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Social - Nov 9, 2017

Building a Community Around Your Business

Rick Finnie, serial entrepreneur and community builder, shares his advice whether you’re joining a startup community or starting your own

Entrepreneurship is intrinsically social. It involves networking, meetings and marketing to grow your startup.

But where do you go if you have a question, need a specific resource, or want to find a mentor? Look no further than your local small business community. These communities often host events with guest speakers, discuss industry news, share resources and offer emotional support.

A 2016 report by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) analyzed the entrepreneurial characteristics of Canada’s largest cities, identifying the best places to grow your startup. The cities with a high concentration of entrepreneurs also have high startup growth rates.

Here are some simple ways to take advantage of the perks of a connected entrepreneurial community.

Growing with your business

You can join a group whether you’re a “solopreneur” or a small business owner (SBO) growing your team. Many SBOs across Canada have already created their own formal networks and host regular events, such as the growing number of Startup Communities across Canada.

Do an online search for entrepreneur communities in your area. Think creatively. If you can’t find one, make your search more specific to your industry or marketable skill. You could find a niche community you never knew existed. You can even start your own community.

Many SBOs across Canada have already created formal networks and host regular events

It might be difficult to find a local community if you live in a remote area or an area lacking a strong startup presence. But don’t worry, you can join existing communities online by participating in events via Skype or discussions through Facebook and Twitter.

Seek out local entrepreneurs in your industry through LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. Connect with them and ask if they’d like to meet up or chat online. The structure can be as formal or informal as you’d like.

Sharing experiences and insight

When Rick Finnie, a serial entrepreneur and community builder from Regina, Saskatchewan realized local entrepreneurs needed a niche forum to support each other, he founded The Launch, a community of digital creators.

“It started as a community of like-minded entrepreneurs who wanted to share stories, feedback and words of wisdom,” he says.

The ultimate goal, is to build a movement of awareness so SBOs can band together to create a stronger and more vocal community.

“The Launch actually came from an idea of creating a local startup ecosystem here in Regina, obviously being a relatively small market,” he says. “We found that we didn’t necessarily have the resources and the community available to us as the larger markets have.”

So, he cast The Launch’s net wider than Regina, and built a unique online community that has spurred new project collaborations and awareness of resources available to their network, such as grants and loans, mentorship, and new connections.

So far, the result is more success for The Launch community and stronger business relationships.

A digital membership

If you can’t find a local startup community that caters to your niche or needs, why not go digital? Participating in online meetups, Facebook groups or Twitter chats can introduce you to colleagues, connections and new resources.

Many online communities are low maintenance (a bonus for the busy entrepreneur), allowing you to participate on the go, or from home, on your own time. All you need to connect is a computer or mobile device and a stable internet connection.

Finnie found that his niche and region weren’t necessarily the right conditions to expect large turnouts at the events he hosted every few months. But while the physical turnout may be small, Finnie says The Launch’s Facebook group is very active.

“In our digital community, we see a lot more interaction, we see a lot more questions being asked on topics from tax advice to feedback on projects. I definitely see more engagement in the digital community than the in-person community.”

While building a community takes time and effort, you’ll eventually see the positive results in how you grow your business and in the value of the relationships you develop. Over time, you may even see your hometown make the latest CFIB list.