Making the call on the right after-work event
Starting a business is challenging for any entrepreneur, but if you’re new to the country it can be even more so.
One common hurdle migrant entrepreneurs can face is a lack of networks. Even those who have developed the most enviable collection of contacts in their home country can feel like they’re starting at square one when creating a startup in a new place without trusted contacts to vouch for their credibility and lean on for support and advice. Thankfully there are ample opportunities to expand your networks in New Zealand, where connections can be made relatively easily due to the small population and largely un-hierarchical business culture.
Maximise your network
The first step for any entrepreneur wanting to grow their networks is to maximise their existing contacts.
Chances are if you’ve made the decision to move to New Zealand it will be because you know at least a handful of others who have made a similar move. While those people might not directly have business contacts in your field, others in their network might. So reach out and tell them about your business plans. Fellow migrants are fully aware of the challenges you’re facing and are often keen to help open doors for others.
As well as delving deep into your contact book, it can help to cast your net wide via social media. Seek out groups or forums where other migrant entrepreneurs in your area or industry are gathering. There you’ll be able to ask for referrals to trusted professional advisors, leads on potential customers, or insights into trends in the markets you’re targeting. While you may not directly know the people offering you advice via these channels, this networking approach can provide good leads when you see the same information being offered by multiple sources.
There’s also no substitute for making connections in person. A good introduction to face-to-face networking in your new country can be through the many ethnic business councils and groups catering to New Zealand’s migrant communities. These can be a great source of support, both moral and practical, and allow you to expand your network through others who share a common culture and language.
Another option is to find a kiwi business mentor, and there are a number of organisations, including many regional economic development agencies, that offer these services. As well as allowing you to tap directly into their local business knowledge and experience, mentors are often happy to make introductions to others in their network once a trusted relationship is built.
Finally, no matter what the setting, good networkers think about how they can add value to others’ businesses before seeking out opportunities to advance their own. It’s here migrants can have an advantage because their skills, knowledge and experience can be sought after by other entrepreneurs – for example those wanting to export to markets like China.
So one last tip: seek out networking opportunities where you’re likely to connect with other business owners who could use your particular skills or experience. BNZ Connect, a free nationwide speaker series that helps SME owners increase their business knowledge and contacts, is the perfect forum in which to flex your networking muscles in a relaxed environment.