Awesome! You crossed the first impediment to success – starting.
Taking on a partner, hiring an employee etc. are all subsequent building blocks. But these are internal initiatives, leading to linear growth.
The smart strategy for compound growth today is external collaborations!
Collaboration at its core is a great tool for extracting the best out of all involved for a greater outcome.
Focus closely and you will start to notice amazing big and small examples happening extensively in places where we all hang out most. Niche Facebook groups are hubs for sharing information, resources, prospects and virtual coffee dates. Social media engagement pods aim to beat algorithm changes with groups of people simultaneously commenting on and liking each other’s daily posts.
In his book Brandscaping, Andrew Davis says “In a brandscapers world, you forge content relationships, pool your financial & media resources, and share your audience with those who have something to offer. In return, you get access to their audiences, too.” Reading this fabulous book has been a game changer for me as it encouraged me to open my mind and seek the immense possibilities to creatively collaborate in every interaction.
We are fortunate to live in times where technology has given each one of us amazing access.
This promise of sharing resources, of innovation and community makes the idea of collaboration most appealing. Being a Career Platform for women, we often witness the collaborative power of such alliances at Maroon Oak.
We asked our audience for real-life instances of collaborations to inspire you to initiate one of your own. Read on and be amazed at the multitude of innovative ways women entrepreneurs have harnessed the power of the collaborative spirit.
Partner for Referrals & Cost Sharing
Etty of Mini Me Miami, an online children’s boutique, partnered with her friend Sarah of Leah and Pearl who runs a women’s boutique to share store space. “Not only do we save on overheads, but our customers can shop for both themselves and their children in one convenient location. This way we also double our word of mouth connections by sharing our referrals.”
When Priscilla of Carden Group Communications befriended a fellow solo PR practitioner, she had no idea that the initial brainstorming and venting would eventually lead them to partner up to form a new agency, while retaining their solo practices. As per Priscilla, “We each bring specific strengths to our joint agency – I am very promotion/ retail/ b2c focused and my partner is very technical/ science/ manufacturing/ b2b centric.”
Ask Yourself: Who can I partner with to reduce overheads and share referrals. Who brings in resources or skills that I lack?
Co-host an Event and Social Media Buzz
For a recent book launch by Mikifoto that I attended, I learnt that the author found a host for the event (Dressed by Lori) by posting a request on social media. In addition, numerous other local womenpreneurs – selling food, makeup, desserts, wine etc. – joined in to showcase and offer samples of their goods and services. Tagging the different businesses on Facebook leading up to the event, enhanced visibility for all.
Ask Yourself: At my event, what other services can my customers benefit from?
Let customer needs lead the way!
As per Deborah Sweeney, CEO of My Corporation, “We identify partnerships by listening to our customers. Since we help entrepreneurs incorporate, we constantly hear our customers talk about the need for financing of their start-up business. As a result, we identified a partnership with a company called Guidant that helps businesses obtain financing. In turn, many of Guidant’s customers are directed to us, when they require to file the necessary incorporation forms. It’s a mutually beneficial partnership that works for each company and our customers.
Ask Yourself: Am I listening to my customers even when it doesn’t impact my business directly?
Watch each other’s backs
“Collaboration is one of our core values at Babierge”, says Trish McDermott. Although we launch more than one “Trusted Partner” (our baby gear entrepreneurs) in every market who in theory compete with each other, in fact they are highly collaborative. Trusted Partners run their baby gear rental businesses out of their homes. They don’t have warehouses, so are careful in terms of how much gear they have on hand. We’ve had numerous instances where Trusted Partners have to rely on each other to fill large orders, sometimes for several thousand dollars! They borrow gear from each other to fill orders commonly, share local marketing expenses and marketing hacks, as well as information about great baby gear sales in our private Facebook community.
Ask Yourself: Who can I work with to assist my customers, in case I need to take a break for vacation or god forbid a real emergency?
“Co-pro’s are a fabulous way to expand my reach and find new customers, ” says Katy Kassian of Buffalo Gals Mercantile. “I have co-promoted heavily with MoJo Roast Coffees. I get burlap sacks from her and remake them into useful items. One of them is reusable envelopes that hold pre-packaged coffee and we both sell them equally. Coffee is good, they’re eco-friendly and they help us both give back to causes we believe in.”
Ask Yourself: Can my product bundle up/package with someone else’s product for a better outcome?
Co-promote through Video (and Social Media)
BJ of Body Works Ball used social media to drive traffic to her business for the Amex Shop Small Saturday in NYC. “We rented a professional video camera set up, and taped 11 local businesses for Small Biz Saturday (including my own). I was filmed outside of each small business, and then shopping inside, highlighting great products and services from each one of them. We posted all these videos to my YouTube, Facebook and Twitter pages, emailed them to American Express OPEN and posted them on all the local merchants’ social media page as well. We didn’t have to pay any fees for the video equipment or the editing, as we included the camera store and the video editing company in our film as well. The cross promotion, the added business and goodwill amongst all was tremendous.
Ask Yourself: With my expertise, what social media exposure can I provide to partner businesses in return for their complementary services?
Identify and work with Niche Specialists
April Wier, Director of Sugar Five Design says, “ In my web design business, I made it one of my marketing goals to target clients who could hire my friend Tom, an amazing writer. The reason – when you are able to bring on specialists, the overall value of your service shoots through the roof.
“I have realized over the years that I do better work, am happier and more fulfilled by my career and can close projects faster if I focus only on my area of expertise and hire other professionals to work in theirs,” says Katie Saunders, Creative Director of Pop and Grey. I collaborate with a website developer so that I can focus solely on custom Website design, and she takes my design and brings it to life in code. Now my clients’ websites are ready to launch faster, and my process is more professional and seamless.
Ask Yourself: When your business offers a host of services, where can you bring on specialists in order to command a premium?
Share Online Lead Magnets
Flora Wu Ellis of Unveil Events says, “Working closely with wedding photographer Jenna Perfette Photography has really allowed our wedding planning business to thrive. Unveil incorporated Jenna’s photography tips into our online event organizer and we also collaborated on a “how to hire a photographer” guide that couples love.”
Saunders collaborated with a brand photographer to put on an online workshop. “We both benefited by serving a larger audience since we both had followers to bring to the table. Providing similar but different services, people could use both of us, and we were able to offer a more holistic look at overall branding together, than if we had only tackled the design or the photography of branding.”
Ask Yourself: Who can I work with to create strong online leads and conversions? Who can provide complementary content to create better content hooks?
Join Focused Social Media Groups
Kelley Legler of Baby Jack says, “We have a private FB group of entrepreneurs and typically grow our audience by developing Shop Shares, a way to promote other shops where we share a similar target audience. It is like a free advertisement / billboard via Instagram. This Shop Share takes place in high traffic times to get visibility with new consumers, increasing brand awareness and is deleted within four hours.
In a world where many influencers request paid for posts, we band together to assist one another with brand exposure, so not every marketing opportunity is a pay per play.
Ask Yourself: Which businesses have the same target audience (by age, gender, lifestyle, location) as mine and are on the same social media channels?
Collaborate for a Greater Purpose
Natalie Franke co-founded the Rising Tide Society, which is today an international community of over 72,000 creative entrepreneurs and small business owners who collaborate in the spirit of community over competition. “When I realized that this (co-operation) was not the norm in the creative industry at large, I set out to change it and built an entire movement around the concept because it is truly the way of the future.”
Pamela J. Booker, ceo of Koils by Nature collaborated with Adeea Rogers & Christine StVil to create a platform on Periscope called Black Biz Scope a community-based initiative that allows black-owned companies to get people to know, like and trust them. “Our goal is to be intentional and strategic about spending the money in our community. Since 2015, we’ve featured over 500 business on our platform.”
One of the most successful collaborations for Daisi Jo Pollard Sepulveda, Modelpreneur at Daisi Pollard was one she did with fashion designer, Laurie Elyse of Laurie Elyse Collection. We partnered up, designed and promoted the “Meningitis Dress” to be auctioned at the “Give Kids A Shot” Gala benefiting the National Meningitis Association (NMA), to gain publicity and exposure, while contributing to a good cause. My being an active beauty queen at that time (Mrs. Ethnic World International 2012), garnered a lot of attention for the charity and Laurie Elyse is known for creating designs that are wearable pieces of art.
Ask Yourself: What works well for me? Can I spread that knowledge and in the process, help a community and build a strong brand for myself.
Create New Middlemen Channels
Tessa Clare Endencia, Managing Director for Asset Creative House focuses her marketing efforts on working with book bloggers, for the authors she represents. “I usually provide them with a free copy of my client’s book, and they provide me with content.”
“Some bloggers may not have time to do a book review, but they’d still love to do an author interview or guest post,” she adds. “It’s a great collaboration, as I primarily serve authors that are building their platform.”
Ask Yourself: Who can benefit from my clients’ services and in return offer value?
Invest in Preferred Partner Alliances
“It’s great to have some strategic alliances who automatically refer to you as part of the way they do business”, says Elene Cafasso, President Enerpace Executive Coaching. “For instance, every client of mine receives a certificate good for a complimentary consultation as part of my “Preferred Partners Program”. My partners include a presentation expert, financial advisor, professional organizer and executive attorney – all services that make sense for my busy clients. And all of my partners’ clients get a certificate entitling them to a free session with one of Enerpace’s coaches.”
Ask Yourself: Can I round up a comprehensive list of entrepreneurs where we can share our services with each other’s clients?
Offer services for Free in Exchange for Referrals
Rachel Charlupski, founder of The Babysitting Company says, “We work with Yacht Clubs and restaurants providing free services at brunch and dinner and they market our company to their guests. We are fortunate to have similar relationships with many other companies (real estate agents, wedding planners, spas, even doctor’s offices). When parents come to a meeting or appointment they are given our information so that they can concentrate on their meeting, kid free.
Ask Yourself: Which company has my target customers and can benefit from my service?
Share the Pie. There’s enough to go around.
Anne- Sophie Whitehead, founder of The League Network shares her striking success. “I work with craft distillers who band together to do joint events to present their spirits to consumers. Instead of worrying about “sharing the pie”, they build on each other’s reach to attract new customers and educate them on the differences between the products.
In another business, our team recognized that by forging an alliance with a company more versed than we were in putting together conferences, we could both benefit. Thanks to the collaboration, we were able to grow and sell a large conference in just a couple years, while it would have cost us double the time and financial commitment.”
Ask Yourself: Should I fear my competition or is there a possibility to team up?
Collaborations are brilliant undertakings that force you to think out of your box. In order for them to be successful, ask yourself hard, what could I offer that will work for a fellow entrepreneur? Here are some other nuggets to consider before initiating a collaboration.
Evaluate & Assess
Sepulveda suggests that you think through an opportunity first.
- Make sure that the collaboration is mutually beneficial. You should never feel used in a collaborative relationship.
- It’s easy to get excited when other people want to work with you but take time to think if it’s something you really want to do.
- It’s always more work than it seems going in. Evaluate if the amount of work involved is worth the payoff whether it’s money or exposure.
Kanj advises honesty.
The most underrated business collaboration tool of all time is openness. Holding info close to the vest is the natural state of most execs and entrepreneurs alike. I’m constantly amazed by the partnerships we’ve been able to make successful simply because we were willing to share what others hold close. The fallacy of those who fail to share is the fallacy of the zero sum game–if it’s yours it can’t be mine. That’s not how I see it. If we work together we can make the pie bigger, which makes more for all of us.
Booker suggests building relationships.
Working together with like-minded people will take you much further than going at it alone. I feel that great business relationships and collaboration is the currency of the business world.
- Try to build a relationship first, this ensures that you all can collaborate in some way.
- Have clear and concise goals
- Have fun!
Robyn Mancell of Girls Gone Forex calls for mutual respect.
The best tips I can give is to look for someone who is strong where you are weak and who can compliment your work style. She stays in her lane and I stay in mine. That is how we sustain our business. Mutual respect is a must and realizing communication is key.
Saunders encourages communication.
Collaborations are most successful when both parties are open with information, share their intentions and end goals for the project and take time to promote each other. The best way to sustain is to keep open communication before, during and after a project.
Kassian recommends thinking outside the box.
- It doesn’t have to be a one time thing- like just at the holidays. Co-pros work year round and are easily customized.
- You’d be surprised at how many ways your product and service can cross the lines.
Visibility helps everyone.
Wier says, “If I had not been consistently visible in my industry community, I would never have met the right people to collaborate with.”
Blogger Sarah Donawerth of Sarah Donawerth used her day job as Social Media Accounts Manager at Stampington & Company as an opportunity to make tons of connections for her blog.
Collaboration in business or even a collaborative mindset is the future.
Organizations, individuals and small businesses can gain so much more from working together, than alone.
The opportunities and ideas that arise from cross-pollination of individual expertise are boundless. You get pushed and stretched to tread in directions you might never take otherwise.
Competition makes us agile. Collaboration makes us better.
Build me up on rising tide
Lift me up and make me soar
Out of the blue, blue
I’ll be new
(Lyrics from the song Blue Blue by iamamiwhoami)
Go for it – Smart collaborators ride the wave together!
If you believe in career and skill enrichment for women, Maroon Oak always welcomes collaborators – subject matter experts who want to share their expertise. The list above is just a start. Share your creative collaborations in comments below.
You can’t use up creativity. The more you create, the more you have.
A Designer, Entrepreneur & US Patent Holder, Aditi graduated from a top design school and subsequently started her own design and merchandising business. Co-founder at Maroon Oak, she has over 17 years of business experience with Two Dotts, her design consulting company and an Etsy store which serves as an outlet for her gifts and patented product designs.
A mother to a teen and a tween, she enjoys running, dancing and raising her newest baby, a Bichon named Miltie.
Grab her Free e-Book on Design on some of the best, easy to use Free Design Tools available to you today.
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