Jessica Rivelli, Founder and President of Working Women of Tampa Bay, shares her insight on networking and being an entrepreneur. You can connect with Jessica and learn more about Working Women of Tampa Bay at http://www.workingwomenoftampabay.com
Q: What was the main reason you decided to be an entrepreneur vs. working for others?
A: I am what I consider an accidental entrepreneur. After looking at traditional networking opportunities in Tampa Bay, I asked myself, why can’t networking be fun? I had a gut feeling that local women wanted more: a fun event with food & wine, a chance to interact with other women entrepreneurs and professionals in an enjoyable, stress-free setting and the opportunity to show off their business to a captive audience. So an idea hatched in Fall 2008 launched as a full-fledged, membership-based organization in June 2009. I left my full-time job as a TV News Producer in 2010 to handle the demand of the new company and its members. I left a career of 10 years in broadcast journalism to follow my dream of owning my own business. I love the freedom and the ability to cut through the red tape and just make things happen!
Q: What issues/obstacles have you faced being an entrepreneur vs. an employee?
A: As a small business owner, you are the CEO, CFO, CMO and COO. I find myself having to switch gears and change hats several times a day. Identifying my individual strengths and weaknesses and then deciding which tasks I should keep and which ones I should delegate has been my secret to success.
Q: What inspires, motivates and encourages you in your journey as an entrepreneur?
A: I love meeting all the amazing women in Tampa Bay and now the entire state of Florida. I am inspired by their passion, purpose and drive!
Q: What have you learned is most important about networking?
A: When it comes to networking, be yourself. If you come from a place of authenticity, you’ll find you’ll make more meaningful connections and develop stronger business relationships. It’s not about how many people you meet at an event; it’s about the quality of the conversation.
Q: What support, tools or other learning has helped you to network effectively?
A: I am pleasantly surprised by the impact of social media. In our first month on Facebook, our event attendance doubled. Four years later, Facebook is still a very important factor in the growth of Working Women of Tampa Bay and Working Women of Central Florida. It helps us spread the word about events, new members, deals, etc. It’s also a tool to help the members connect with each other online. They often meet through social media outlets before they meet at events.
Q: What has been your best experience networking?
A: Developing relationships is key. My best experiences have always been the opportunities to actually learn more about a fellow networker and find out you so much in common! That’s the people I want to do business with!
Q: What has been your worst experience networking?
A: I hate business card frisbee. That’s what I call the act of throwing cards in random strangers faces in the hopes that one of them will call you and do business.
Q: What tips do you suggest to others as they network?
A: Take the time to really get to know someone and how you can help their business before turning the conversation to what you do. You’ll discover that goes a long way in the world of networking.
Q: How does networking help you in your business?
A: Networking is my business so without it Working Women of Tampa Bay and now Working Women of Florida wouldn’t exist. Making connections, building relationships and forming strategic partnerships is the best way to watch your business grow leaps and bounds.