a negative effect on your profit margin. When things get tough, it’s easy to think about throwing in the towel. Talking with other entrepreneurs with similar stories may help convince you to stay the course. Creating a support network that allows you to encourage one another may be just the thing you need to keep your business afloat and keep the doors open.

  • Marketing

The growing number of entrepreneurs creates a vacuum in which businesses are often lost in the crowd. No matter what your product or service may be, you have to find a way to stand out amongst your competition. For every “new” business that pops up, there are ten or twelve other businesses offering the same exact services. Networking events allow you to engage in face to face interaction with others who may not even know your business existed. It also allows you to give your Elevator Pitch and show others why your business is superior to other similar businesses. Small Business and Chamber of Commerce events often offer free or discounted marketing opportunities for businesses to showcase their individual products or partner with other companies to offer new services. Taking advantage of these services can give you an opportunity for free marketing services that you didn’t know existed. 7f94b-stand2bout

Minority Enterprise Development doesn’t have to end during MED Week. Engagement starts in your own community, and can thrive during even the smallest of settings. Seek out opportunities in your area, or create your own networking functions. Your local Chamber of Commerce or Economic Development Commission may even offer free space to hold your events if you are willing to partner with other local businesses. Visit your local agencies today to get started on taking advantage of these new opportunities.

Celebrating MED Week: The 2014 Substantial Awards

substantial awards Each year since 1983, the President of the United States has proclaimed a week as National Minority Enterprise Development (MED) Week to honor the achievements and many contributions of minority entrepreneurs, individuals and organizations that support minority business development. During this week of events, cities across the country arrange meetups and events where entrepreneurs can connect with public and private sector buyers, explore avenues for business expansion, and develop thriving partnerships with firms across multiple industry sectors.

The City of Greenville NC is no stranger to celebrating MED week. The Minority and Women Business Enterprise (M/WBE) program is celebrating for the fifth year in a row with a week of activities geared towards connecting local individuals and organizations that support minority business development. The schedule of events include social media information sessions and networking events with local entrepreneurs. I sat down with Editor in Chief of Substantial Magazine, Gregory Hedgepeth to discuss his role in the 2014 Substantial Awards, an evening created to honor extraordinary leaders and entrepreneurs in the minority community.

BM:  How did you come up with the idea to do the Substantial Awards?

GH: The concept of honoring and recognizing outstanding people through ceremonies and awards shows is not a unique idea at all. Substantial Magazine just wanted to take this concept and create the same atmosphere and prestige that you would great from these major brand shows right here in Greenville, NC for our outstanding community leaders and entrepreneurs. It goes hand in hand with the purpose of our publication, which is to tell the stories of influential and affluent minorities in our community.

BM: What can people expect from the Substantial Awards?

GH: First and foremost, expect nothing less than a dynamic, and well organized show. People can expect to hear the stories of five Substantial community leaders, witness dynamic cultural performances and also be informed about other community organizations and leaders that are impacting our community. We will also be awarding a Substantial U award to a young inspiring college leader. Substantial U is our subsidiary magazine that looks to tell the stories of influential minority college students and their organizations that are making an impact on their campuses. This award will recognize the achievements of young leaders who strive to be next to change the world.

BM: What do you want people to take away from the experience of attending the Substantial Awards?

GH: We want people to leave the 2014 Substantial Awards with a sense of pride in what our minority community has been able to accomplish. We want for our audience to have been informed and entertained. We hope they leave with the understanding that a Substantial Award is not only an appreciation of the value its recipient presents but a symbol of the passion that undoubtedly fuels their work. We want them to see that these people they have seen and heard about during the night surpass the descriptions of entrepreneur or humanitarian, and these recipients can only be described as those who are pillars of the Greenville community. Their influence and impact is supremely felt by others and ripples throughout the City. In one word, their contributions to what makes Greenville great is truly Substantial. Leave knowing that there is nothing minor about being the minority and that we all are substantial and so is our purpose.

For more information on the Substantial Awards, or to purchase tickets please visit www.substantialawards.com

When Networking Goes Right: Part II

81542-armsI recently wrote a post about the benefits of effective networking. Since I published the post, I’ve had tons of people emailing, calling, and texting me about the article and how it reminded them to beef up their networking skills and reach out to those in their circle with whom they have similar interests. I also attended a awesome webinar with a great friend of mine who just launched a series of Bootcamp webinars for career advancement. It seemed only fitting that I publish a follow up post with more information.

Networking can be a delicate process. It can either go really well or really bad. Just because your network is small, does not mean that it’s necessary to go out and connect with the first person you see at the next After Hours Social. One bad reference can do a world of damage, and take months, or even years to repair. If you are contemplating doing business with someone or giving a reference for someone you just met, be sure to do your homework first. Pay extra attention to who you share information with. There are people who often seem like great connections, but can turn out to be your worst nightmare. It’s important to find out what their background, goals, and other associations are. Perhaps you have mutual friends in common that can give you a better idea of who they are. These details are important when deciding what the nature of your relationship will be in the future.

Having similar interests is not always a necessary component to establishing great networking connections. Many of my connections have emerged from relationships in which I had no idea would be mutually beneficial. I’ve maintained contact with friends from childhood and from college that ended up being great references for myself or for others in my circle. One of my very first friends in college has now become a reliable client of mine. We started college with completely different career paths, and never had any intention of working together, but today we enjoy an amazing business relationship that has also led to connections amongst others in our immediate circle. Maintaining a relationship with positive people can often lead to the sharing of ideas that may uncover hidden talents and encourage one another to embark upon new adventures.

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Just like they say love comes when you least expect it; networking also blossoms when you least expect it. For years I never placed that much importance on my LinkedIn profile. I always had the mindset that unless I was actively looking employment, that it wasn’t that important to display my background and talents to others. I could not have been more wrong. Thankfully I took notes from others around me who were constantly updating their profiles and finding new connections, and decided to improve my profile. I made sure to list all of my projects and affiliations, and occasionally looked for new contacts. A chance meeting on LinkedIn eventually led to meeting someone who would eventually nominate me for a seat on a Board that is becoming instrumental in changing the educational structure in my community. Our backgrounds are completely unrelated, but something told me to reach out and connect with him. I had no idea when I reached out that a new profile photo and updates on my community service activities would lead to a working relationship that would inspire me to become a leader in the educational community.

Once you’ve established new connections, it’s important to continue to put time and energy into those relationships. It makes no sense to have amazing contacts if you never communicate with them, and they aren’t aware of what you’re doing. It’s important to take the time out to connect with people every once in a while. Many of us find ourselves in situations where we feel we are “too busy” to get out and have lunch or coffee with everyone we know. But a quick email, or a text message to say hello can always be beneficial. You may find that a friend with whom you lost contact needs a few words of encouragement. Or you may discover that they are engaging in projects that may be beneficial to someone else you may know. You may even find that they have noticed some of your recent work, and have been wanting to reach out to you. A quick message can open up the floor for conversations that may work to benefit multiple people, so take the time reach out to people in your circle.

Lastly, be social! You can’t establish relationships if you don’t get out and meet people. Some of my best friends in the world have been people that I’ve met through one particular friend who is extremely social. These relationships have led to business connections, child play dates, and even marriages. You never know what will unfold when you place yourself in a social setting. If you’re bold enough, you can even attend events alone. I have often gone to Mixers and Socials alone and ended up meeting people that have become a huge part of my life. It’s also great for watching how others interact with each other. You can take cues from others around you on what positive or negative things to do in a social setting. If you are apprehensive about attending events alone, make a deal with someone you know and convince them to attend with you. I can’t count how many events I’ve attended that have nothing to do with my background or industry. But these events led to opportunities that others could benefit from. They also inspired me to set new goals and tap into hidden potential.

Networking opportunities are everywhere. We just have to pay attention. Oftentimes we overlook opportunities that are right under our noses. No one can growth and flourish living in a bubble. We have to take advantage of our stock in “human capital” and make our connections work for us!

When Networking Goes RIGHT : Discovering Your Inner Circle

This post was previously published on my LinkedIn publishing page. Here is the full article: file8841263244527

My grandfather used to joke that my grandmother would stop and talk to a street sign if it stopped to talk to her. In spite of being somewhat shy when I was a kid, I have now become that woman who stops and talks to EVERYONE. I thoroughly enjoy a conversation with the average stranger on a regular basis. I like listening to what makes people tick,  what makes them grow, or even what makes them angry. Every so often, those random conversations will turn out to be things that will affect your life in ways you didn't expect.

A couple of years ago, I ran into a young lady with whom I had multiple friends in common. I found it odd that in my sometimes small, tight knit college circle that I had yet to become acquainted with this young lady. The friends that we had in common were people that I trusted and admired; so naturally we were supposed to be friends too, right? Needless to say, she was going to be my new friend whether she liked it or not, and she didn't have a choice in the matter. Little did I know that our interaction with one another would extend beyond a casual lunch date or two.

It's a magical thing when friends can come together and share more than just laughs. When I met my friend Adeea, I had no idea of what things were lying beyond the surface of her outward persona. As we got to know each other, I started to learn more about her and all the things that she was passionate about. Her online personality the Trendy Socialite was beginning to take off at the time. She spent a lot of time engaging on social media Tweeting,  Vlogging, and Uploading content to a ton of different platforms.  She shared fashion and beauty tips, and gave people an inside view of her life as an event planner. It was almost like watching your very own reality show play out right before your eyes.

Fast forward a couple of years later, and the Trendy Socialite brand has skyrocketed out of control. Her success with branding and event planning has sparked a following who are now signing up to gain a little bit of her expertise. This summer, she launched the iGrind Boot Camp Webinar Series, which covers topics including event planning, sponsorships, marketing, and networking. The webinars are chock full of great info that is interchangeable amongst a variety of different industries. These webinars are affordable and make it easy for budding entrepreneurs to get a leg up on their competition. Rogers also offers introductory business consultations, and extended coaching programs.

In a world where we are all running around at top speed, it is very easy to miss the cues that jump out at you and beg for you to pay attention. Fortunately my brain told me to take a minute to get to know this woman whom the internet knows as the Trendy Socialite. Establishing a relationship with her has helped me to further my own brand and has given me the confidence to branch out and try new things. I sat back and watched as Adeea single handedly created a large international web community dedicated to sharing ideas, techniques, and stories about women with natural hair. A simple idea to gather people within her own circle quickly grew into an international phenomenon that had people seeing her online and saying "Hey, I know her!". Her diligence to expanding her brand is a now classic example of how necessary it is to tap into your own power and make it work for you on YOUR terms. Her quest to share the things she loved was not defined by the textbook constructs of how to establish a business. Watching the process first hand has definitely motivated me to do so myself.

Because I've had a Bird's Eye View of the branding of the Trendy Socialite, I understand that the branding process does not always go the way you envisioned. I also understand the importance of a solopreneur being able to reach out to others for additional support when necessary. No great leader has achieved monumental success on their own. Your friends, family members, and even strangers you meet on the web will sometimes be your greatest business asset. In my case, my greatest business asset is indeed my diverse network of supporters. We pride ourselves on participating in a healthy exchange of ideas, and motivate one another to bring out our unique individual qualities. Together we form a successful bond that propels us into a larger measure of success. We understand the importance of personality differences, and the blending of industry specific knowledge. If you survey the members of my inner circle one year from now, I guarantee you that you will see different measures of success, and perhaps different views on business branding than you saw the year before. Your network should never be something that is just for show. Choose to engage with people who have mutually beneficial relationships. Your interaction with your circle can range from establishing businesses together to simply lending an ear to relieve stress. Whatever the nature of the relationship, utilize it as often as possible. Your infantile entrepreneur self will thank you for it in the future.