Small businesses (19 or fewer employees) comprise 99% of New Zealand businesses and Dr.

Small businesses (19 or fewer employees) comprise 99% of New Zealand businesses and Dr. Kate Lewis (Research Associate of the NZ Centre for SME Research) predicts that the proportion of women business entrepreneurs is growing. Venus Club, a business referral community for women entrepreneurs is also growing, with their 22nd club opening on the Kāpiti Coast this month.

2007 statistics showed that women made up 36% of self-employed people in New Zealand and Dr Lewis, who conducts research into entrepreneurship for Massey University, says she sees no reason why a growing representation of women in self-employment wouldn’t continue, in line with global trends.

The Centre for Women’s Business Research (2009) shows 40% of private firms in the United States are now owned by women. A ten-fold increase from 30 years ago. Internationally, women are starting business at twice the rate of men and young women and mums are two of the fastest growing women entrepreneur demographics.

Often new to owning and running their own business, as well as juggling family and busy lives, these women entrepreneurs find little in the way of support and practical advice.

Venus Club is one organisation that is there to offer women support, encouragement and an extremely affordable marketing option. Venus Club has grown by an impressive 500% in the last 12 months, now boasting 21 clubs nationally with a new club in Paraparaumu opening next month.

Just 2 years old, Venus Club is a women’s only business referral community that was founded by entrepreneur Vanessa Davey. Each club holds around 20 members and invites only one person from each profession so there is no competition between businesses.

Being in business on her own, Davey missed the support, encouragement and business friendships that came from working within a team, which is how the concept for Venus Club started.

“Venus Club is about women supporting and contributing to the success of other women in business,” says Davey. “The Venus Clubs create an environment where women can grow their networks and their client base while also growing their confidence in selling themselves and their business.”

“Women are natural networkers and we have realised referral marketing is the most natural form of marketing for women in business. It’s just about them talking, intentionally to their networks. It’s been proven how successful the clubs can be to generate new business, in one meeting we had 34 referrals exchanged,” says Davey.

Dr. Lewis concurs and says that research has shown that “female entrepreneurs are particularly adept at building such social networks and capitalising on the advantages they can bring”.

And it seems the members “rave” about Venus Club. Fiona Hewitt the director of Brand You (www.brand-you.co.nz) joined Venus Club in August 2008. Fiona previously held senior management roles in high profile companies, before starting her own business and finding she needed to connect with other business owners operating in the smaller business market.

“My experience of Venus Club has been extremely positive, my business and profile has grown and I get to connect with likeminded business women who are united in their purpose and have common interests, particularly in making a success of their business”, Hewitt says.

Heather Hutchings, Consultant with business training company Profitable Teams (www.profitableteams.com) will facilitate the Kāpiti club and is excited about the prospect of helping other women business owners build their businesses. ‘I have been attending Venus in Wellington City for a month or so now and have already experienced successful referrals,’ says Hutchings. ‘I jumped at the chance to set up the Kāpiti club as I know there are a huge number of local women business owners who, like me, will benefit from belonging to Venus. I love the regularity of the Venus meetings. I know there are Kāpiti business women are looking for this kind of opportunity.’

Heather’s background in training for all sizes of business’, from start up to corporate, will undoubtedly benefit club members but it is the supportive environment that she believes will have the most impact. ‘Venus Clubs are unique in achieving tangible business growth in a supportive environment. From what I have experienced, Venus Clubs provide a fun, caring, supportive environment; where people become friends as well as striving to be the best they can be.”

With the latest club opening on the Kāpiti Coast on Wednesday the 19th of May, Davey says clubs can be opened anywhere, based on demand. “Each club holds a maximum of 20 members and we are finding the demand is such that we have over 20 new clubs planned for 2010”.

“Our concept is simple; we bring women together to help each other grow their business with the smartest and most cost effective marketing available. Over 80 percent of new business is generated through word of mouth and personal recommendations and women are networking naturals” Davey says.

The first Kāpiti Club meeting will be held at in a local caf in Paraparaumu, between 9.00 and 10.00am on Wednesday 19th of May. Women interested in attending the launch meeting or finding out more about the Venus Club can e-mail Heather at [email protected] , or register online at www.venusclubs.co.nz .

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