One of the best parts of Nashville’s entrepreneurial ecosystem is the way organizations work together to connect individuals with the tools that will help them the most.
At the EC, we do this in part through our free Navigation Assessment, which recommends the best resources to help entrepreneurs get where they want to go.
One of the resources we often refer people to is Pathway Women’s Business Center, which provides mentoring, education and other tools to help entrepreneurs across Tennessee, especially women and minority business owners.
“It’s tough as a woman to be in business on your own, it’s even tougher if you’re a woman of color. It’s tough to be a minority business owner, and so we have to work together to make sure that we are doing everything in our power. And if something doesn’t exist that needs to, we need to step up and create it.”
Courtenay Rogers, Pathway Women’s Business Center Director
Pathway Women’s Business Center won the Navigation Partner award at the 2018 NEXT Awards for its efforts to connect entrepreneurs with resources around Middle Tennessee.
As PWBC’s director, Courtenay Rogers has seen firsthand how equipping business owners with resources can help them to achieve major success, and she’s passionate about paving the way for more women and minority business owners to get plugged into Nashville’s ecosystem.
To help achieve this, PWBC hosted an event called Be Bold, in honor of International Women’s Day. A group of inspirational leaders, businesswomen and innovators spoke to a sold-out crowd of other women about topics like finding mentors, developing a personal brand and learning to be bold.
“The time has gone for me to be shy. The time has gone for me to worry about this big booty when I walk into a room. Because guess what y’all? I’m the first woman who’s a state director for SBA!”
LaTanya Channel, Tennessee Small Business Administration State Director
FINDING MENTORS AND SPONSORS
Nashville’s ecosystem is an especially great place to get started because there’s a lack of ego among business leaders, Rogers said. People understand the value of relationships and are always looking for ways to help those who are coming behind them.
We talk a lot on the Navigate Podcast about the importance of building strong mentoring relationships, but Be Bold speaker and Nashville State Community College President Dr. Shanna Jackson pointed out that it’s even more important to find sponsors, “people who actually have the power and influence to make things happen on your behalf.”
She encouraged the audience to look for people who have the power to create opportunities and open doors for them.
“Develop relationships beyond people who look like you and think like you, but be very strategic in building a network of people who are doing the things you dream of doing.”
Dr. Shanna Jackson, Nashville State Community College President
Though it can be intimidating to try to find a mentor or sponsor, and Rogers thinks it can be especially hard for women, she encourages people to just ask. PWBC also offers resources to connect people with mentors in their fields.
BUILDING A PERSONAL BRAND
To help build a network that’s full of the right people, it’s important to develop a strong brand, Rogers said. It’s easy to focus on branding from a marketing perspective, but PWBC also helps people decide what type of business owner they want to be and develop a personal brand around those core values.
When branding is done effectively, it will help your business attract the right people and reject the wrong ones. HR Expert Christy Pruitt-Haynes unpacked this concept at BeBold, explaining that people know she is a great coach, but that her style is not to be formal. Because she has branded herself in this way, she’s more likely to find people who are a good fit for her.
“When you are self-aware enough of who you are, and you are deliberate enough in your brand, other people will pick up on it... Discover your brand, own your brand, lean into it in every way that you can, and love you or hate you, people will always respect you for it.”
Christy Pruitt-Haynes, HR Expert
Whether you need help with branding, finding mentors or building a stronger network, Pathway Women’s Business Center and the Nashville Entrepreneur Center both have resources that can help. Fill out the navigation form below to get started!
blog post written by Bronte Lebo
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