The Top 20 Business Networking Groups for Women Entrepreneurs

There are a lot of fantastic women’s networking groups. You just need to get off your butt and get out there!

Where are all of the Women’s Business Networking Groups?  They’re not on LinkedIn. If you’re serious about growing your business and networking, you’re going to have to reach for the higher fruit. (Which may mean more face to face interaction and networking).

A LinkedIn Group, (which I am a member of) called Connect: Professional Women’s Network, has nearly half a million members. While it is a good resource for support, it isn’t necessarily a platform for true entrepreneurial networking that garners real life results. It’s a great place for women to share ideas online, get feedback and share their blog posts, but it stops there.  You can’t meet any of these women or connect unless you set it up yourself.  If just this one group met offline at a big event to network, collaborate and create true synergy, what a tribe it would be, right?  A half a million women from all over the world contributing their energy and resources to help everyone succeed.  

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The truth is, there are a lot of fantastic women’s business networking groups available to us.  You just need to find one that works for you. And then you need to get off your butt and get out there!  Plug in to your tribe.

I’m not recommending the Natl. Association of Professional Women, which, sadly, has a negative rating a mile long.  What I’m referring to are the groups and organizations founded and run by women who are truly making a difference in women’s lives by offering real business solutions and mentorships, venture capital funding and growth strategies.  

CFDA looks like a good resource for women in the fashion industry, however, it’s by invitation only. :\

Why does it feel so difficult to find legit women’s business networking groups that aren’t just trying to scam us?

The answer is: It’s not that difficult, and there are really good ones out there.  You just have to dig a little and be patient. Don’t sign up with the first one that blows fairy dust all over you.  Also, consider looking locally at Meetup.com.  There are a ton of small, mid and large sized networking groups that may be very beneficial to you.

I have done a little digging for you, and these are the top Business Networking Groups for Women Entrepreneurs that I have found on a national scale:

 

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1. COUNT ME IN  Founded by Nell Marino, an international and national champion for women and girls and the creative force behind Take Our Daughters toWork Day. Count Me In for Women’s Economic Independence is the leading national not-for-profit provider of resources, business education and communitysupport for women entrepreneurs seeking to grow micro-businesses into million dollar enterprises.

Count Me In knows that women entrepreneurs grow exponentially when given access to the right tools, coaching and community, which has lead them to launch three unique programs: Make Mine a Million $ Business™ (M3), Urban Rebound and the Women Veteran Entrepreneur Corps (WVEC). All of these programs are designed to help women business owners get growing!   www.countmein.org

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2. CRAVE, founded by Melody Biringer, The CRAVE Company is focused exclusively on bringing women together to make waves in their careers and personal lives. They specialize in event design for authentic conversation. The first thing you see when you enter their website in big, bold letters is:

No more aimless wandering toward happiness. It’s time to start getting obsessively specific about what you want. So you can start filling your life with it.

Their mission is to draw out the stories and voices of women in business ina way where they feel seen, heard, and empowered. They host Events, Programs and Co-Storming Mashups such as the Seattle Fashion Industry Mash-up.  www.thecravecompany.com

3. Women’s Business Development Center The Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC) is a one of a kind non-profit focused on fueling the economy through entrepreneurship. As the oldest, largest and most comprehensive women’s business assistance center in the United States, we have programs designed to help individuals in every phase of the business development and growth process.  www.wbdc.org

4. WOMEN 2.0 was co-founded by Shaherose Charania and is currently run by a strong team with key advisors.  It’s mission is to increase the number of female founders of technology startups with information, videos, articles and worldwide events such as their PITCH conferences and monthly Founder Friday events.  There is a wealth of info on their website, so I would suggest spending a little time there researching topics that interest you. www.women2.com

5. WBENC The Women’s Business Enterprise National Council 501(c)(3) non-profit was founded in 1997. it is currently the largest third-party certifier of businesses owned, controlled, and operated by women in the United States. WBENC partners with 14 Regional Partner Organizations to provide its world class standard of certification to women-owned businesses throughout the country. WBENC’s core focus is Certification, Opportunities, Resources and Engagement. www.wbenc.org

6. SBA.gov  Yes, the SBA (Small Business Association) offers Women’s Business Services (WBCs), which is nationwide and offers a ton of resources for women-owned businesses!  Women’s Business Centers (WBCs) represent a national network of more than 100 educational centers throughout the United States and its territories, which are designed to assist women in starting and growing small businesses. WBCs seek to “level the playing field” for women entrepreneurs, who still face unique obstacles in the business world.

SBA’s Office of Women’s Business Ownership (OWBO) oversees the WBC network, which provides entrepreneurs (especially women who are economically or socially disadvantaged) comprehensive training and counseling on a variety of topics in several languages.  Check for local offices in your state for economic development offices.  I am lucky enough to have a couple of stellar universities and programs nearby who offer some amazing Women’s Business Centers! Look in your area, I am sure you will find some hidden gems, too. www.sba.gov

7. SAVOR THE SUCCESS was founded by Angela Jia Kim, and was chosen as Forbes’ Best 100 Websites for Women where “accomplished founders, creators, connectors and movers & shakers” push each other to achieve through meeting benchmarks – together.” Basically, Savor the Success is a membership network offering access to PR opportunities, an active online community, a virtual business school, community center, and wellness lifestyle hub for women entrepreneurs, makers and creators.

8. The Next Women:   TheNextWomen is a community of Investors, Entrepreneurs & Advisers. Their efforts are in supporting the growth of female entrepreneurs, from startups to companies making millions. Their goal is to advise,inspire & connect a global & local community of ambitious entrepreneurial women. They provide access to capital (perfect!), resources and networks, as well as offer their community support. They host summits and events such as their Pitch Competition .  www.thenextwomen.com

9. Dreamit | Dreamit Athena ‘Athena’, which is an accelerator for women created by founders of Dreamit Ventures, was launched in 2015. Ranked by Forbes as  one of the Top 10 Business Accelerators in the world, Dreamit invests in early stage entrepreneurs at all levels to create breakthrough technology companies. They provide startups with resources, advisors, investors, strategic partners and customers looking for innovative solutions.  www.dreamit.com

10. EY Entrepreneurial Winning Women The EY Entrepreneurial Winning Women™ program is a national competition and executive education program that identifies a select group of high-potential women entrepreneurs whose businesses show real potential to scale — and then helps them do it!   Without sounding too crude, this organization is for badass business women who are serious about succeeding. www.ey.com

11. MergeLane MergeLane discovers, accelerates and invests in exceptional women and the companies they run. Check out their website for more info, and see the current women-owned MergeLane companies  www.mergelane.com

12. Million Dollar Women Workshop Created by Julia Pimsleur. Julia Pimsleuris on a mission to help one million women entrepreneurs get to $1M in revenues by 2020.
Julia is the CEO and Founder of Little Pim, one of the few women-run businesses backed by venture capital in the country, and the leading system for introducing young children to a second language.  Julia has raised a combined $26 million in non-profit and for-profit dollars. After raising millionsfor her own company, she created her popular “Double Digit Academy” and online fundraising bootcamp to help other women do the same.  Check her out, she is doing AMAZING things!  http://www.juliapimsleur.com/

13. Springboard Enterprise Springboard, located in Washington, DC, is a highly-vetted expert network of innovators, investors and influencers who are dedicated to building high-growth technology-oriented companies led by women. Read their manifesto  https://sb.co/

14. Women’s Startup Lab The mission of Women’s startup Lab is to empower female founders to be strong leaders, to create powerful startups and to influence and shape the world though their companies, using collaboration, community and innovation. The inspiration for Women’s Startup Lab originated in Japan. Founder Ari Horie, growing up in Hiroshima, was raised by a single mother who understood the importance of individuality. http://womenstartuplab.com/

15. Chic CEO At Chic CEO you’ll find easy to understand, easy to implement business knowledge in its most basic form. Best of all, you’ll find other women who are willing to share their advice and experiences simply because someone else did the same for them. It’s a beautiful ‘pay it forward’ system!  The ground level information is there for you to get started in being your own boss – the rest is up to you.  Free to join!  🙂 http://www.chic-ceo.com/

16. Ellevate  Ellevate is the global professional network for women who believes in the positive impact of women in business. Their mission is to help women advance in the workplace, both for themselves and the greater good. It’s a great place where you can invest in yourself or invest in other women.  https://www.ellevatenetwork.com

17. She Owns It  A website and blog dedicated to empowering, connecting and supporting women in business. Check out their conferences listings for an inspiring workshop in your area!  You just never know how it will change everything! http://sheownsit.com/

18. SheWorx A NYC based weekly breakfast collective of strong female entrepreneurs and change makers centered around challenging topics and actionable strategies. They create events hosted by top founders, innovators and entrepreneurs. http://www.sheworx.co/

19. The Boss Network ©The BOSS “Bringing Out Successful Sisters” Network’s mission is to promote and encourage the small business spirit and professional development of women. The BOSS Network is a community of career and entrepreneurial women who support each other through conversation, online and event-based networking.

The BOSS network is also a Top 10 Forbes & Inc. Website for Women of Color in Business. http://www.thebossnetwork.org/

20. Womancon  Womancon (convention) is the equivalent to all of the other ‘cons’ we see out there, only their focus is to inspire, educate and re-ignite your entrepreneurial passion with amazing speakers and founders like Janet Hanson (Founder and former CEO of 85 Broads), Egypt Sherrod (CEO, Author and Host of Property Virgins) and Rachel Braun Scherl, to name a few!  Through Womancon, you have the opportunity to grow your network and build professional relationships with  other leading women entrepreneurs from across the country, or pitch the media. learn more at:  www.womancon.com

 


Wherever you find yourself, whether it be at a local business meetup, or a national convention, I think you will discover you’re exactly where you need to be at the right time.

Life is funny and awesome that way.

The TOP 10 Women Angel Investors & Venture Capital Firms

Are you a Woman looking to raise funds for your business? Check these out

Forerunner Ventures An early stage venture capital firm dedicated to investing in ambitious entrepreneurs to define and dominate a new generation of commerce

Women’s VC Fund The Fund capitalizes on the expanding pipeline of women entrepreneurs leading gender diverse teams and creating capital efficient, high growth companies in digital media and sustainable products and services.

Plum Alley  offer s it’s members select opportunities to invest in private companies along with custom experiences both on-line and off-line to collaborate, imagine and transform the world. See also Plum Alley Crowdfunding for Women

Belle Capital an early stage fund that invests in high growth companies in underserved capital markets across the USA.

Built By Girls (BBG) Ventures An early stage fund focused on consumer internet and mobile start ups with at least one female founder.  

Pipeline Angels Pipeline Angels is a network of new and seasoned women investors who are changing the face of angel investing and creating capital for women social entrepreneurs. Pipeline Angels holds a signature bootcamp for new investors and a signature pitch summit for startups looking for funding.

Portfolia The Portfolia platform lets entrepreneurs profile their companies to investors globally and streamlines the fundraising process.  Portfolia welcomes innovative companies in the conceptual through growth stages, especially those where a national base of sophisticated and connected investors can impact success and build markets.

Cowboy Ventures Cowboy Ventures helps seed-stage technology companies grow. They back exceptional founders who are building products that “re-imagine” work and personal life in large and growing markets.

Golden Seeds A discerning group of investors, seeking and funding high-potential, women-led businesses.

The Tory Burch Foundation  Founded in 2009, the Tory Burch Foundation aims to support the empowerment of women entrepreneurs. The foundation has developed programs and initiatives that invest in the success and sustainability of women-owned small businesses by providing: Access to Capital, Entrepreneurial Education, Mentoring and Networking Opportunities

Kickstarter and/or IndieGoGo – Don’t underestimate the powers of Kickstarter and IndieGoGo for startup and seed funding.  I have personally raised funds through both of these platforms and it works!  But there are a few Crowdfunding tips you’ll need to know and follow for a successful campaign.

 

What is the cost of social media marketing?

Make sure you budget for marketing, because a funny thing happens when you don’t do it: Nothing.

 

How much does social media marketing cost?  That seems to be a burning question everyone is asking.  Ok, now don’t freak out…

But the short of the long of it is:

A minimum of $2,500-$5,000 on average per month, depending on where your target audience is and what you want to achieve.

Sometimes, you have to pay extra for PR or blog content writing. A lot of those $2,500K-$5K prices may or may not be all-inclusive deals.  And it’s not unusual to find many agencies who charge $10,000 per month for social media marketing & management.  

According to some data findings, the cost to create and establish just a new Twitter account with targeted Followers and a little bit of content is anywhere from $2K-$7,500.
So I guess the average $2,500-$5,000 isn’t so bad when you consider the fact that some agencies charge $5,000 – just to manage your Facebook account. Nothing else.
Just Facebook.

$5,000 per month for a Social Media Marketer seems “high” because we spend so much time online, doing just that: interacting socially and participating in social media.  Our perception of social media is “fun time”,  it hasn’t registered to us that this is THE advertising platform. 

Wherever the audience is, advertising follows. Once it was Newspapers, Magazines, Radio, TV.  Now, it’s online through our news and blogger channels and our Social Media feeds.

If we can look at it from a media platform we are used to, such as Magazines, we can truly see the value and the difference: We have magazine readers, and we have magazine creators.

We don’t see all of the behind-the-scenes magic that happens to make that content available and in our face. That is what advertising is, and what Social Media Marketing is all about.

Ok, I get it.   But.. Why so much?

Let’s break it down:

  • Graphics and Social Media Ad Creatives  The cost of social media graphics and ad creatives – this includes a professional graphic designer with marketing knowledge to create visual ads that deliver results.  There is a psychology behind an ad creative that works. This isn’t the job for just any Joe Schmo Photoshop Pro when it comes to creating a fine-tuned ad creative. The average salary of a Graphic Designer is anywhere from $45-$60K per year, with some earning as much as $75K.
  • Market research  This is a very important aspect of advertising.  You have to zero in on your target audience. It makes no sense to shoot your product out into the universe if it’s not aimed at the right audience.  Market research answers: Who is your audience, what do they want, what are the buying, what do they respond to, where do they hang out and who are your competitors?
  • Ad rates The costs of promoting you or your business. Ad rates are generally included in a market budget, and an average and conservative cost can be anywhere from $250-$500 month for Twitter and Facebook Ads alone.
  • PR Writing and crafting the perfect pitches, reaching out to Bloggers, Editors, Magazines, Influencers and even celebrities.  This aspect is HARD WORK. A lot of PR agents I know charge $5K per month, just for PR.  Nothing else.
  • Creating Marketing Campaigns, Calendars + Strategies. Sometimes creating a marketing campaign can take days (or even weeks) to not only research and plan, but to write it out. (One simple 3 month marketing campaign I created a few weeks ago took me over 16 hours to research, create and write.) This takes a lot of time, but executed well, it pays off.
  • Writing Press Releases
  • Writing Blog Posts – Rich content blog posts are worth their weight in gold to the tune of saving you about $250,000 in Google Adwords costs. A well-written blog post with organic traffic can harness as much, if not more traffic, as an expensive Google Adwords campaign. One single blog post I wrote in 2011 has generated 256,000 hits for my blog so far.  If I would have paid the average $1 CPC (Cost-per-Click) with Google Adwords, it would have cost me $256,000! 😮
    Blog writers know their stuff when it comes to SEO, and they craft their posts to maximize search results.  According to ClicktoTweet and HubSpot, “Articles with a word count between 2,250 and 2,500 earn the most organic traffic”.  A good blog writer will charge around .45 cents per word on average, so a 1,000 word post is $450. For example, this post you’re reading right now is 1,326 words (or about $600).
  • Social Media Manager A full time (daily) social media manager to monitor your accounts, create engaging posts, interact, respond to positive (and negative) feedback across all channels.  I’m talking about a dedicated person who not only knows the ins and outs of social media, but one who works on all your social media accounts all day (Instagram, Reddit, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook), and knows how to track and analyze the data.  This is a full time job and if you were to pay him or her a salary, it would probably cost you a minimum of $45K/yr. ($3,750/mo)


What the hell? Now, I’m kinda bummed.

If you already have an established Twitter or Facebook account, it could be a little more cost effective, because you won’t have to start from scratch and what you’ll need is a social media manager to maintain and manage your accounts: (i.e. keep them flowing, interact, grow your followers, establish relationships, and build brand awareness).  So, If you were to hire someone full time to manage your account, not create contests, promotions or ads, it would most likely cost a minimum of $40K per year, which is a salary of $3,300/mo.
(If you want someone part time, you can probably find a SMM who is good at what he/she does and is just starting out.)

 

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$750,000

This is how much Snapchat costs per ‘Brand Story’ ad, which is a branded post that appears within the app’s ‘Stories’ feed.
(update: 12/2015 The minimum budget for advertising on Snapchat recently dropped from $700,000+ to $100,000)

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Scared yet?  Don’t be.  Advertising has always been costly but it’s vital to business growth.
And sometimes, businesses just aren’t ready yet.

People scratch their heads in confusion when things aren’t selling, or when customers aren’t responding.  I’ve been there before.  I’d think, “I’m doing everything right!” when the truth is, I was just not giving enough to my marketing budget or plan.

We all want to see fantastic results, but what we don’t see is the costs associated with the results we want.  And it can be overwhelming at first, but once the momentum starts, it all starts working pretty harmoniously.  Better budget for advertising = more sales = more advertising budget = even more sales, etc.

“It’s nearly impossible to do PR and Social Media Marketing on your own, unless you have tons of time, are super-savvy (creatively), and have a team to help out.
Make sure you budget anywhere from 15-20% of your annual income for marketing, because a funny thing happens when you don’t do it: Nothing.   Meanwhile, you see competitors with the same products as you doing it and going global.  If you want to succeed, there is no other choice. It needs to be a financial priority in your business plan and must be factored in as a cost to doing business”.

In the quickly moving digital world we now live in, we simply can’t wait for our audience and business to come to us. Social media is where all of the attention is these days. We stream Netfix online, Hulu, YouTube and Amazon.  We are plugged in to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube.

This is where the audience of the world is today, and if you aren’t finding a way to reach them through these channels, you’re kind of on another planet.  If you take your business seriously, find a way to either amp up your social media marketing time per day or hire a professional to help you grow your business.  You honestly can’t afford not to.

 

7 Crucial Elements For Crowdfunding Success

I discovered there are several pretty crucial (and basic) elements involved that can really make all the difference in your campaign.

So, you have a magnificent idea or product. Now what? With the popular crowdfunding websites like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo, the world is your oyster and the possibilities for success seem endless. I have been following crowdfunding for the last 3+ years, observing the wildly successful campaigns and also ones that weren’t quite so successful. After having one of my campaigns miss it’s goal, I went back to the drawing board and dug in to as much crowdfunding tips and research as I could get my hands on.

When my second campaign first launched, my inbox was flooded with everyone from Kickstarter campaign gurus to PR agencies and Fiverrs. Everyone wanted to help make it successful. At a price, of course. But I was on a zero budget, so I did it all myself. The campaign was a success but I learned a lot. Through trial and error, along with determination, I discovered there are several pretty crucial (and basic) elements involved that can really make all the difference in your campaign.

1. Get Social! Make sure you have a strong network, online and off. Build up your social crowd and establish yourself and your brand/product first before launching. Let everyone in on your secret and get them excited, pre-launch. Talk to people, get to know them. In other words, make sure you are well connected and plugged in to your social connections. I would aim for at least 1,000 in your network. Facebook is still a great resource, but tap into Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+. It’s like any business: if no one knows you exist, how can they support your project?

2. Look and Feel – Is your campaign click-worthy? First of all, make sure your MAIN image looks awesome. This is the image that everyone sees first. If it’s appealing to the eye, you’ll get that click you want. You want it to stand out. A clear photo of your product, or an appealing image that showcases your project is key.

Make sure your campaign page looks attractive and cohesive as well. Pictures tell a thousand words. I have discovered that too many words in a campaign can bore an audience. We are living in a digital age where we are more stimulated with quick posts and pictures. You can provide all the info you want, but make it easy to read. Take some inspiration from various infographics and think of creative ways to get your message through quickly.

If you are not much of a graphics guru, that’s OK. Ask a graphics designer for assistance with this.

3. Your Video This can be tricky and expensive if you don’t know a videographer or editor. If you have a budget to hire a videographer, that’s great! If you are doing a DIY video, make sure your video has good sound (I goofed on this one with a cheap radio shack mic). Create a visual story, tell everyone about your project in 30-60 seconds or less. Let your project evoke a mood or inspire your audience. Be yourself. It doesn’t need to be fancy. If you are not comfortable being on camera, a video or photo montage with your voice-over is good too!

4. Rewards Offer a variety of pledge amounts, but don’t get too complicated. I have found that less can be more on Kickstarter. Too many options, and people can get a little confused. The $16-$25 rewards are a nice sweet spot. However, I also realize a product that is more expensive is well worth it to Backers, especially if it’s a project they believe in. Also, never underestimate the power of the $1 reward! I have seen quite a few projects with over a 1,000+ $1 Backers.

5. PR and Blogger Outreach is as equally important as the product you create and vital to maintaining a steady flow of traffic to your project campaign. If you plan to do your own PR, make sure you have created some kind of social media rapport before pitching your product to an editor, even if it’s just to Share or Re-Tweet an interesting news article they have written. Make sure you are targeting the right blogs, magazines, etc. Have a list of the contacts ready to go before you launch. Send the e-mails out before you launch and offer exclusive “first dibs” press. Send them info on your project along with the website or Kickstarter preview link. Emails are the best way to reach editors. Make the emails personal. Canned, lengthy templates are not a wise choice. And make sure you follow up! (If the email addresses are not available online, you can call and ask for the specific editors’ email address if it is a magazine like Conde Nast or Hearst Publications).

Read more:  How to Do Blogger Outreach and PR

Make sure you understand the amount of time it’s going to require to reach out to the right bloggers, editors, etc. It doesn’t end when the campaign goes live. Write, Send, Follow-up and Repeat. (Getting friends to help you with this is also highly recommended). I think I must have sent 30 emails out before I got an interview and write up with Fast Company. Be diligent and don’t give up! It WILL pay off.

6. Extra Marketing Funds Set aside some funds for help in Social Marketing/PR. Even if it’s only $500-$700, make sure you have some funds for this. There are a lot of social media ad promotions you may want to take advantage of (i.e. Google, Twitter, Facebook). There are also individual PR agents and agencies out there who offer crowdfund-specific packages at reasonable rates.

7. Social “Auto-Pilot” and Organization Get familiar with social media platforms such as Bit.ly, Hootsuite and Sprout Social. These are excellent tools to help you get organized and track your interactions to see what platform works and who is listening. Also, it will do you some good to have these platforms working for you on autopilot while you (hopefully!) sleep. There is a whole other side of the world that is up while we sleep and we can’t forget to include them.

Some say there is no real secret sauce for Kickstarter success, other than having a strong network and tons of views. I have seen marshmallow projects go crazy, underwear sell like it’s a hot commodity and wallets hit (and miss). I think the product has to be a good one, but I also think people are looking to connect with a project and the creator. It’s more than just products people want. They want to feel like they are a part of something that moves them, whether it be in a fun, creative, humorous or philanthropic way.

I would love to hear about your Crowdfunding experiences!  Please comment and let me know what has worked for you!