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Sunday, August 03, 2008

The Many Layers of Networking

By Noelle Southwick

New England Bureau Chief
(Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut)

Center for Women & Enterprise (CWE)

CWE is a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering women through entrepreneurship.

In speaking with the directors for each of the three CWE offices I began to get a sense for how vast the CWE network is. CWE is an excellent example of the many aspects of networking. Each woman had a definite understanding of the importance of building relationships and a community of support. With a solid understanding of the importance of networking it is not a surprise that both the Center for Women and Enterprise and the businesses they support are successful.

CWE has grown to be the largest regional women’s business center in the country with locations in Boston, Worcester, MA & Providence, RI. CWE offers support through the many stages of business building from thinking about starting a business to getting venture capital funding to expand growth. This year the three offices will support over 2,500 businesses with a total of 15,000 clients since the company began in 1995. Although their primary focus is on women they do not discriminate, 10% of their clients are men.

Over $537 million in wages have been contributed to the economy by the businesses started with CWE support.

Networking Events:

CWE holds monthly networking events at local businesses. The host businesses are often clients of CME but may include other supporters. The events are a place for business owners to share their stories, to get support for issues they are facing and to grow their business to the next level.

The events are facilitated by the CWE so that it is an education on networking through practice. Speed networking is an important part of the monthly events. Time is managed to assure the participants get to meet a variety of people & have a chance to practice networking skills in order to make the events as useful as possible to business growth.

Additionally, the CWE holds an annual event called the Emerging Women in Business Conference.

Networking Education:

Networking is one of the courses in its schedule of business building courses. However, the importance of networking and building relationships is integrated into many of the classes at CWE.

In the spring CWE hosted a master of networking event. The workshop invited networking experts to share tips on introductions, starting conversations and making contacts, connecting people to others, connecting people to needed resources, and continuing to add value to build long-term relationships. The event was so successful they are working on creating a new series of networking classes. Check the course schedule on their website.

Additionally they have a mentoring program which pairs experienced business owners with those working on building a business. Finding and building relationships with mentors is a very important aspect of business networking.

CWE Business Networking:

The Center for Women & Enterprise has developed many partners to support its own growth & the growth of their clients’ businesses. This is an organization that is excellent at building relationships.

The CWE is partnered with Federal, and State governmental organizations, the Small Business Administration and with Chambers of Commerce. In addition, they work with lawyers, bankers, accountants, local business owners, neighborhood organizations and a variety of corporations local to each office. Additional support comes from partnerships with venture capitalists and individual investors. Individuals to government organizations each plays a role in the mission of the CWE and they are all part of the rich community created to support that mission.

Boston, MA 617-536-0700: Susan Perry, Chief of Marketing at Boston Office

Central office. Location of Venture Center where clients learn how to attract funding from venture capitalists and angel investors. Development & Fundraising operations. Women’s Business Enterprise National Council Certification, a stringent process leading to opportunities to access a world of corporate contracts, is also handled at this office.

Worcester, MA 508-363-2300: Carrie Johnson, Director of the Worcester Office

Serves the central Massachusetts area. Developing Spanish-speaking aspect to business education.

Providence, RI 401-277-0800: Carol Malysz, Director of the Providence Office

Founded 9 years ago as a Center of Excellence for Finance because access to capital is the number one challenge for women business owners. Development of the financial aspects to the business training for all three locations takes place at this location. Business Development & Finance Specialist based out of this office. Since opening over $17 million in loans has gone to 147 business owners through the support of the RI office.

“…that’s really what networking is about, it’s about relationship building, it’s about referrals, it’s about personal contact to know you’re not out there by yourself…”

- Carrie Johnson, Director of the Worcester Office of the Center for Women and Enterprise

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1 comment:

diane said...

I am a women who run a magazine website and in my role I have to do a lot of networking. What I find is, a lot of men struggle to network, you see them in a corner not knowing what to say and the ones that do know what to say already have a pitch put together to give you and everyone else who will listen or has to listen before they get away.

Where as us women have a more better approach, it is about getting to know someone and being confident and not standing alone wondering what to say or having a script ready to try and sell you something in the first couple of minutes. It is about getting to know the person, networking is about bonding, people buy off people and that is the correct way of doing business.

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