I had coffee earlier this week with a friend, Jason Nykor, who owns a boutique wine and beer agency called Grape.
In many respects, Jason and I have been following similar entrepreneurial paths for the past 20 months. We both decided to start our own companies in January, 2009, at a time when the economic landscape was pretty bleak. Both of us have mouths to feed but, nevertheless, we took leaps of faith and did our own thing.
I remember getting together with Jason in early 2009 to talk about how our businesses were doing, and the challenges we faced in attracting customers and sales. We have continued to meet for coffee to catch up and compare notes.
My conversations with Jason are like a mini entrepreneurial support group. It is an opportunity to talk about personal and professional challenges with someone who completely understands the situation.
Unless you are living and breathing the entrepreneurial world, it is really difficult to comprehend what it's like to run a business in which you eat what you kill. If you don't kill, you don't eat.
One of the realities of being an entrepreneur is that it can be a pretty isolating experience, particularly if you're just getting going. While you can spend a lot of time networking and hunting for sales, there is also a lot of time spent by yourself - at least until your company gets big enough to have employees.
So it's healthy to get together with other entrepreneurs who can share good and bad experiences. It is a way to talk about different approaches, techniques and strategies and, as important, get valuable feedback and insight from people who are wearing the same shoes as you.
When Jason and I meet, it is not as if we are solving each other's problems or giving ourselves hearty slaps on the back. It's more a case of being able to talk to someone who knows exactly what you are experiencing.
This is why it is important to engage with fellow entrepreneurs, regardless of their business. Every entrepreneur has something to offer. The more questions you ask and the more you listen, the more you can learn.
Special to The Globe and Mail
Mark Evans is a principal with ME Consulting , a content and social media strategic and tactical consultancy that creates and delivers 'stories' for companies looking to capture the attention of customers, bloggers, the media, business partners, employees and investors. Mark has worked with three start-ups - Blanketware, b5Media and PlanetEye - so he understands how they operate and what they need to do to be successful. He was a technology reporter for more than a decade with The Globe and Mail, Bloomberg News and the Financial Post. Mark is also one of the co-organizers of the mesh, meshUniversity and meshmarketing conferences.