For Stephanie Goodell, networking is more than a way to make potential business connections—it’s a way to empower women from all across the world. As the Program Director for the Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network (DWEN), it’s Goodell’s job to discover the amazing ventures women are undertaking and bring those women together at events that encourage networking and collaboration.
We caught up with Goodell while she was preparing for DWEN’s annual conference—happening this week in New Delhi, India—and got her expert advice on how entrepreneurs can make the most of networking situations.
Why do you think it is so important to have a networking forum like DWEN, that’s just for women entrepreneurs?
It doesn’t take much to realize that women are still at a disadvantage as business owners, and that disadvantage may be greater in some global markets than it is in the United States.
What inspires me is to turn that around and to think about the opportunities that exist with women-owned businesses. Overall, there has been positive growth in the number of women-owned businesses, which means they have a lot of power—and not only purchasing power, but also the power and ability to influence public policy.
In addition, women tend to be naturally collaborative, so when you get them in a room together, this, combined with their creativity and innovative spirit, lends itself well to really interesting new ventures together. So, I absolutely believe that there need to be many opportunities for women to convene together, expand their knowledge and power, and to support and mentor each other in forums like the Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network.
The events you coordinate are amazing for networking—do you have any advice on making successful connections in these situations?
One tip is to find out who is attending in advance. If there is another participant or company that you find interesting, seek out that person early and spend some time getting to know her over lunch or in a casual setting. Be authentic and know how to ask good, exploratory questions.
Is there anything in particular a past speaker has said at the Dell conferences that has really stuck with you?
Sungjoo Kim of MCM spoke at our first event, and she was a last-minute addition to the program, so I didn’t have so much time to research her background. When she arrived and told her story on stage, we were all captivated about how she grew her small, Korean-based business to a global luxury brand, making her one of the most celebrated businesswomen in Asia. She spoke of the many obstacles she had overcome in her personal life, and her commitment to walking her own path was amazing.
What advice do you have for aspiring young woman entrepreneurs?
Of course, my advice is about the power of networks! But I’ll say it in a different way: Don’t burn bridges. Inevitably, the world is small, and the world of entrepreneurs is even smaller, so maintain positive relationships and neutral ones without compromising your principles (and business endeavors) when you meet someone less than pleasant.
How can entrepreneurs or aspiring entrepreneurs get involved with DWEN?
The first step is to join our Women Powering Business LinkedIn group and start a conversation. Introduce yourself and be personal!
If you are intrigued about our network, we also have regional events in 10 countries throughout the year. Our network members, as individuals, attend many conferences, and you can find them by searching the hashtag #DWEN on Twitter.
Keep in mind that most of our events are invitation-only, mainly because we place so much importance on relationships and actually knowing the women in our network, so feel free to introduce yourself to me via the LinkedIn group or on Twitter (my handle is @itsgoodell). I can always follow up with suggestions about how to get involved.