3 Tips To Help An Introvert Network On Their Own Terms

When it comes to offline networking let’s just say, I always hope the food is good so I can stuff my face and avoid the awkward introductions, and silent judgments. I personally enjoy online networking more mainly because it’s an introverts paradise. Long before I intentionally networked online for business purposes, I made all kinds of connects with people around the world on the basis of specific interests (mainly comics, and anime) and in specific niche groups (Does Black Planet ring a bell?) just for fun. When and if I did connect with those people offline, I was less awkward (and relieved they were real and looked like their profile picture), and able to build genuine friendships that lasted through the years. I said all that to say, eventually, an especially for career advancement, business development, and heck, even marriage, you have to take your online world offline.  After my most recent networking event which came in the form of an Equality Awards Fundraiser for a small New Jersey nonprofit that educates, develops, and encourages the leader in us all, I noticed a little pattern that seems to work for those of us who are slightly more reserved than our extroverted counterparts and broke them down into 3 easy to use networking tips.

Here are 3 Tips to Help you Network when you’re an Introvert

1. Find Comfort in a Wingman

Bring someone with you or find someone in the room who looks like they could use a pal, they’re often standing alone hoping their fellow introvert will come rescue them from the horrible flashbacks of being the new kid at school who squeamishly walked around hoping someone will let them sit at their lunch table. This person can be an empathetic extrovert or even another introvert; it doesn’t matter, as long as they allow you to feel safe because you know there is someone to return to when you have reached your limit of comfortable engagement in a networking environment. I.e. you have begun to wonder when you can leave so you can cuddle up with a good book and enjoy a quiet night alone or with a loved one.

2. Start Small

I know that before I leave I had better work up enough nerve to get a business card or two. I like to give out a business card or two while I’m at it. And quite frankly, I’d rather build a few genuine relationships then collect a whole bunch of contacts with people who more than likely will toss my card and think nothing of it. So, I look for other lone wolves and small groups of people engaged in a particular activity that invites an opening. For instance, I’ve made some truly lucky connections because I happened to arrive at the same time as someone else so we strike up small talk about parking or the weather and end up walking into a networking event together I then look for them again once inside because they are now a familiar face. Or, if someone is having a presentation, it’s easier to strike up a sidebar conversation with others who are interested in the same presentation after all you have somewhat of a similar interest being that you both wanted to see the same presentation. It also never fails to strike up a conversation with someone in line for the ladies room or food and cocktails.

3. Begin the Conversation Online

Earlier I gave a great example of what works extremely well for those us who prefer online conversations to in person. If you know ahead of time, who will be at the event start engaging with them online first, catch up on their blog post, see what they’re doing professionally on LinkedIn. They will likely be the first face you look for in a crowded space and if they won’t end up being your wingman, they may introduce you to a good friend who will be. Not to mention if they are are of an extrovert they will be willing to catch up with you and introduce you to their network of influence This method is one of my favorites and a proven method for generating “a chance” it is actually how I built most of my business alliances, original client base and landed employment opportunities.

When in doubt, do what introverts do best, listen, learn and then decide on a plan of action to carry out to reach your networking goals.

Would you like to add to this list?

I would love to hear from you! (No, seriously,  I could use some pointers.)

 

 

Photo Credit: PhotoCo

Black History Now: Meet Naimah Holmes

As I mentioned in my post Black History Now-2012, I would like to introduce a Gen-Y entrepreneur defining success on her own terms!

Meet Naimah Holmes; Local Craft Business Owner!

Tell me a little about yourself and what you do?

My name is Naimah Holmes, I’m 27, and live in New Jersey. My company is called DMae , it’s a unisex line of hand-painted, uniquely designed clothing and accessories. 

What do you love most about what you do?

Being able to share my creativity with my customers, hearing that someone really enjoys their purchase.

What prompted you to start your own business?

I found I’ve always loved a grass roots business over those that are mass produced. With a small, or indie business you’re likely to get more use out of the product, you have something that’s unique, and you know what’s gone into producing the item. Where is you go to the mall, or a chain you know that thousands of the same item were made in 4-6 different colors, in 4 sizes. You’ll see the same thing everywhere. That also challenges you to make something your own.

How did you get started? DMae stared out as a hobby, I was going to a concert with a friend and found a blank tee I decided to draw a collage onto a few hours before we left for the venue. I then began doing pieces for friends as gifts every once in a while, and one caught the eye of a local boutique owner in town called Rue Couture. I did a line that was exclusive to their shop, and a few years later I decided to take the leap and make DMae a reality.

What were the first steps you took towards making your dream into reality? I began searching online for info on establishing a business, and weighed my options as to if I wanted it to just be a hobby, or if a larger scale was right for me. It took ALOT of research, and a few tears out of frustration, but, I’ve done it.

How do/did you handle obstacles and roadblocks? I talked it out with friends, read about starting a craft based business, and read blogs of women I admire. Specifically women who own their own businesses, who’ve been through the same situation: FreckledNest  MooreaSeal   LuneVintage  to name a few.

Who had/has the most impact on your life? My grandmother Dora Mae Holmes, she was my biggest cheerleader, and the reason I keep going, hence the name DMae.

Where does your inspiration/motivation come from? I’m inspired by art, fashion, and design. I’m finding in art specifically I’m drawn to clean lines, pop art, hyper realism, there’s just so much to devour. I never get tired of learning about different art forms.

How do you define and or measure success? Success for me is enjoying what I’m doing. When it becomes a chore, or I have to force the creative process it isn’t worth it anymore, and I’ll never allow that.

Where do you see yourself and your business 10 years from now? 10 years form now DMae will be my full time job. I hope by that time I’m able to travel to different craft shows, have a local store front/studio space

What advice would you like to give to other aspiring entrepreneurs? DON’T. GIVE. UP. Never give up on your dream. Don’t allow yourself to be envious of those who have something you don’t, go after what you want and make it a reality. You can do this, it may take longer than you thought but in the end it is all worth it. Being able to share your craft with others is a great gift.

Author’s Note: I met Naimah quite some time ago (like 10 years *cough*) and was elated to find that besides a love for good music, we had entrepreneurship in common. I ordered a custom tote from her shop and received some of the best customer service, I’ve had in a long time. Even the package wrap was detailed with personalized detail. I could tell she put love in her craft.

Black History Now-2012

Flickr credit: adria.richards

This year I’m continuing my series on Black Entrepreneurship. This will be a segment of Q & A’s on black entrepreneurs who are working hard at being awesome, while leaving their mark and building their legacies. I started this series last year to acknowledge my local black entrepreneurs, and decided to continue it because I simply enjoy shedding some light on the progression and success of everyday black people- dreaming, believing, and achieving in 2012. I know this isn’t exactly history, but it is history in the making, and that counts for something. I like to read about the everyday unsung heroes; the firefighter, the caretaker for the elderly, the advocate for the youth, etc. I want to share a fresh perspective from the people we know and grow up with; familiar people who are taking risks to own that dream business, or build that personal brand. Many small town or inner city raised blacks are at the forefront of community development. They step to the plate as leaders and mentors to students and troubled youth. They bring employment opportunities to the jobless and donate to charitable causes. I want to acknowledge the African Americans/ Blacks who bring about positive reinforcement against the negative stereotypes that deter hopes and ambition. My “interviewees” are full-time small business owners, solopreneurs, and side-hustle champions.  One thing they all have in common is that they are defining success on their own terms, and working hard to allign their brand with their vision. Black History in the making is definitely something worth celebrating.

 

 

5 Lessons I’ve learned as a Network Marketer

If you didn’t know, I was a La Bella Gift Basket Consultant for a little over a year.  When I found the opportunity, I had no idea what I was getting myself into, and I was extremely shy to start. Eventually, I slowly but surely began to grow out of my introverted shell and grow my business and networking skills.  In wanting to invest more attention to growing my social media marketing business, I decided close this particular chapter in my story. But I couldn’t close down shop without sharing some of my experiences with you. Here are a few lessons I’ve learned while on my journey as a network marketer.

  1. It takes Money to make Money! The saying is so true. If you want to expand your reach as a network marketer, you’re going to have to see yourself as an entrepreneur and invest in your business. I found that when people wanted to know about the business opportunity they didn’t want to pay the fees associated with it. Network marketing is a business and all businesses need funds to get started and keep afloat. Throw the get rich quick with no investment out the window, more than likely, it’s not going to happen.
  2. Don’t be afraid to show up. It’s called network marketing for a reason. If you don’t talk to people about your business, give out your marketing pieces, (like business cards), or advertise no one will know about you and your business… I caught a flat tire; after the road side rescue well rescued me, I managed to strike up a small conversation and slip them my business card before they drove away, you never know.
  3. Go Hard or Go Home! Most network marketing companies come with training materials, support forums, conference calls, company newsletters, even marketing and customer service ideas and materials to use….USE THEM! Get on the calls, utilize the training, learn from and try to adapt the style of successful consultants. Work on your business; that may mean cutting back on the re-runs of Law & Order SVU, working nights after you get off from work, working weekends even though you want to sleep in or hang out with your friends, especially if it is a side hustle.
  4. If you’re not passionate about the industry, it shows. This goes along with point # 3. One thing I noticed about the some most successful consultants in my company and the gifting industry, they actually make baskets themselves and enjoy doing so. I, on the other hand do not.  It is easier to market, and sell something when you know, or at least have a desire to learn about the craftsmanship and thought process that goes into it, much like it’s easier to write about a topic that is already near and dear to your heart. It’s also easier to network with likeminded people when your head is filled with your products and services. At the end of the day, it’s your business, so it makes sense to choose something you’re passionate about.
  5. Patience is a virtue! It’s been said that people who declare that they are going to travel the road of entrepreneurship quit too fast.  When I first started with the company, the moment I realized that the people who I thought were going to purchase my gifts were not interested in supporting my business, I wanted to give up. But I hung in there, shifted my approach, and eventually sold a few hundred dollars worth of beautiful gift baskets (not bad for someone with no sales experience).

In the midst of my first business venture, I have found myself more drawn to help other newbie entrepreneurs and progressive minded individuals by doing work I love and have a strong desire gain more knowledge to improve upon. Admittedly, I may not have wanted to explore my different passions, which mostly revolve around empowerment and strengthening communities if I didn’t decide to get started somewhere, and do something about wanting more for my life.

“The truth of the matter is that there’s nothing you can’t accomplish if: (1) you clearly decide what it is that you’re absolutely committed to achieving, (2) you’re willing to take massive action, (3) you notice what’s working or not, and (4) you continue to change your approach until you achieve what you want, using whatever life gives you along the way” –A. Robbins

 

Until next time……

Becoming A Craft Show Vendor

Photo By: L. Davis

Thanks to social networking on Facebook, I was invited by a fundraising event planner to participate in a craft show that would benefit a local nonprofit. After reading more about branding and growing my business through different marketing venues, I decided to give it a try and become a vendor.

Because it was my first craft fair, I made sure to do a little research in preparation for the event. I found that because La Bella Baskets was an online store and my budget was extremely small, I had to do a lot of improvising, but I made it work. Here are some things I did to prepare for my craft fair:

  1. If you’re a newbie vendor I would suggest reading articles like this to get an idea of what to expect.
  2. Because my business is online, I decided to set up a booth to recruit people interested in a work from home opportunity. I brought my laptop with me so anyone interested could enroll right on the spot. I also made sure to advertise my gifts for anyone interested in purchasing from my online store.
  3. I ran around like a mad woman gathering supplies such as: a table and table cloth, chairs, etc.  
  4. I shared the event on my facebook and twitter business accounts.
  5. I hired my little sister to lend a hand and traded an “I owe you” with my good friend to help me set up and (wo)man my battle station.

 Here is what I learned:

  1. Even though I read up on vending at a local craft fair, I wish I attended one as a spectator first. I became very anxious because I didn’t have a cool banner or proper signage. If I had gone to another small town fair, I could have saved myself the unnecessary stress. I realized that most of them don’t have an over the top set up like the kind you would find at let’s say a big expo center event.
  2. I borrowed a table for this particular event because we were advised to bring our own table and chair. When I arrived, tables happen to become available, and so I used the provided table rather than haul mine out the car. Unfortunately, my table cloth was too small for the provided table. Next time, I’m bringing more than one table cloth.
  3. Hauling my stuff back and forth, even though I traveled light, was literally a pain in the neck. Thankfully, I was surrounded by friendly vendors who saw that I was new and offered a helping hand. They also suggested I get a cart or small hand truck to transport my items.
  4. I figured I could lure customers with free candy and that would get them to take my materials and ask questions. What I received was a lot of children running over as often as possible to take the candy and run. Next time, I think I will put the candy along with marketing materials in a nice mesh bag.
  5. Although I posted the event on Facebook and Twitter, I left out the actual address so my friends and supporters could stop by and show some love. I assumed that sharing the link to the event was enough and was sadly mistaken.

Overall, the craft fair was a wonderful learning experience. I made some new contacts with other vendors, was invited to do another craft fair, and hopefully earned some new business partners and supporters. Do you have any tips you would like to share? I would love to hear suggestions and I’m sure other readers would too!

Are you looking to become a craft show vendor? Besides looking in local newspapers and magazines, I’ve added some resources below to help you locate some events in your area.

http://www.craftlister.com/

http://www.artfaircalendar.com/

http://www.fairsandfestivals.net/