This month, I have had the opportunity to contribute a feature article to the Women’s Business Network of Peterborough’s monthly newsletter and blog about my experiences as a new member over the past year.
I joined the Women’s Business Network of Peterborough in April 2015, several months after beginning to freelance as a communications consultant and writer-for-hire. At that point, I was new to self-employment and wasn’t yet thinking of myself as an entrepreneur, much less a business-owner. I had been hearing and reading about the WBN since before I moved to Peterborough (shout out to our amazing local Twitter community!) but I had never felt like I “qualified” to become a full member.
I’m just someone who can provide services to lots of different organizations, businesses, individuals or groups – I don’t “own” anything beyond my own experience, I thought. And I know I’m not alone in feeling some of that imposter syndrome at the beginning of a new venture.
But then I asked myself: What makes my situation different from any other entrepreneur?
I realized that if I was going to succeed as a freelancer and consultant, I would have to do what every successful entrepreneur does: position myself as a member of the business community, and truly become part of that community by joining a professional association.
And that’s exactly what I did, by becoming a member of the WBN.
I attended my first meeting last April as a guest, and had the opportunity to connect with a “buddy” for the evening. This was a fantastic way to be introduced to many long-time members, and to get a feel for how the events usually go, from the social and networking segments through dinner and on to the professional development and learning sessions.
Though I had attended many business-oriented events already, joining the WBN has given me plenty of new resources. In addition to having access to guest speakers and panel discussions, I received great advice on developing my leadership skills, had opportunities to showcase my consulting and freelancing services as an event sponsor and exhibitor, and connected with dozens of corporate contacts and fellow solo entrepreneurs.
Beyond these valuable opportunities, I found that being part of the WBN – attending monthly meetings, joining the Communications Committee, receiving the e-newsletters and updates in my inbox, and engaging on social media – helped me to stay focused on business even when life became busy and distracting, as it does for all of us. The last year has been an incredibly exciting and fulfilling time for me personally: my husband and I welcomed our first child, and moved into our first home. But despite embracing motherhood with an open heart, I knew that I still wanted to maintain my business connections and continue to seek out new opportunities. My involvement with the WBN was a perfect way to keep me coming back to fundamentals on a regular basis.
When I speak with former non-profit colleagues and friends in Toronto, they always ask me how business is going and how I like it in Peterborough. Most of them assume it would be more difficult to find clients here than in Toronto or another bigger city. In truth, I tell them, living and working in Peterborough has been a life-changing experience for me in the most positive ways. This community has brought together so many people who want each other to succeed. Of course competition exists here as it does everywhere, but there is much more focus on other business-owners as peers.
As a newcomer to the WBN, I felt like I was being welcomed into the heart of Peterborough’s business community. As a woman, and now as a mother, I find it additionally meaningful to learn from those who have gone before me down the path of working moms – whether as a full-time employee, a part-time worker, or self-employed / work-at-home parents.
Those who have been working for many years have been so willing to provide mentorship especially to those of us who are at earlier points in our careers. But we all have much to gain when our members share the wealth of collective experience with each other.