Just over a year ago, I attended my first Pepperlane Boost. I had no idea what I was doing: I had recently decided to close my Paint Nite business and my former colleague, Kate Keough, had suggested I consider becoming a small business consultant to help other women build their businesses.
Let me reiterate — I had NO idea what I was doing.
At the Boost, I opened up by saying I really didn’t have a pitch or a solid business —I had launched and managed 12 Paint Nite branches across 10 different states, but wasn’t really sure what I had to offer as a consultant. A woman in the room told me THAT was my pitch, and not to underestimate my experience or ability. Her warm encouragement lifted my spirits and for the first time, I thought I might actually be on the right path.
Her turn to pitch the group came next, and my heart sank — she was also a business consultant. How could I possibly compete with someone so polished and experienced? In my recent experience, business owners were encouraged to compete, and Darwinism always won.
After the meeting, she approached me, suggesting we connect for coffee and discuss possible collaborations since we both had different strengths. Her strength was branding and mine (as she surmised) was organization. Her name was Rebecca Moore, and she had been with Pepperlane since its inception. She got the Pepperlane methodology of collaboration over competition. I was sold.
That exchange opened my eyes to what could happen when women adjust their mindset. Instead of “or,” we could choose “and.” We could create a new paradigm of collaboration over competition in the business realm.
Why? How does it work?
Our culture is highly competitive from the moment a person is born. From development, to grades, popularity, physical attributes, talents, personality, intelligence, financial success and emotional health … in every realm, we are encouraged to rise above and be at the top of our game. Who is more tan, more self-aware, more in-shape, more stylish, more relaxed, more in tune with her kids, more busy, more involved, a better leader, a better gardener, a better cook, a better singer, a better person…
It’s exhausting. And demoralizing. And often paralyzing.
Research proves there are both biological and sociological ties to competition. We compete with each other for survival, but there are also deep-seated beliefs from internalizing the patriarchy, as depicted in Emily Gordon’s OpEd in the New York Times: “As Noam Shpancer writes in Psychology Today, ‘As women come to consider being prized by men their ultimate source of strength, worth, achievement and identity, they are compelled to battle other women for the prize.’ In short: When our value is tied to the people who can impregnate us, we turn on each other.”
So how do we combat that conditioning and move forward?
We choose to collaborate instead of compete.
We choose to support instead of tear down.
We choose to believe there is enough to go around.
We choose to believe (no, REALLY believe) that what we offer will be right for some people, and not right for others, and THAT IS OKAY.
We need to reshape our approach to success. Success does not have to mean that you are at the top — when you are at the top, others must be below. We can be on the same plane. We can visualize success as a pool instead of a peak. A linked chain instead of a ladder, with increased strength, stability and longevity.
There is room enough for all. People are drawn to certain others, whether it’s due to temperament, background, style, personality or geography; whether it’s someone who can understand her or someone who complements her, depending on what that person needs. Each woman has a perspective and blend of traits that makes her unique and ultimately attractive to some. When we embrace those differences and accept that there is enough business, enough of the right potential customers for everyone, we can redefine how we work together to build strong businesses.
Pepperlaners Becky Bast, Emily St. Martin and Cat Camara embody the Pepperlane Methodology of collaboration over competition. These Home Organizers/Declutterers not only have lunch regularly, they also share tips and refer customers to each other.
Lindsay Wolff, a doula and Pepperlane member in Massachusetts, points out that she not only has a support network of other Pepperlaners with complementary businesses, but she also regularly collaborates with other doulas and childbirth educators on the platform (and sometimes sends them clients!). She says, “I look forward to the collaboration and support we all give each other.”
Pepperlaner Jana Blanchette handcrafts memory quilts. She reached out to Christina Phaneuf of Bumbleroot Designs to collaborate on a custom piece that could have possibly been created by one of them, but was elevated by each woman’s unique skills.
Photo Credit: Jana Blanchette
Benefits of collaboration over competition
- Collaboration helps create a rich and deep network from which to pull for referrals and clients.
- When you develop a referral network, people remember you for generosity and recognize that you care about their well-being, not just about your own bottom line.
- There is power in numbers. Working together creates a stronger platform and provides a tight web of support for our members.
- Collaboration combats isolation, a common issue for micro-business owners. According to Forbes, a study “revealed a striking 48% admitted to finding [running a micro-business] lonely and 46% said it was isolating.”
- It FEELS better to choose positivity over negativity. Simple as that.
Heather Maguire, a Pepperlane Leader who runs local Pepperlane Boost events, pointed out: “Women are taught that lying, self-sacrifice, and compromise of personal values is critical to professional success. Somehow these women come to find themselves in a Pepperlane Boost, a very different kind of business meeting. It is a place where it is safe to be vulnerable, unsure, confused. This can be disorienting. It can take time to let down the mask. It can take time to begin to believe that doing business this way is ‘real business.’”
Let’s redefine real business, together.
Want to see this energy in action? Consider coming to one of our Boost events! It's a great way to expand your network, get clear on your focus, and even meet a new client.