Starting a business is not a one-man or one-woman show.

The good news is that there are people and organisations who want to help you succeed. Whether you are a fresh startup with a brilliant idea, or a company who needs a push to get to the next level, teaming up with experts can be the way to go.

In this article we look at options you can research to find the right fit for your business. Keep in mind that not all networking organisations, accelerator and incubators are good at what they do. Speak to members, especially ex-members, before you make a choice.

Aligning your business with a reputable networking organisation can be a vote of confidence for investors and the relationships you build can carry your business to new heights.   

Incubators

Entrepreneur.com defines a business incubator “An organization designed to accelerate the growth and success of entrepreneurial companies through an array of business support resources and services that could include physical space, capital, coaching, common services, and networking connections.”

Business incubators often have a specific focus, like financial technology, or food processing. Keeping the focus specific means they can more effectively share resources, like manufacturing equipment, and can link you to a higher-quality, relevant network.

blueMoon in Ethiopia is a great example of an incubator focussed on agribusinesses. Founder and CEO, Dr Eleni Gabre-Medhin is a Generation Africa Ambassador. They have designed an incubation program that provides co-working spaces, training, coaching as you go from idea to an investable entity that is ready to pitch, and support with set-up activities like registration, prototyping, websites and staffing. Additionally, they match startup founders with one-on-one mentors, and link them to trusted business support service providers and a network of top executives in the industry.

Accelerators

In a great article in the Financial Times titled “Incubator, accelerator, hub? How entrepreneurs decide,” Maxine Kelly writes, “Accelerators are intensive fixed-term programmes with the aim of scaling up an established business. They can include workshops, mentoring and opportunities to pitch to investors. They might also offer funding in the form of grants or loans, sometimes provided in return for equity in the start-up, or they might charge an upfront fee. Incubator and accelerator services can overlap.”

If you are thinking that incubators and accelerators seem like they do pretty much the same thing, you are quite right. The best way to remember the difference is from an agribusiness perspective. If you want chicken eggs on your farm to hatch, you put them into an incubator. And if you want your tractor to accelerate, you step on the fuel pedal. I the same way business incubators help startup businesses to hatch and become fully-grown businesses. And when your company is already running, business accelerators add fuel so you can go further, faster.

Co-working spaces and Hubs

You might have heard that Silicon Valley is a tech hub or that Wall Street is a financial hub. In these phrases, “hub” means a place where similar businesses can be found.

The word “hub” is also used to describe co-working spaces and has been used to describe business districts where various accelerators, incubators, skills training companies, and open office facilities come together to support each other.

Anita Fuzi, Dariusz Sikora, Lidia Gryszkiewicz from InnovationManagement.se says, “Hubs are collaboration platforms for positive change for those individuals and companies who strongly believe that the future of business is found in profit that serves both people and our planet, while coworking spaces are community-focused shared workspaces that enable collaboration, shared knowledge and mutual learning, and offer opportunities to reach commercial deals among co-workers (typically freelancers, entrepreneurs, start-ups).”

Business Support Networks

Some business support networks may have free, open membership, but many will have a monthly or yearly membership fee to cover for the expenses of maintaining the network. Networks may be created to provide business support, to pool resources and knowledge, to find and groom leads, or even just to socialize with other entrepreneurs and business owners.

Community Support Network

These types of networks let you interact with the community so you can build your business by understanding their concerns. They grow good community relationships.

They can include your local Community Business Chambers that bring different business owners in the community together in a more informal environment. They provide a valuable opportunity to build strong b2b connections with businesses in your neighbourhood, town or city.

Many community support networks also function as referral networks, where members of the community make a commitment to use each other’s services or buy products from each other.

Formal Networks

Co-operatives, Business Counsels, Chambers of Commerce and Industry, and Professional Associations conduct meetings via agenda. They resolve common issues affecting members of the organization or a profession.

Formal networks are usually involved with building robust business environments in a geographic area or within a specific industry for the purposes of attracting investors and driving credibility. They can also provide oversight of an industry or profession and may use certification or a registration process to maintain standards.

Formal networks like agricultural cooperatives are valuable associations for farmers because they allow farmers to pool resources and knowledge to work more efficiently. It also unites them into a strong voice for bargaining and negotiation.

Referral Networks

“A referral network is a group of professional colleagues who send you clients (patients, customers etc.), market your skills and engage in helping you to grow your business,” says business expert Meridith Powell.

When you join a referral network you are required to use services of other members in the network. You also make a commitment to actively recommend the services and products from fellow members in the network. If you don’t, you may be removed from the network, or you will find that other members stop supporting and recommending your business.  

Networking guru, Dr Ivan Misner, divides business networking organizations that are valuable for referrals into five groups. If you are interested in referral marketing, read his article on entrepreneur.com.

Informal Networks

Co-workers, friends and family, and the people connected to them, can be considered your informal networks. These people know you, or they know someone who will vouch for you. Because you have a standing relationship and (hopefully) mutual trust, they will support you when you engage them.

Online Networks

“From a business perspective, the ideal use for social media is to build your brand and your credibility with the people you’re connected to by providing value for your connections and followers,” says Dr Misner.

LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, TikTok, Yelp, Reddit, Medium… and the list goes on.

When you choose social channels to represent your business ask, “Where are my clients and business connections?” Snapchat may have 255 million active users, but if they are all in the USA and you need to connect with people Uganda, it is not the right platform for your business.   

The GoGettaz Community Platform

The GoGettaz Community platform combines many aspects from incubators, accelerators, hubs, and business support networks.

The platform is an Online Network where the members can create profiles for themselves and their ventures to build brand credibility. Like an Incubator, the GoGettaz platform has valuable startup skills training for young entrepreneurs. And like an Accelerator, business founders can link up with experienced business mentors and investors.

Like a Formal Network (co-operative or professional association), GoGettaz brings together entrepreneurs who work in the agri-food industry in Africa to give them a stronger united voice. And like a Community Support Network, the GoGettaz platform will grow into an active community of agri-food entrepreneurs who collaborate to help each, to create opportunities, and to transform the food industry in Africa.

When you enter the GoGettaz Agripreneur Prize competition you automatically become part of a network of thousands of entrepreneurs across Africa. If you are not eligible for the competition, you can still join the GoGettaz platform by completing an application form.

If you have an agribusiness that will benefit from building relationships with other businesses in the agri-food industry, enter the GoGettaz Agripreneur Prize competition and join the GoGettaz community. You will have to hurry! The competition ends 18 June 2020.

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