#Girlbosses can't do it alone. We need support, encouragement and all the right connections to last - that's where networking groups come in to play! You may be wondering how to create a girlboss support group. Today, I'm sharing the secrets that took my networking group from a few girlbosses to 70+ in a few weeks.
Let's get real. The odds aren't in our favor as minority business owners in a competitive world. Not only do first-time entrepreneurs only have a 18% chance of succeeding in the first place, women are historically taken less seriously in the world of entrepreneurship and business, therefore we fight even harder.
However, we have recently started a revolution! Women now make up 40% of new entrepreneurs in the United States — the highest percentage since 1996, according to the 2016 Kauffman Index of Startup Activity (CNBC). We know it's a smart move that allows us to be with our families more frequently, allows us to organize our schedule the way we'd like and gives us creative freedom to be ourselves and express our passions.
In April of this year, I started the ultimate girlboss support group! In my smaller city of Olympia, Washington, there aren't the fabulous girlboss networking groups like the bigger cities such as Seattle, Washington or Portland, Oregon, so I had to do something to change this. I grabbed my trusty new-found friend Olivia and got to work. The outpouring of need was in-sa-ne!
We had no idea so many women needed this. Craved this. Appreciated this. And they were slowly igniting our hearts with love and all the internal smiles.
FIND SOMEONE TO TEAM UP WITH.
I highly suggest grabbing another girlboss to lead the group with you. This allows you to share equal distribution of workload (you are both busy business owners the rest of the time!), in addition to seek two different opinions on a variety of ideas. Olivia is the other half of my girlboss group, the Oly Girlboss Collective. Olivia owns a local lip butter business and had originated the idea of the group with her close friend, a fellow #girlboss that creates her own apothecary line.
Olivia and I had been following each other on Instagram for the longest time, but finally met in person when we signed up for the same one-night business accounting course through a local college/business resource organization. We spent the rest of the night post-class chatting on Facebook Messenger about how wonderful it would be to meet more motivated Olympia girlbosses and create some sort of a group we could seek support and education from.
Olivia allows me to have my own creative freedom and give input as to how the group runs, while also helping me tackle the crazy amount of work it takes.
As a few basic first steps, you'll want to define:
- The mission of your group. Is the mission merely support, or promotional networking, too?
- The agenda of your group. What all will the meetings include? Will you start with introductions and move into mingling?
- The brand of your group. What is your overall tone of voice, color scheme for marketing, etc.?
- The demographic of your group. Are you shooting just for younger millennials or older ladies? A mix? Is diversity a priority of yours?
- The frequency of your group. Will you meet weekly, monthly, quarterly?
- The timing of your group. Are you going to gather on weekends, weekdays, weeknights?
- The limit of group members. Do you want your group to be open to as many are interested or have a firm cut-off for a more intimate gathering?
DEFINE THE RULES.
Don't learn the hard way. It's necessary to develop your group "rules" before you start adding a bunch of people. We had a pretty simple list of requirements:
What to expect:
- Networking! It is definitely a good thing to come and talk about your business and what you do. We want to know! This is also a place to share ideas, challenges and resources in our respective businesses. Everyone is a source of wisdom and we can all learn from each other.
- Bottom line: this group is all about positivity, support and celebrating how awesome we are as female entrepreneurs! We are going to be each others' cheerleaders!
- New members should be legit (as in licensed) business owners in Olympia or closely surrounding areas.
What not to expect:
Direct sales pitches, competition or being added to spam lists. As we learn about each other, we will want to support each others' businesses and become customers. That will happen naturally... without the sales pitches.
SHOUT IT OUT ON SOCIAL MEDIA.
The second step of creating a girlboss support group is to shout it from the rooftops on social media! Olivia and I each took to Instagram, sharing a pretty graphic image that we created and encouraging girls to sign up for our very first meeting in a couple weeks. As we collected their names and businesses, direct messaged them and got to know them, we created a private Facebook group exclusive to these girlbosses only and added them as they came.
Don't forget to optimize your initial shout-outs to include relevant hashtags on Instagram with relevant location tags (and a geotag) and use enticing language.
ENCOURAGE "THE MORE THE MERRIER".
If you're going to grow the girlboss group and get as many initial sign-ups as you possibly can, it's probably a good idea to encourage your new girlboss members to invite their girlboss friends! Once the girls are added to your private Facebook group, let them know that they can add their friends who are fellow biz owners. Olivia and I keep the settings to "group members may add members, but new members must be approved by admins". We like to message and "vet" the new gals, so-to-speak, to ensure that they are the right fit for our group and are in fact licensed business owners.
FIND A VENUE (OR A FEW).
The next step in your process is to find a venue that can hold all of you lovely ladies! This has proven difficult for our group of now 70+, and it was difficult as soon as we reached 30. Not many restaurants offer free rooms for groups. We ran into the issue of restaurants asking us to pay a deposit for the room and food at a minimum amount, instead of going off of the number of mouths they'd be feeding. Also, a lot of restaurants just plain don't offer free rooms - there is a room cost on its own, in addition to any food purchased! #notaboutthatlife
We decided to go for restaurants that allowed us free access to a room and that would only charge us ahead of time for the amount of girls who confirmed (because for 30+ people, you really need a private cook!). In order to ensure that these girls wouldn't flake and leave us with the bill (we sure like to think more highly of our wonderful gals), we required them to pay their portion of the bill as their RSVP using a PayPal link. This is a great option for payment.
Another option for venues is to get some of your business owners to donate space of their own! We've been fortunate to have this happen on multiple occasions.
THINK ABOUT THE REFRESHMENTS.
It's difficult when your group is not a registered nonprofit or business with a company credit card that you can charge everything to. When it's two tight-budget entrepreneur ladies running the group, you really need to verify that all members are picking up the food tab equally. We got lucky with our group of ladies and they have been more than willing to chip in. Make sure you set your boundaries and don't be afraid to ask for the money you need to provide nice experiences.
Similar to the split restaurant bill via PayPal, we've also hired catering and split that tab, too! We had two generous women offer up the space at their day spa, offering free mini massages and making cute goodie bags for all the girls, in addition to some darn fancy spa water cocktails. With them hosting the space, we were able to hire a delicious gluten-free, vegan caterer who could provide dietary restriction-friendly food for the allergy-prone ladies in our group.
Other ideas for meetings: potluck picnics or bring-your-own-food public park meetups. This month, we are hosting a summer picnic in a beautiful local community garden thanks to one of our ladies who operates the garden. Her team is providing make-your-own pizzas (both gluten and gluten-free dough) and all the gals are bringing side dishes/desserts to share... Olivia is even crafting group-inspired cocktails with help from a local kombucha/kefir business that donated their yummy creations to the event. We are looking forward to adding these cocktail recipes to a permanent Oly Girlboss Collective menu!
Next month, we will be hosting our gals at a local wine bar and ask that all the attendees chip in for three platters of hors d'oeuvres. The wine bar was extremely accommodating in offering a gluten-free platter and is also shutting the place down just for us. Rest assured: once you make connections in the city, it gets easier. All you need is a garden or four walls. Here's to winging it!
OFFER SOME EDUCATION.
Consult with your gals about their areas of expertise that they are most passionate about and offer mini educational "talks" as part of your programs. Everyone takes their turn and is able to share something of value with the group on a rotating schedule. We had many of our gals mention this as something they'd like to have in the group, so we are "launching it" as of this month with a mini marketing lesson on driving traffic to your website.
CREATE A DIGITAL HOME.
In addition to your private Facebook group, you may elect to create a website as the digital home for your group and inquiring new members - a place you can send people via social media to submit their join request and access information about the group before deciding whether or not to join. You can also invest in business cards to hand out to the girlbosses you meet while you're out and about, directing them to this website for more information.
This makes you look 100x more legit and offers a nice place for you to showcase your members and their super rad businesses!
Oly Girlboss Collective website coming soon...
All in all: we're all so unique and we need our fellow ladies to build us up along this journey. Starting a girlboss support group was the best thing to ever happen to Olivia and I. I've easily picked up 5 new clients (two of which are middle-tier paying clients) so far by natural connections, without the annoying elevator pitch.
The gallery below shows some of the Oly Girlboss Collective's greatest moments so far with so many more to come! We can't wait to see where this will go.
Are you thinking about starting your own girlboss support group? What questions/concerns could I help you with? Leave it in the comments below!
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THE BLOGGER: KATHRYN COFFMAN
Kathryn is the lead contributor + founder at FashionablyFrank.com. Obsessed with leading a life of balance, she started the blog in 2013. Since graduating college in 2016, she is now a digital marketing specialist through her business, Fashionably Frank Marketing. She believes a cup of coffee is the answer to life's problems + that all women should embrace a #girlboss mantra.