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This post is the final in a four-part series about creating a new entrepreneurship program, the Missouri Women’s Business Center, while simultaneously helping entrepreneurs start and grow their own businesses. Read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.
I think the best words of wisdom I received in launching the Missouri Women’s Business Center were “entrepreneurship is a team sport.” (Thank you to Greg Bier of the MU Entrepreneurial Alliance for sharing those words with me!) I’ve tried to keep those words in the front of my mind with each client we work with and each decision we make at the MoWBC as we continue to grow. If you want your startup to mature into an established business, building a strong team — and building it sustainably — is pivotal.
As soon as I took this job, I set about connecting and aligning with every person I could think of in the local world of entrepreneurship and business. Luckily, one of my best friends, Sara Cochran, had plenty of local connections to share — at the time, she was writing her dissertation on women in entrepreneurship education while working for the UM System on entrepreneurship programs. Those connections led to other connections and, as I mentioned in Parts 1 and 2, many of the people I met ended up welcoming the MoWBC as a partner.
But I also knew that a network wouldn’t be enough — I needed help actually doing the work! At that stage, it’s helpful for a new business owner to take stock of what her strengths are, what she wants to spend her time doing, and what she can hire or delegate out.
I started by recruiting volunteers to help. Jamie Crockett was the first person to respond to an announcement sent through MU, and she agreed to help manage public relations and social media for the MoWBC as a virtual volunteer. We also had three undergraduate students work with us through the summer, and the amazing Monica Pitts, of MayeCreate Design, helped us with a website, which we still get compliments about. And we were able to recruit an amazing group of volunteer workshop presenters who are experts on their topics and so generous in sharing their time and knowledge.
I also, of course, had my team at CMCA. As I said in Part 1 of this series, Teri Roberts was a CMCA employee already doing some coaching and teaching. She was so valuable from the startup phase of the MoWBC up until her retirement. The CMCA Board of Directors was also committed to seeing our new center succeed, and several CMCA staff members have become important partners.
Our team also now includes the MoWBC advisory board. Recruiting a great advisory board of truly amazing women who are passionate about empowering other women to succeed in business has been absolutely key to setting the MoWBC on a path toward success. Growing from a handful of women last summer to 15 members with strong representation across our eight-county service area, the advisory board has been instrumental in maintaining our focus, understanding the communities we serve, and raising the funds needed to operate the MoWBC.
Any business can adopt an advisory board to help it grow: you just need to be clear on how they’ll help you (I wanted advice, wisdom, and connections) and what you expect of them (mine meets monthly and also helps with fundraising). You may not want a group of 15, but four or five trusted individuals with more experience than you and a heart for developing others can be really helpful.
Of course, a pivotal stage of team building is bringing on new employees. After a couple months of her volunteering, I was able to hire Jamie part-time in the role of communications specialist as she works on two (yes, two!) master’s degrees. And this summer, we completed our dream team when Sherry Major came on board as our business coach and training coordinator. Jamie and Sherry are not only extremely skilled at their respective roles, but they’re also a joy to be around. Which is the perfect situation: you want your team to be competent but also have chemistry.
I can’t imagine trying to build a program like the MoWBC alone, and I’m so thankful I didn’t have to. Similarly, it’s nearly impossible to start a business alone, but I’m happy to say that you don’t have to either. Central Missouri is home to an amazing array of entrepreneurship resources. (I’ve listed many of them in past posts.) If you want to start a business or if you have a business you want help growing, the Missouri Women’s Business Center is certainly here for you.
Business is definitely a team sport. I’m grateful for the team that has helped create and grow the Missouri Women’s Business Center. We’d love to be on your team too.
Jaime Freidrichs is the director of the Missouri Women’s Business Center. She blogs about women in entrepreneurship for CBT.