I'm not a shy person by nature, but my aversion to traditional 'networking' has grown steadily as I've spent more time in the business world.
While it's wonderful that there are now so many options for women business owners to get together apart from very male-dominated events, I find myself feeling quite alienated by the way so many of these groups over-emphasise a stereotyped brand of femininity in their style and substance. I've received invitations with sparkly pink handbags on the cover and slogans advertising a night of "likeminded bitches drinking wine". No joke.
The longer I've been in business, the more I've realised that it isn't just the pinkwashing of #girlboss events that I object to - it's the nature of 'networking events' that seems so incongruous with the way those of us building businesses through meaningful collaboration actually operate. The goal of your average networking event seems to be distributing as many business cards as possible over lukewarm hotel quiches, while people in suits babble about their rise to the top. To me there's a lack of connection, the deep conversation, honesty and true camaraderie in that - which makes networking seem like a total waste of time.
But we know that it isn't. Connections are vital. Meeting other people - other women - in industries connected to our own are important. Having contacts who can help get you through rough patches in your business and offer guidance so you're not constantly wasting time trying to reinvent the wheel are really, really important.
So through Homeroom, the educational business I developed with my good friend Claire (@clairedeanemarketing) for creative entrepreneurs taking their first shaky steps towards world domination, we wanted to build the very community of support and wisdom that didn’t exist when we were launching our businesses.
Homeroom started as a series of intimate workshops at Showroom in Brisbane, and we now want to extend these conversations and bring people together, both physically and online. Last weekend we hosted our first Creative Cookie non-networking event. Twelve of our very favourite creative biz ladies sat down for an old fashioned cookie swap to talk opening about their very personal challenges, failures, wins, top tips, and aspirations. It was the first time I've ever heard business owners ask and answer such tough questions, especially about money, and it was hugely revelatory for all of us to hear about the intricate ups and downs of trying to build a company from the ground up.
While it was important to us to keep this non-networking event small and intimate so that real conversations and connections could take place, we want to use the power of social media to make connections beyond the physical room we'll meet in.
We're doing this with a series of videos on our new Youtube channel, as well as inviting our online community of creative cookies to connect with and support each other via Instagram.
How can you do that? Well, here's what we've been thinking:
- Bake a batch of your favourite cookies! This is the recipe we'll be using.
- Sit down with a cup of your favourite brew, and share a snap on Instagram with #cookiebiz.
- In the caption, share the topic or question you most wish was being discussed about running your own business.
- Explore the hashtag, answer a fellow biz lady’s questions, make some new friends, or just spend some time exploring the Brisbane business community.
- Who else should bake a batch of cookies and reflect on their business goals for the new year? Tag them!
- Follow @ask_homeroom for more business inspiration (and @thesugarhit for all your sweet tooth satisfaction!).