As an entrepreneur, it’s easy to get wrapped up in your business. Yet, whether you’re starting a business or trying to take your current business to the next level, it’s important to build a strong network and take advantage of all available resources. A great way to do that is to tap into organizations for business owners.
Joining an organization can help you grow your network, connect you with a mentor, give you access to helpful tools to support your business, and can even connect you with funding sources—and help you make a greater impact on your community and beyond. Which can be so much better than going it alone.
There’s a vast number of great organizations for women business owners—and it’s likely there are many groups that cater specifically to your industry. But here are a few to consider to get you started.
1. National Association of Women Business Owners
Joining the National Association of Women Business Owners connects you with an established community of women entrepreneurs. It has 5,000 members nationally, with 60 chapters across the country. It provides resources to help you run your business day to day, and gives you tools to help grow your business.
There’s a $100 initiation fee to join, plus a tiered monthly fee.
NAWBO says 35% of its members are in the professional, scientific, and technical services sectors.
2. Center for Women and Enterprise
The Center for Women and Enterprise is a nonprofit organization that helps women start and grow their businesses. It offers education, training, technical assistance, and women’s business enterprise certification. The CWE has locations in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont, but its website also offers online courses on how to start your own business, how to get angel funding, and more.
CWE says 52% of its participants go on to start a business, 35% improve their financial situation, and 85% come away with a better understanding of business and entrepreneurship. That’s something you’ll want to get in on.
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3. Women’s Venture Fund
Since 1994, the Women’s Venture Fund—which is a Certified Community Development Financial Institution—has helped women launch more than 3,200 small businesses in urban communities by offering entrepreneurial training, technical assistance, advisory services, and small loans.
The WVF notes that one challenge women entrepreneurs face is that traditional lenders, such as banks, “undervalue women’s work experience and often cite lack of adequate credit history as the basis for rejecting women for credit, especially since most women seek loans that are less than $100,000.” There are often business loans for women if the entrepreneur knows where to look.
Currently, the WVF works with women in the New York City metropolitan area to help them map out a plan to build and grow their businesses.
4. The SBA’s Office of Women’s Business Ownership
The U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Women’s Business Ownership offers women entrepreneurs business training and counseling, as well as access to credit and capital, marketing opportunities, and federal contracts. There are thousands of locations in the U.S. where women business owners can tap into these resources.
Each center tailors its offerings to the needs of the community, but they all provide training in finance, management, and marketing, too.
5. International Women’s Forum
The International Women’s Forum is an organization of established women leaders in business, government, arts organizations, philanthropy, research, and many other sectors—on a global scale. It’s composed of more than 6,400 members from 35 countries. In addition to its annual meetings, which serve to grow leadership opportunities for women, it also offers an executive development roundtable, as well as mentoring and fellows programs.
If you want to participate in furthering women’s leadership on a global level, this is a powerful group to be involved with. Membership with IWF is by invitation only, but you can inquire about becoming a candidate.