Starting a business from scratch is like putting together a million-piece jigsaw puzzle with, at best, a handful of helpers — and then, as you fit the last glorious piece into place, discovering another, equally complex puzzle waiting for you.
In business, as in puzzles, more hands make lighter work. Why try to figure everything out on your own, possibly to the detriment of your original goals, when you can lean on the accumulated knowledge of an entrepreneurial community that’s been there, done that, and seen it all?
Finding that community is easier than you might think. Whether you’re still in the process of hashing out your idea or your green-around-the-ears business is stuck on a vexing issue that’s costing you time, money, and/or sanity, these groups for early stage business owners will have answers. Even if they don’t right now, they will down the line.
- The Alternative Board (TAB)
The Alternative Board (TAB) is all about “local availability of business resources keyed to your success.” Translation: it’s a powerful support system that directs exactly what you need, when you need it, right at the problems you’re facing. TAB hosts networking events and mixers throughout the year, and it’s renowned for getting novice business owners in touch with more senior leaders who’ve already been through the ringer. If you’re trying to do it all on your own, stop — and join TAB.
- The Entrepreneurs’ Club
The Entrepreneurs’ Club is a classic networking group that sponsors 10 to 12 big-ticket, celebrity-headlined events each year. The main attractions are high-flying speakers who are wildly successful business owners (think Guy Kawasaki) with scrappy, up-from-nothing stories. But the company — as in, the other members — is pretty good, too. If you’re up for rubbing shoulders with some people who’ve seen it all and know how to do some really cool stuff, this is your jam.
- Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO)
They say age is just a number, but it’s actually (unfortunately for young-at-heart entrepreneurs) an important number for the Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO). If you’re under 45, join YPO and get ready to pick some 22,000 other young business leaders’ brains. This is a family-friendly organization — the couple’s retreats are legendary.
- Association of Private Enterprise Education
Founded at Georgia State University in the 1960s, this organization has long since outgrown its down-home roots. APEE hosts regular conferences, seminars, and networking events for small and midsize business owners. Its entrepreneurial resources are second to none. Membership automatically earns you a subscription to the Journal of Private Enterprise and entry into a number of key business directories.
- Startup Grind
Startup Grind is sort of like TED talks for entrepreneurs, except way more involved. Since its 2010 founding, Startup Grind has put on dozens of immersive events and welcomed more than 100,000 attendees. If you want to learn how to solve problems now and meet some cool, driven people in the process, look for an event near you.
- Social Enterprise Alliance
Got an eco-friendly, socially conscious business idea? Hook up with the Social Enterprise Alliance in your city or state — there are chapters spread throughout the country, each with a rich network of super-smart do-gooders on call.
- Young Entrepreneur Council
The Young Entrepreneur Council is another entrepreneurs’ group for which age is, well, pretty darn important. If you’re under 40 and own your own business (or are thinking about starting one soon), you could do much worse than join the YEC. YEC is more startup-focused than YPO, which has a more conservative, established member roster, but that’s not to say one is better than the other.
Just the Tip of the Iceberg
You’ll be shocked — shocked! — to learn that these seven organizations for budding entrepreneurs represent a vanishingly small slice of the total volume of small business-friendly groups out there. If you don’t see an outfit that aligns with your priorities on the list above, a few quick Google searches and a call to your local Small Business Administration, Chamber of Commerce, or university business adjunct office should set you right. Keep in mind that many entrepreneurs’ groups serve limited geographies, so there’s likely to be a handful of unique options in your neck of the woods. If you’re getting started in a specific industry with a robust startup culture — think robotics or some other tech niche — you’ll probably find a ready-made support network close at hand.
Which entrepreneurial groups are you most excited to join?