As a small business owner and entrepreneur, giving back to your community is such a great way to learn and grow. When you work in-house for someone else, opportunities to give back are often planned and managed for you—there’s a company-wide volunteer program each quarter, or, every winter, your company hosts a children’s coat drive. But, when you work for yourself, you have to actively seek out ways to engage your local community and your industry. Otherwise, you can start to feel isolated and can miss out on key opportunities to expand your reach in your market. Today, then, I’m breaking down three simple ways to give (and grow) as a small business owner.
We so often think of “giving” as donating funds, but it can also mean being giving with our time and experience. If you’re a seasoned pro, consider mentoring an up-and-coming name in your industry (or even just an eager student). If your resources allow, add an intern to your team—but not just for the purpose of having someone to grab your coffee in the mornings; use the opportunity to arm the intern with resources and knowledge she can actually benefit from after the internship has ended. If you’re not ready for a full-on intern, you can reach out to professors at local universities and community colleges to see if you can lead a discussion (or provide materials for a discussion) centered on your area of expertise.
2. Volunteer in unexpected ways.
Volunteering doesn’t always mean Saturdays at the food bank or cleaning up litter along the river (though, we’re all about that, too!). In addition to community volunteerism, look for opportunities to volunteer in your industry. This may mean helping set up tables for an industry event or volunteering a few hours each month to work for an industry pro who you admire.
Who can you reach out to—and how can you offer to help them—with the goal of both providing valuable contributions and making valuable connections?
3. Donate your services.
Donations don’t always have to be in the form of money. Ask yourself what your main skillset is and how your community can benefit from it.
As a copywriter, I like to offer up pro-bono writing services for local nonprofits or small startups that catch my eye. I’ve done everything from created a pro-bono infographic for an elementary school to written a website for a children’s hospital gown startup—and the great thing is almost every one of the pro-bono projects I’ve completed has lead to paid work down the road through word of mouth.
Overall, there are so many unexpected ways to give back while—at the same time—expanding your reach and growing your business as a result. Donations are great, but, as small business owners, we don’t always have the extra cash to shell out. Instead, seek out opportunities to mentor, volunteer and donate your services.