In the first instalment of a series of blogs on support for small businesses and their owners, we talked about where people can find (particularly financial) assistance to grow their businesses. But what if you just need support? Someone to listen? At Tabono we believe that we need to look after ourselves as entrepreneurs, not just our businesses. So in today’s instalment, we’ll be moving on to the entrepreneurs themselves by asking this very question. What support networks are out there for small business owners?

Networking groups

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with others.

African Proverb

Love it or hate it, networking is a fundamental part of your arsenal as a small business owner. By connecting with others, you can raise both your own profile, and that of your business. And the people you meet? They may well become your champions, your supporters and your friends. And when it comes to looking after yourself and your business, all of these things are vital.

But which are the best support networks for small business owners from a networking perspective? Well, we’ve shared networking tips on our blog before, and there are many great groups out there. The key is finding the one that works for you. And for your business. Some, like BNI, are based on a referral and ‘lock out’ system. This means that only one member of a given profession is permitted in each group. Others like Athena, of which we are members ourselves, are gender-specific. There are those with formal, very structured meetings,. Others which are more relaxed, pay-as-you-go events. Many involve some sort of speech or presentation.

So if you’re looking for a networking-based support network for small business owners, why not dive in and try out some different groups?

Social media

Social media is also a very useful tool when it comes to support networks for small business owners. There are many, many such groups out there, and indeed a lot of the networking groups mentioned above have their own online forums. That said though, the same rule applies – do your research. Are the groups active? Are they sales-focussed? Or support-based? What kind of businesses do the members run? Are the responses to people’s questions actually helpful? And from a practical perspective, are there any structures or restrictions that you should be aware of? Again, it’s definitely a case of try before you buy.

In addition to social media groups, it’s also worth looking out for online events like tweet chats – #SMESupportHour which at the time of writing, is being held every Wednesday at 8pm, is a good example.

Professional organisations

Just as other professions, from teaching to health, have professional bodies and membership organisations, so does small business. Organisations like the British Chambers of Commerce and the Federation of Small Business are excellent sources of information, advice and support, offered both online and through a broad range of events. Definitely worth a look!

A support network for small business owners: The Tabono way

In creating Tabono, we wanted to bring together the best of all these groups and organisations, with our own, unique twist:

  • Our networking events are a great opportunity to meet like-minded small business owners, in a very friendly and relaxed environment. We don’t restrict attendance in any way (and you don’t even have to started your business yet), and we’re ready to support anyone who is feeling nervous. In addition to conversation, we also invite a speaker to join us for each event, sharing their knowledge on topics relating to either business or wellbeing
  • Where are our networking events are designed to enable people to make connections, our co-working events are there to allow you to work, but in the company of others. This alleviates the feelings of loneliness that are so common when you’re a small business owner, but at the same time, these events are incredibly productive for everyone!
  • The presence of our Experts team means that there’s always someone there who can help you if you’re feeling stuck – all you need to do is tell us what you need, and we can refer you on to the perfect person to help you to move forward
  • We check in with our mentees and mastermind participants regularly to support them in working towards their goals and creating accoountability, and community members also have the opportunity to commit to their goals in our Facebook group.
  • Finally, our Facebook group is designed to be a safe space for our community members where they can post questions, seek support and feedback, celebrate their wins, and commiserate when things go wrong. And they do so knowing that the community will be there to support them with whatever they need.

Over to you

So there we are. An introduction to the support networks that are available to small business owners. This list is by no means exhaustive, and there are many really helpful groups and organisations that exist out there. But entrepreneurs also need support for themselves. And that, as we’ve talked about before, is one of the reasons why we founded We Are Tabono.

Now it’s over to you. Whether you’re just starting out on your business journey or you’re more established, we all need support.

When we support each other, incredible things happen.