As I mentioned in my last post, about a year and a half ago I moved to Pittsburgh from New York City and started a new design business. Since most of my work has come through word of mouth, I knew if Green Comma was to survive it would be important to make local connections.
Networking is not something that has ever come easily to me. I would characterize myself as a shy, reserved person. A year ago, when people would ask me what I did, I’d blush and go tongue tied trying to explain Green Comma Media. But I knew that in addition to focusing on the quality of my work, I’d need to work on my networking skills if I was going to get anywhere.
As with almost everything in life, practice makes perfect. Well actually not perfect, nowhere near perfect (!), but practice is pretty much the only thing that helps.
One day at Biddle’s Escape Cafe I saw a listing on the wall for bi-monthly Women’s Business Network meetings happening at the cafe. So on one of the mornings indicated, I put on something presentable, packed my business cards and showed up to meet the other women in business.
Joining WBN has been useful to me in countless ways, but one of the most useful is being forced to introduce myself and my business over and over and over again in various settings and situations. As I practiced introducing myself as the owner of Green Comma Media, the introduction got easier. At networking events, without having to over-think what I would say, I could focus on just having a normal conversation with someone, maybe sharing a sentence or two on a current project I’m working on, and exchanging contact information.
Now, with my elevator pitch smoothed out I can focus on next-step networking goals:
- Setting goals. Instead of trying to talk to everyone in the room, focusing on finding people with similar interests who I might have more engaging conversations with.
- Keeping organized. Keeping the business cards I collect in one place. Having a pen handy to jot a note on someone’s business card about how to follow up with them.
- Following up after the event. If there is someone interesting, sending them an email the next day to see if they might be interested in speaking further, maybe over coffee.
For anyone else who might be looking for resources here in Pittsburgh, I’ve compiled a list of places to meet like-minded people. Some are women or design-related, and others more generally for any small business. Some require membership and others are open to all. If there are other places you ‘d recommend, please share in the comments!
- Women’s Business Network (membership org.) is a networking organization for women business owners.
- The Center for Women provides career and financial services for “women in transition” as well as networking events.
- AIGA (the professional association for design) holds a crazy number of interesting events for designers, including happy hours and workshops.
- Pittsburgh Society of Illustrators (membership org.) holds monthly social gatherings at Church Brew Works as well as Business of Illustration meetings.
- Propelle is a supportive space for women entrepreneurs, which organizes networking happy hours as well as other offerings.
- Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh – Don’t forget about the library! There are always interesting/relevant workshops and services.
- The Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence at Pitt has all sorts of seminars and events (they have an event coming up December 2 called “Doing Business With Pitt which I plan to attend”)
- Diversity Business Resource Center is another amazingly free resource (There’s a Meet & Mingle and a Small Business Resource Fair this week that both look interesting)
- SCORE Pittsburgh offers free mentoring and workshops to Pittsburgh’s aspiring and existing small business entrepreneurs.
- Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship at Chatham offers tons of relevant events as well as networking opportunities.
Thank you for reading and come back soon!