Why community is the key to SME startup success

Eugen Miropolski
Source: WeWork

There is a significant and global trend towards a new way of work – one that’s focused on a movement toward more meaningful work. That’s one of the main reasons that we’ve seen WeWork take off, as it’s created a community for people who want to create their life’s work.

Since WeWork opened its first office in New York in 2010, we’ve seen our community grow to incredible levels of more than 120,000 members globally. In the two years since it opened in the UK, WeWork has seen its community grow to 15,000 people across 14 locations in London. With access to this unique group, we’ve seen several challenges to getting past year one in the startup journey.

Between 2015 and 2016, there were 98,000 new businesses started up in the UK, according to the Department of BEIS. Yet, success is quite daunting. Many new businesses do not continue after year one. Starting a new venture takes equal amounts of risk, bravery, and support, and a strong community can be the hardest part.

In speaking to countless entrepreneurs as part of the WeWork community, time and again, I’ve heard that one of their top challenges is funding for growth. Our community has helped each other find new partners, growth and funding opportunities that have made the challenge of starting up on your own just a bit easier. Josh Fletcher, editor of HISKIND, a LGBT magazine which aims to avoid the stereotypes of gay culture, found community crucial to stay afloat when an investor was being a bit tricky. When he shared what was happening with fellow investor who sat next to him, his neighbor offered advice and financial support. Since then, HISKIND has taken off. Another company, Biscuit Recruitment, a 3-person startup recruiting firm that goes up against larger competitors, has been able to get five new customers at WeWork since it joined six months ago largely by hot-desking - switching where they work each day to meet even more people. In fact, 70 per cent of WeWork members have collaborated with one another at least once and half of all members have done business together.

Beyond being home to community of diverse creators and entrepreneurs, part of our commitment to helping people succeed around the world is The Creator Awards -- a programme that will see 20 million dollars funneled into start-ups and small businesses around the world. The Creator Awards have shown us the breadth of creativity, impact and community we’re proud to support at WeWork, bringing people together with a shared sense of purpose. In our first three events that took place across the US, we saw Emily Kane won $36,000 for GirlForward to bring her English Language Learning curriculum online to support girls who have been displaced by conflict and persecution around the world. Donovan Morrison, won $72,000 for Luna Lights, to help bring the safety light solution to 20 assisted living communities and 600 older adults this year. And Samuel Bain won $180,000 for Imerman Angels to take the one-on-one Cancer Support Community beyond the U.S. This September, the Creator Awards are coming to London, giving grants that range from $18,000 to $360,000 for a total of $1.5 million for creators and entrepreneurs from any background across the UK.

Starting a new venture is daunting and rewarding - a rollercoaster of emotions that change everyday. It’s a great adventure and one that we see thousands embarking on each year. And the number one piece of advice we can give to the thousands of new starters is to find a community for support - one that shares similar values, offers advice and opportunity, or even just an ear to listen when you need it. Your community should support you and challenge you, help you find new solutions and ideas, and ways around problems you never expected to encounter. 99% of the jobs in the UK economy come from SMEs, and being part of a supportive community of entrepreneurs and creators can encourage more to start their own and support more economic growth and opportunity together.

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