Eleven Female Business Networks You Should Know

Michelle Wright looks at some of the best female business networks, both internationally and in the UKMichelle Wright, who has just signed up as a NextAdvisor for our Business Advice Programme, looks at some of the best female business networks, both internationally and in the UK.

In the turbulent journey of running a start up business, there is nothing so leveling as networking with other entrepreneurs, finding out the realities, sharing information and realizing that however challenging it feels for you as an individual, everyone is facing similar issues.

The technical aspects of running a business are universal, whatever the industry, and whilst we can increase our operational knowledge from courses and training, in my experience, the real encouragement to keep going comes from networking with others, building emotional connections and confidence and gaining peer support.  

In recent months I’ve been lucky enough to be part of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 small businesses programme. This initiative, which provides access to education and support services via programmes at top global universities including University College London and Said Business School Oxford, really demonstrates its power in its access to networks and the reflective time and challenge that comes from spending time with other entrepreneurs.

And therefore inspired by my time as part of the 10,000 small businesses network I thought it would be useful to explore some of the best female entrepreneurship networks available both nationally and internationally. 

Michelle Wright has recently signed up as a NextAdvisor in The NextWomen's Business Advice Programme. Click here for details on the Programme and to apply.

International Networks:

The Ambassadors Network aims to promote entrepreneurship amongst women by engaging and speaking to groups in schools, colleges, universities, community groups and the media, as well as addressing conferences, business networks and employment initiatives. The Network is made up of around 270 entrepreneurs who act as female entrepreneurship ambassadors across Europe.

One of the most high-profile international women’s networks is Goldman Sachs’s 10,000 Women, a five-year, $100 million global initiative that invests in local economies in developing countries by providing underserved women entrepreneurs with a business and management education, access to mentors and networks and links to capital.

Dell’s Women’s Entrepreneur Network (DWEN)  including a network and annual conference, also helps bring female business owners together, share best practices and open up new business opportunities around the world.

On the policy-making side, the International Federation of Business and Professional Women (BPW International) is one of the most influential international networks of business and professional women with affiliates in 95 countries in five continents. Its members include influential women leaders, entrepreneurs, business owners, executives, professionals and young career women.

If you are looking for an access to finance in addition to networking, then the Cherie Blair Foundation could be the answer. This international foundation provides women with the skills, technology, networks and access to finance that they need to become successful small and growing business owners.

Another important network is Empowering Women Entrepreneurs, an award-winning Entrepreneurs Partnership Programme, which identifies qualified women entrepreneurs in emerging economies and partners them with established business professionals who help build the skills, strategies, practices and networks needed to overcome barriers to growth.

And then of course there is the great network here at The NextWomen, which offers mentoring and networking opportunities for aspiring female entrepreneurs under the Business Advice Programme.

UK Networks

There are also great opportunities in the UK. The Women’s Business Centre offers intensive courses and networking opportunity for women with registered businesses in London and those who wish to expand their products or services internationally. This is complemented by the City of London’s Mastermind Group which aims to help female entrepreneurs achieve high growth enterprises through brainstorming, peer accountability and support.

Many professional women can also benefit from Forward Ladies, one of the UK's leading women’s networking and business support organisations supporting over 13,500 women throughout the UK through events, business development workshops and trade missions.

Last but not least, Everywoman is a membership organisation that champions the advancement of women in business. The everywomanNetwork provides personal development resources, connections, advice and inspiration to address the issues we know that female entrepreneurs often face.

Undoubtedly networking takes time away from the business, but it’s an essential part of growth, learning and, in my case, persevering sanity – best of luck!

Michelle Wright founded award winning third sector organisational development and fundraising enterprise Cause4 in 2009. Michelle was the winner of the female entrepreneur category in the Natwest Startup awards 2011 and is a top 10 winner in the Ernst and Young Future 100 awards 2011 for entrepreneurs under 35 that demonstrate innovation in progressing a responsible business venture. She is a silver award winner in the 2012 international Stevie Awards for female innovator of the year and was invited in 2013 to become an Accelerate 250 member in recognition of the UK's top growing businesses. For more information in Michelle, see her profile. 

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