No matter what field you start tackling as an entrepreneur there is one fact that many people never expect to find themselves under. Loneliness is a big part of what it means to be an entrepreneur. It doesn’t matter if you’re just starting your business or you’re at the top of your game, there will be more than a few lonely moments in your climb to create the best business out there. For many entrepreneurs it’s the kind of thing that comes with the territory. Being an entrepreneur is not yet the “norm” in our society (yet) which means that finding a group to share your triumphs and low points with can be harder than you might imagine. Being an entrepreneur is seen as a lonely adventure. You are reliant upon yourself to make it work, whatever it is. That means long nights alone writing business plans, reviewing candidates, and working on your product. But being an entrepreneur doesn’t always have to be such a lonely endeavor.
Linda Kurtz, founder of Encouraging Networkers, wanted a network where encouraging one another was at the top of the list. “I was working at an over 55 community in Gainesville in 2009. We were having senior networking groups at the building I was at. Once my tour of duty was finished there, a group of us decided to keep the networking going and make it general networking for everyone and not just for seniors. That’s how Encouraging Networkers was actually birthed. Luncheons were held at the Piedmont Country Club until a little over a year ago when we went to the Stonewall Golf Club in Gainesville. The inspiration was that we wanted our networking meeting to be different from others and geared more towards building relationships and being there for each other, supporting each other, and encouraging each other. We wanted to get to know one another in a different way than normal networking groups. It is based on 1 Thessalonians 5:11 which says ‘Encourage one another and build each other up.’ That’s what we try to do at each one of our gatherings. It’s open to anyone. We’re not exclusive, we’re inclusive. So you could have different professions that attend. We believe that even though you and I may be in the same industry, we each have something different to offer.”
Encouragement can be the saving grace for many entrepreneurs. Some dig their heels in at the first sign of trouble. These entrepreneurs feed off the sink-or-swim adventure of it all. Other entrepreneurs develop better in a space where individuals know and share their struggles. Kurtz understands the need for encouragement and has held a position in a field where reassurance is definitely needed. “I’ve been in marketing for a long time. Let’s just say that [laughs]. Networking and marketing is one of the things I’ve been doing all my life. I would sometimes think ‘Oh, there’s not enough people’ or I would get caught up in the numbers and it really wasn’t until Winchester was launched that I really got the revelation that this is more than a networking group, this is basically a marketplace ministry. I started using those words after. That’s when everything started happening. More things started happening that I felt like the Lord wanted to happen.
Faith is a powerful motivator when it comes to business. It can keep an entrepreneur strong through the toughest of times. Kurtz says that faith plays a huge role in how she approaches leadership. “I feel like I really can’t do anything without His direction and His presence. Each and every day I try to be where He wants me to be. I think the fruit of that is when we had this retreat and I thought this was such a big responsibility. When you feel like the Lord is calling you to do something, it was important to have the right speakers. It feels like ‘who do you want there, Lord?’ Sometimes in your life when you just know that you have done what the Lord wants you to do, you can tell by the results. That was one of those times because all three of the speakers had never met, never spoken together, and it was amazing. It’s not something you see in a normal business conference.”
Sometimes fate also has a hand in how a group is formed. Kurtz never considered the group actually moving beyond what it was originally created for. “I did not see it becoming this. I just saw it as a way to get together monthly. To be different than the ones I had always attended. That was really all that I had at the time. I had no idea that the Lord was going to do what He has done. I love networking and connecting people and felt like that was a part of what I was supposed to do. But I really didn’t see it as a marketplace ministry. Even though ministry was going on and a lot was happening during those years in Gainesville. Lives were being changed and mine being one of them. At the time I didn’t have that vision.”
When you live in a thriving environment which promotes business and entrepreneurship like the DMV does then there is definitely a lot to be thankful for at the end of the day. “It’s so diverse. It’s a great area and there’s so much going on. There’s so much to do. I love the area. Whatever business you choose to be in, whether it’s with a storefront or a home-based business, I think there are amazing opportunities. Wonderful people are in the area as well.”