When your brand values align, a partnership can benefit you both.
Women working in office together
Credit: Klaus Vedfelt / Getty Images

Have you ever wondered how to turn your dreams of owning your own business into a reality? We can help. Each week, as part of our Self Made series, we showcase female entrepreneurs—as well as their quality, handmade goods—and share their best advice related to starting, maintaining, and growing your own business.

For many entrepreneurs, choosing collaboration over competition doesn't come easily. But in making the choice to work with and support others, you will help yourself, too. "Choosing collaboration over competition is ultimately the choice to believe in yourself and your talents, and give yourself a full-bodied chance to succeed," says success strategist Carlota Zimmerman. Here are just a few reasons why: By choosing collaboration, you will find a wealth of resources and allies who can help you through tough times, says entrepreneurship and branding mentor Charlene Walters, Ph.D. It can help you build a stronger product or service.

"The more people involved, the more perspectives you have—which allows you to see whatever you're working on from new and fresh angles you may have never considered before," says women's leadership coach Laura Weldy. And it allows you to create wins for others. "Someone else's win shouldn't mean your loss," Weldy says. "Collaboration shifts us out of the belief that everything must be hard fought, and instead allows joyful co-creation to show us what's really possible." Case in point: When Beth Bassil and Danielle Goodman met in late 2019, they were both working as freelance public relations specialists. But they decided to lean on each other as resources, and helped each other secure media and create strategy for their clients. Eventually, they formed b.good public relations together—and today, they continue to collaborate with others. "I was taught to never share contact information, never share your secret sauce," says Bassil. "But you know what? It makes us feel good collaborating and connecting instead of looking at others at competition." If you'd like to choose collaboration over competition with other entrepreneurs, here's how.

Connect regularly with other entrepreneurs.

To connect with other entrepreneurs, Walters suggests setting up a mastermind or advisory group with entrepreneurs in similar fields, "so that you can work together [and] share resources, innovations, ideas, and strategies moving forward," she says. If you can't meet in person, consider starting—or joining—a Facebook or another online group, suggests Zimmerman. "See what other entrepreneurs in your industry are doing, and think, 'Can I collaborate with them?' Or, 'can I learn from their mistakes and successes as I identify my own brand?'" she suggests.

Consider collaboration as a way to better serve your clients.

"If you're struggling to come up with an idea for collaborating, look at a product or service you currently offer," says Weldy. Then ask yourself: Is there something that would make the product or service even better—something you don't have? And who has it? "Asking yourself this question helps you collaborate in a way that's truly beneficial to both parties," explains Weldy.

Host events with other entrepreneurs.

Hosting a joint event with other entrepreneurs gives you a chance to combine your resources to attract potential clients and increase sales and business, says Walters. "This is a win-win for all involved, as you can pool your talent, and use it to increase sales and brand awareness for all businesses involved," she says. Walters suggests starting with a workshop or showcase "so that you will all attract more leads to your businesses and raise brand awareness for all."

Ask how you can add value to your competitors.

Consider yourself a trusted ally for your competitors, and approach them from that angle. "This will help you earn their confidence and allow them to understand that you want what's best for both of your businesses," Walters explains. "Ask thoughtful questions to get to know [them] and what's important to them in terms of strategy and moving their businesses forward."

Don't wait until you need something to reach out.

To choose collaboration over competition, Weldy advises that you connect with entrepreneurs before you need something. If you wait until you do, "it always comes off as disingenuous, and it's often difficult to arrange true collaborations quickly when you're both entrepreneurs," she says. So, instead, "start building intentional relationships now. Think about who in your life spends time regularly with your ideal client, and reach out to introduce yourself. Check in via email every so often, follow them on social, and communicate with comments and messages." And share others' work in meaningful ways before asking to collaborate. "This will help other entrepreneurs see that you're serious about supporting them, and helps to build trust," she says.


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