I’ve been in business for, with, and (sigh) by myself for four years now. I’m grateful for the opportunity to work on my own schedule, to be home when the kids come home from school, to work when and how I want. Still, it can be a lonely endeavor at times.
Six months ago, with the new school year in swing, I was fired up to work harder and smarter—and yet I found myself spending far too much time alone for someone who is (supposed to be) building a business.
I looked around for networking events where I might meet other entrepreneurs—but I didn’t find anything worthwhile. Most of the events were in the evenings—which I reserve for family time. Others began at 8 a.m.—right when I’m driving kids to school. The lunchtime events I found were quite a distance or required steep financial commitments. I wanted something simple, something local, something organic.
It occurred to me that I might not be alone in this. There seem to be a lot of people in my area who work out of their homes, whether it be for a home-based business, freelancing, or as an independent contractor. So I decided to start a networking lunch for us work-at-homers, a once-a-week informal gathering, with no yearly dues, no meal purchase requirements, no attendance obligations.
Simply a place where work-at-homers could brown-bag a lunch and share information about their businesses as well as brainstorm ideas for prospering in “this economy.” I created an event called "Work@Homers" on meetup.com, printed a few flyers, and called a few friends.
That was six months ago, and I get teary when I think of how Work@Homers has developed and grown. Week after week, people have been showing up for lunch (and, since February, at our once-a-month evening mixer) to connect and share ideas, to lend support and generate referrals for each other.
Our motto? "Go beyond the elevator pitch" to build lasting, professional relationships and a solid referral network. We regulars look for ways to refer business to our colleagues because they have become our friends, and we wish for their success just as we would for anyone we know and love.
This, to me, is how we all thrive in these changing times. As we withdraw from looking to big corporations and the government to solve our problems, people are scaling back, dialing back into our local communities, seeking out locally-grown food, and getting to know their neighbors.
Work@Homers fits right in with a certain trend. We have people across business lines and from around the local communities coming together to share what we need, what we know, and what works.
Whereas once I struggled to find referrals for a good repair person, I now have a pool of entrepreneurs on whose skills I rely, not to mention their referral network as well. Need to get organized? Have a baby and want to get in shape? Need marketing materials printed? Need a realtor who understands short sales? Need a makeover or a new wardrobe? Want to know how to protect your family and small business? We have experts in all of these areas—and new people showing up every week.
I’m pleased and honored to refer my Work@Homer friends whose passion for their businesses has fueled my own. If you’re a Work@Homer (or want to be), you’re invited to join us. Grab your business cards and let's really Get Local.