Collaboration is queen today, women entrepreneurs say

Rana Campbell said one never knows who may be inspired by what you do.

“I mentored a freshman in our dance company at college, and, five years later, she’s working for ‘The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon,’” Campbell said. “She reached out to me because she had heard my podcast interview with a stuntwoman in ‘Black Panther,’ Janeshia Adams-Ginyard, and invited me on the show.

“I talked about how I wanted to become a filmmaker on the show and someone who worked at a video software company ended up sending me a whole suite of software products to help make that happen.

“I had not talked to this woman since I was a senior in college, but she remembered how I had treated her.”

If Campbell had not been promoting herself while working in marketing with Dotcom Distribution in Edison — a job she left just two months ago to pursue full-time her work as the founder and host of the Dreams in Drive podcast — she said her college mentee would not have known how to help make it all come back full circle.

“I am really for collaboration over competition, as it is the way I’ve been able to build my brand and business,” Campbell said.

Campbell delivered her message at Rutgers University’s first annual Women Do Business Differently conference on Friday, designed specifically to connect and advance women entrepreneurs.

Layle Gregory, founder and owner of Trinahty Property Management and Cleaning, said the world is too big not to.

“Even if we had the same business, I would still want to help you,” she said. “If you take the client I was supposed to get, then I wasn’t supposed to get them.”

Gail Lara, executive director of the Women’s Collaborative Mentoring Program, said the question used to be who one’s competition was.

“But, with women in business today, it is, who is your strategic alliance partner?” she said. “Who is that collaborative team member you can stand with to help move you both forward?”

Lucy Sorrentini, founder and CEO of Impact Consulting, said women are often hesitant to ask that question.

“I often have to push my female friends to talk about how we are advancing our businesses,” she said. “Otherwise, we are simply making more friends, which is nice, but we need to socialize before and after focusing on our business strategies.”

Campbell said women also often limit themselves by standing in the circles and spaces in which they are comfortable.

“We may not want to allow anyone else in our circle, because we are so used to protecting ourselves in our comfort zones, but this woman Mary standing right over there might be the perfect accountant that we have been looking for,” she said. “We may be staying in cliques, trying to collaborate within ourselves and not even knowing how we need to open up our circle to allow fresh and diverse voices in.”

Gregory said she hoped to connect with many more women entrepreneurs to create not only connections but also comradery.

“When you work for most of your life and you go to school and build your friendships there, they can’t always have the same conversations with you as an entrepreneur because they cannot always relate,” she said. “I therefore would like to be able to grow my tribe.”

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