But meeting other entrepreneurs isn’t as easy as it sounds… at least not the kind that are really worth knowing. Sure, you can go to a local entrepreneur meetup or networking event, but I’ve found that those tend to attract mostly serial entrepreneurs looking for investors. So where can you go to find the kind of grounded entrepreneurs that are interested in genuine friendships and meaningful business support? In my experience, these are the best places to meet other entrepreneurs:
1. Waiting in Line… for Anything
Just like you, other entrepreneurs must run regular errands, so you never know who you might bump into. I have a kiddo, which means that we basically end up talking to people everywhere we go anytime we have to wait for anything. The grocery store, the bank, the doctor’s office – anywhere! These short interactions provide just enough time to ask people how their day is going and find out a little bit about them. And conversely, they provide an opportunity for you to tell other people about what you do.
Now, I’m not saying that you should memorize an elevator pitch and just deliver it to anyone who will listen like a weirdo, but being able to mention what you’re working on casually is a great way to start a conversation. You may find that the stranger you just met is actually interested in hearing more and continuing the conversation later. This is where always having a business card on you comes in handy so that you can re-connect via email or call to set up a meeting over coffee.
2. Local Businesses
I know what you’re thinking – obviously local businesses have entrepreneurs because they’re owned by someone. And while it’s certainly a great idea to get to know those entrepreneurs, there’s more potential hidden in these local gems than you might realize. Sometimes the employees of local retail shops, restaurants, and service providers are aspiring entrepreneurs who are working there temporarily while they try to achieve their dreams of starting their own businesses. So, don’t be afraid to talk to the receptionist, sales clerk, server, or manager and share what you do. It might surprise you what kind of opportunities that small talk can reveal! (Even if nothing else comes of it, they’ll appreciate the fact that you took the time to treat them like real people.)
3. Your Significant Other’s Work Functions
When you go to your significant other’s work happy hours or holiday parties, you shouldn’t go with the expectation that you’ll be talking shop the whole time, but you should be open to discussing what you do. His/her coworkers will probably ask you what you do and having an articulate answer ready is a good way to encourage further discussion if someone else is thinking of starting their own business as well. For instance, the wife of one of my husband’s coworkers was very interested in talking to me after meeting at an event last year because she needed some advice on how to market her burgeoning business. These connections are great because they’ve basically already been vetted by your significant other!
4. Kids’ Activities
You likely already spend a lot of time with the parents of your kids’ friends, which means that you know them well enough to decide if connecting with them on a business level also makes sense. Be open to hearing about the business ideas and aspirations of other parents because they may be great colleagues to have since they’re in the same stage of life as you. These people provide the best chance to find connections that really understand your perspective when it comes to running your own business and they can be incredibly valuable when it comes to achieving your own business goals!
Kate Pierce is the owner of LionShark Digital Marketing LLC, a West Michigan internet marketing company. Her areas of expertise include Paid Search, Search Engine Optimization, Business Blogging and Web Copywriting. She lives in the Grand Rapids area with her husband and son and enjoys cooking, watching sports, and spending time together as a family. Like a true digital marketing expert (i.e. geek), she loves talking about current marketing trends… so don’t say you weren’t warned!