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A need leads to SCV networking

Entrepreneurs: Local woman gives others place to go when starting a new business

Posted: November 4, 2010 9:27 p.m.
Updated: November 5, 2010 4:55 a.m.

Women Entrepreneurs of Santa Clarita Valley’s monthly Business Success Seminar Event in September. Featured speaker, author Daryl Wizelman, addressed time- and property-management issues.

 

Working-life as a solo entrepreneur can be an isolating experience. Lacking co-workers to bounce ideas off, ask questions of or brainstorm with — to whom does one turn?

Tera McHugh has an online coaching and consulting business with clients spread across the country. She moved from Chicago to the Los Angeles market in 2003, but with clients across the country, and not knowing anyone locally, she found the transition difficult.

McHugh felt the need to connect with business people in her new community and to develop meaningful business relationships.

In 2006, she founded the Association of Women Entrepreneurs of Santa Clarita Valley — also known as WE of SCV — to fill the void.

Bridge-building
McHugh, 37, the association’s founder, said being an entrepreneur can be lonely.

“I couldn’t find a group where I could connect and learn from other successful women,” said McHugh. “I only found traditional networking associations, but I was looking for a coaching group.”

What began as McHugh’s need to connect with other women entrepreneurs in the SCV led to her developing a successful business association for local entrepreneurs.

McHugh first created the organization when she met with five other women in a local coffee shop. The association launched in February 2006 with 12 women.

The association’s mission was to connect with other women in business who were dedicated to business growth and development.

By the end of the first year, the association grew to 130 members. It has since seeded the formation of other groups as women from outside the SCV became interested.

The organization has since launched seven other associations in California, Georgia and Alaska.

WE of SCV offers a bridge to relationship-building so that businesswomen can share experiences, ideas and resources.

 “What began as an effort to meet my need led to meeting the needs of many other business owners in Santa Clarita,” McHugh said.

Beyond networking
“I was looking for more than networking opportunities,” McHugh said. “I was looking for education. I wanted to learn how to network effectively and how to build my business.”

McHugh said many established organizations operate on the premise that these skills are already in place when members attend meetings.

McHugh said that WE of SCV is a great complement to the traditional networking organizations by educating and developing business skills, and offering mutual support for members.

Some people feel they need to have their businesses fully set up before they join, McHugh said. But a great time to join WE of SCV is when a business owner is first setting up.

“When you’re working alone, there is no one to share struggles and challenges, or to brainstorm with,” McHugh said.

McHugh said she doesn’t believe in competing against each other, but in helping others in like businesses or industries to promote and benefit all parties.

The association focuses on building strategic partnerships that serve and support each of the members in the association.

Initially, members complained that they did not feel they were getting business from the association. McHugh, who describes herself as a natural “connector,” said she found the businesswomen weren’t reaching out to each other for support except during the meetings.

After brainstorming, McHugh decided to randomly organize people into groups of three for more intimate business discussions, believing people needed time to connect in a meaningful way outside of an event.

In some cases she coordinated members in each group based on the benefit she felt people in like industries would receive.
“The smaller teams transformed our group,” McHugh said.

As a result of the small teams, a Harmonious Home Team formed. Four women with businesses linked to home — an interior designer, landscape designer, feng shui consultant and professional organizer — developed an ongoing strategic partnership to help promote each other’s businesses.

Linda Fleischmann, owner of Loan Connectors, a mortgage company, said she has been involved with WE of SCV since day one. And it has helped her greatly, she said.

“It’s a different atmosphere, different energy,” Fleischmann said. “The members connect on a deeper level and the relationships lead to business referrals.”

Women-owned businesses
Privately owned businesses led by women grew by 44 percent from 1997 to 2007, compared with a 22 percent growth in firms owned by men.

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, these businesses have hired more workers than male-owned businesses
.
“I have been a member of WE for three years,” said Erin Dixon, owner of Law Offices of Erin E. Dixon. “WE provides the tools I need to manage my law practice. As an added benefit, I have formed friendships with other women like myself who are running their own businesses.”

WE of SCV hosts monthly guest speakers to educate members. The monthly events average 30 to 70 attendees. WE of SCV’s website carries audio recordings of each meeting for members who can’t attend one of the events.

“Many people find it difficult to get out working ‘in’ their business,” McHugh said. “We provide them with a venue to work ‘on’ their business.”

The association also holds a monthly MasterMind group. MasterMind partnerships are two-way streets, as opposed to the traditional mentor relationships McHugh said.

They are people who are meeting and collaborating with each other, both giving and receiving advice.

Some members form their own smaller Mastermind groups because of the commonality their businesses share.

McHugh said the greatest joy in her journey of building the association was that at the end of the first year, members gave her a trophy engraved with: “With vision and dedication, all things are possible.”

“I’ve gained so much,” she said.

WE of SCV can be reached at www.weofscv.com or (661) 775-0422.

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