Where to Get Support as a YE

Dale left a comment on my post yesterday that reminded me how tough it is to find support as a young entrepreneur.  No matter where you live or what you do, the majority of people around you don’t run a business.  Most of them have never even considered it.  That makes it hard for them to relate to you and to support what you’re doing, even if they want to.  It took a while, but I have what I feel is an A+ support group of people.  Here’s where I’d look if I was just getting started:

  • Anyone you know who runs a business – it doesn’t have to be someone young, it doesn’t even have to be someone you know that great.  It could be a relative or a friends parent, or just someone who runs the gym you go to that you make small talk with.  Whoever it its, offer to buy them lunch or a beer or a cup of coffee and just shoot the shit with them.  Most business owners love talking about business to anyone who is interested, probably because most people aren’t.  As great as the web is for support, you need some people you can meet with face to face.  I have a handful of local entrepreneurs that I regularly stay in touch with, and it helps me immensely to be able to bounce ideas off of them or just vent about something that’s frustrating.  Plus, local relationships are great for referrals to lawyers, accountants, real estate agents, etc.
  • Local groups – the best place to find legit YE groups is in college.  Almost every college I know of has a “young business owners” group or something similar.  If they have an incubator, they may offer even more than just a group.  Even if you aren’t in school anymore, I’d probably look to your local college and ask if you could volunteer in some capacity just to get around these types of people.  Outside of academia, I’d tread with caution – most of the “young professional” meetings I’ve been to are just groups of young insurance agents desperate to get your business card so they can solicit you.
  • Social networks – the Brazen Careerist, Factor77, and YoungEntrepreneur.com all have supportive networks of other young professionals who run businesses.  I’ve met a handful of other YE’s this way, many of which I’ve eventually hung out with offline and developed great relationships with.
  • Bloggers – I can only speak for myself, but I’m more than happy to get into an email exchange with anyone genuinely looking to start a business.  If you’re looking for someone to bounce ideas off of or just someone to ask questions to because you don’t know anywhere else to turn, I’ll be happy to do my best to help.   All of the guys I mentioned that were my favorite YE bloggers are very much the same way, which is how I’ve developed such good relationships with all of them.
  • Start your own blog –  you’d be amazed at how many great people I’ve met because they stumbled upon my blog because they were randomly Googling something I wrote about a few years back.  Plus, for me at least, writing your ideas is theraputic and the process of getting your ideas out there makes you feel less alone…even if you don’t have a lot of readers at first.

Do you guys have any other suggestions?

15 comments on Where to Get Support as a YE

  1. Tim says:

    I really like your first point, and have used it countless times myself. That said you would be surprised how many people simply are not willing to do it, they think they will be shot down or don’t want to bother the person. I would take it one step further, try to find an all-star business owner you look up to, and learn about them, see if you can get ahold of them, I think most people would be surprised how available these “all-stars” are to talk about themselves and their accomplishments. Assuming you don’t shriek like a teenage girl meeting “The Backstreet Boys” and are even mildly intelligent and articulate you can reach nearly anyone and learn from them. I’ve exchanged emails with Steve Ballmer, been on a conference call with Richard Branson and learned a lot from various other major players in the world. Maybe they don’t remember our correspondences and sometimes little or nothing is learned, but you can learn a lot about yourself during the process. I believe Tim Ferriss recommends a similar approach, no one is unobtainable.

    The only other successful way I’ve met people who influence me is by talking to strangers, as simple and foolish as it sounds you never know who you’ll meet. While this may not seem like an unusual tactic, I am highly introverted and it’s taken me a while to be able to engage in a conversation with a complete stranger and have anything develop. As I’ve honed my skills I’ve met a lot of great people and my network has exploded with solid contacts. It boils down to a numbers game, you keep at it you’re bound to meet some fantastic people. An old business partner of mine met the head of a venture capital firm on a train, he was not stalking him, but he is just an outgoing guy and started shooting the breeze with him, only to find out that he was the CEO of Piper Jaffray – these people are humans and are out there. In particular if you just bump into them, find a mutually interesting subject and develop a friendly relationship, it will open doors most never new existed.

    Another friend of mine took this quest to the next level, he found when Donald Trump would be leaving the country club and waited around the corner with a sign that read: “Please stop Mr. Trump it will be worth your time” or something along those lines, he was wearing a suit. Donald had his driver pull over and they shot the breeze for 10 minutes, unfortunately nothing came of it, and I personally feel that is taking it a touch too far, but as long as your intentions are benign I can’t see it doing much harm.

  2. Adam McFarland says:

    Tim –

    Great stories. With so many forms of communication these days, almost everyone is attainable and – to your point – as long as you act like a mature adult and have something sincere to say, most people will write back.

    I can’t say I’ve ever had a lot of conversations with true “all stars” that everyone would have heard of, but I’ve shot emails back and forth with a lot of people who I consider to be very very successful entrepreneurs. For example, a lot of times after I review a book on my blog I get an email or LinkedIn request from the author and that starts up a good chat.

    I did however, get a lengthy email reply from Jim Bouton when I contacted him after reading Ball Four and Foul Ball. He told me to get in touch with him if I’m ever in his neck of the woods and we’ll grab a beer. I pretty much thought it was the coolest thing in the world 🙂


  3. Dale says:

    It’s taken a while, but I’ve gotten to the point now where I have a few people to turn to who I can talk entrepreneurship with. It’s still the vast minority.

    Schools don’t teach entrepreneurship. I don’t care if it says “entrepreneurship” next to the course number. So you hafta learn it on your own (at least it’s free!)

  4. Definitely anyone who runs their own business and yes start a blog! Once you start talking about your experiences you will attract others in the same boat. Before you know it there is a community of like-handed people right there.

  5. @JoshHurlock says:


    Thanks for the post. All of these are great.

    Put yourself out there with your blog and social networking. Do not fear taking such action. Meet people and build personal relationships and then talk about business. This way a concrete relationship is built before business enters the picture.

    Oh yea, lastly Factor77 is a must join site.

  6. Adam GIlbert says:

    Adam – Great post, as usual! I agree with you about meeting with local entrepreneurship clubs. I find a lot of them to be all about ‘talking’ about running a business. Not so much running a business.

  7. Adam McFarland says:

    Thanks for the comments guys!

    @Adam – definitely. I have a lot of friends who always talk about starting something but never do, and they go to these groups and exchange business cards and pat each other on the back and make a lot of “connections” but nothing ever comes of it.

    That’s why I recommended the university setting where there are either small business support groups (for students who actually have a business) or, better yet, incubator centers that develop and house businesses. Those places are much more likely to encourage action, which we both know is the hardest part 🙂


  8. jrandom42 says:

    Lots of good resources at http://sba.gov
    Also, SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) is a great mentoring resource.

  9. Adam McFarland says:

    Some more comments over on Brazen Careerist

  10. Adam, young entrepreneurs really struggle to find their way without support. My 2 sources:

    The Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization
    Factor77.net (Under30ceo.com)

    My goal is to inspire young people to do what they love, that’s why we launched factor77.tv to give that expert advice from coaches/consultants/authors but still have a fun youthful appeal.

  11. I agree with jrandom42 about SCORE. http://www.score.org

    They can partner you with a seasoned business owner who will provide unlimited free mentoring.

    I’ve been meeting with a mentor from SCORE for over a year and she is very helpful.

  12. Adam McFarland says:

    Brian –

    I’m curious – what’s the process like and what are the most helpful things you’ve learned from her? You’re the first person I’ve known who has actually gotten a mentor from SCORE so I’m interested in learning more…


  13. Adam,

    I filled out a form about my business and sent it to my local SCORE Chapter. Based on my business model and industry, they matched me with someone with experience in my industry.

    I request meetings (at any interval that I want) and set the agenda. At first we spent time working through my business model and now we meet on a quarterly basis to review financials and discuss strategy. Meetings are held at a local coffee house.

    At our last meeting we spent time talking about taxes. I handle my own accounting, so it was valauble to have an outside opinion.

    The mentor doesn’t spend time giving “general business advice”; rather she understands my business and gives actionable advice to provide some tangible results.

    I view the mentor as my accountability partner to keep me on track and moving forward.

    Regardless of the stage of your business, I’d recommend exploring it further.


  14. […] better, find two or more people and form a job-search support group. Meet weekly for coffee in a pleasant location to share what’s working and what’s […]

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