I've been a member here since spring, and my thoughts about this network wash hot and cold. I am going to speak as a successful businesswoman in saying that BBWO is an excellent network for women who own microbusinesses, but has very little to offer to those women who are operating companies which are not homebased, and not microbusinesses.
Rather than being a business network, I view BBWO as being a Black Women's social network which happens to focus, incidentally, on business. There is certainly a difference between the two. I also see a certain type of "rational business focus" on other business-centric forums which I don't see on BBWO. On other networks I see the absence of evangelical religion and the irrationality and narrowminded view of the world which is associated with it. Here at BBWO I've actually had people post religious content on my profile page which have nothing whatsoever to do with operating a business (I am in the process of removing them off my page).
Networking can be valuable if and when business owners come together to rationally critique business concepts, operations, and potential for growth. If the network simply exists for members to hi-five each other, than that focus is absent, leading to a decrease in suucess in the field of business.
There are some members here who operate a business within the wider society (not just offering products and services to Black people). Off the top of my head I can think of Vilma. I also know that Vilma has a zero tolerance level for spam sent to her private mailbox. Me too. I'm operating a business with over 1200 employees. When I started my business there were no social networks. That was good. I was forced to use my own brain and natural intelligence to create and nurture my business. When I requested feedback it came from other successful entrepreneurs of different races and ethnic backgrounds. There seems little value in a whole group of folks who are running microbusinesses offering advice to another bunch of folks also running microbusinesses. The goal of most people who run a business is to be financially successful. Microbussinesses offer a chance to earn extra money for the owner, they do not offer financial independence.
Yet folks like Vilma and myself are not even utilized for our experience and ability to mentor. We are never spotlighted as members who have achieved success in the real world operating a real business (not a microbusiness).. On most Black women sites there is a fantasy that most women can make it, if they simply network, network, network.....or pray, pray, pray....
There is a lack of rationality. And that is why most businesses here will fail. It will happen a little later simply because the member will be exhorted to "BELIEVE. PRAY'...so the inevitable death of the patient will be delayed for a little while. But it will occur.
I'm sorry this post is so long. These are my thoughts and I hope you will accept them in the spirit of constructive feedback.
Thank you for your feedback, it is straightforward and needed because you are allowing me to speak on several very important aspects of BBWO as well as clarify misconceptions of what this network is all about. Before speaking specifically on BBWO I would like to shed light on a few critical facts. One is that all businesses start off as micro businesses; they are the heart of America. Oprah started off as one woman, Google began with two men, and a large percentage of small businesses are run by individuals or groups of less than 10 people. I say that because contrary to your point, micro-businesses are viable and do provide financial independence for many. I am sure that you did not begin your journey as the employer of 1200 employees. This is commendable, yes, but it did not happen overnight. Myself and many of the women on BBWO are self-employed and home based running small businesses that provide our sole income. There are side hustle Sistas here as well, trying to grow a business while maintaining a steady income and that additional income is indeed of value to them and to the community at large.
I can understand and do see a need for more discussion and content grounded in business principles and in that respect I do agree with you whole heartedly. But I must point out that as an individual who created a space for other individuals looking to network and find services that are generally out of the scope of our reach, BBWO is deeply rooted in creating a space of support to the small business woman of color. With that group in mind this is undoubtedly going to be a space that primarily focuses on the agenda and goals of women entrepreneurs. Yes we need to network, because many of us try to do it on our own and do not understand the significance of business education, partnership, and outsourcing as a means of constructing real businesses and goals. Yes we do need to pray, because we are a spiritual people, and as such this Network strongly supports the idea that belief in the power of God and perseverance can help one actualize success. The very nature of this space is one in which Black Women Entrepreneurs and Small Business Owners can discuss our issues on our terms, and spirituality is of major importance to many of the women on this space.
One of the things that stood out to me in your post was your point on not being spotlighted and I can speak on that on several levels. One of the first things I did after reading your post was to review your profile, which is lacking as far as who you are and what you do as a business woman. Apart of social networking is making connections, and those members who engage genuinely with others do reap the benefits of what true networking is about. As someone with as much experience as you suggest, I would have expected you to do what is always suggested on BBWO, share your skills, advice, and support to other members. I welcome the mentoring that you say you can bring. Yes there are members who are simply here to self –promote but there are a noteworthy number who create groups, start discussions and share ideas which help to educate others on building better businesses. I am always striving to highlight such women, from buying products and services of other BBWO members to sharing their insight, I always aim to give them what they have given BBWO. And beyond simply adding content many members opt to pay for advertising, which is a part of business. I am always offering my support to BBWO members and customers, because I believe that true networking can help all our businesses grow.
With that point in mind I would urge you to be a part of the change that you wish to see on BBWO. As an experienced Business Women, shed your light on how micro-businesses can become bigger ones. Highlight the specific topics we need to talk more about on BBWO and I guarantee you that in doing so, others will follow suit. I find that in many cases, part of the problem for some and perhaps you is that people are here to get, but they are not willing to give. Those who do give ultimately set a president for quality and professional content on BBWO. Now I know there is a great need for more grounded business content, but I am proud to say that BBWO is far more grounded and focused with respect to Black Business Collaboration and support that many others of its kind. I am yearning to build my businesses along side my fellow BBWO members and I am willing to put in as much work as you are.