A mum’s guide to networking on and offline

Networking is vital for small businesses. It’s a free and fun way to promote yourself. And, in this technical world, it exists in different flavours and for all kinds of people – even the shy!

When I first started my business, I felt intimidated and too inexperienced to go to networking events.

I was, and still am, a full-time mum to Charlie (3 years old) and Megan (1 years old). Time is of the essence, and sometimes networking just isn’t an option for mums. Like breakfast meetings. Who wants to babysit at 7am?!

Social networking

So I joined the world of social networking, and this really worked to increase my knowledge and my confidence. But it’s no good just joining Facebook and having a Fan Page. You need to update it every day and interact with your customers. This in itself can be time consuming and you can get easily sidetracked. So give yourself a limit that you’ll only spend, say, 15 minutes working on it.

Twitter‘s another great resource, as long as you’re following the right people. You don’t have to follow everyone who follows you – it’s not the quantity of followers, more the quality.

So, if you’re using Twitter to increase your PR profile then make sure you’re following the magazines, websites and newspapers relevant to your business. And when you’re using Twitter don’t just tell people about your business, interact with your followers and the people you follow, take an interest in what they’re doing.

Business networking

Working from home can be a lonely experience, and social networking is great, but, for me, there’s nothing like a bit of personal interaction to get your creative juices flowing and your motivation sky high.

Join groups of other like minded people to ease you in. As your confidence grows, you’ll soon be able to broaden you networking circles.

So, if you’re a mum in business, find your local group of networking mums, and if there isn’t one then why not post on your local Netmums notice board, asking if any business mums want to meet up? Then meet somewhere safe and busy, like a play centre.

This is how Laura (www.rentabuggy.co.uk) and I started Networking Mummies (Dorset). We put a notice out on Facebook and on Netmums and we had 8 women attend, 6 of whom are still heavily involved in Networking Mummies.

Being part of Networking Mummies has given me the confidence to talk about my business in front of other professionals. This time last year, I was still very much of the opinion that I was a full time mum, end of. Now I know that’s simply not true – that I’m an entrepreneur no different to Duncan Bannatyne. I just work around my children.

Do something different!

If you find conventional networking opportunities don’t really work for you then try something different. With Networking Mummies Dorset we run Speed Networking Events which are a great way for you to meet new businesses that you wouldn’t normally work with or probably even speak to. And sometimes the most unusual alliances work the best!

Joanne Dewberry runs Charlie Moo (party bags, gifts and toys) from her home in rural Dorset. She also started Networking Mummies (Dorset) with Laura Morris of Rentabuggy.co.uk.

Photo credit: McClure Photography

First published on Enterprise Nation on 28th  April 2010

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