I first joined the Next Gen Community when I was a junior in college. I had already begun entrepreneurial endeavors but still l felt disconnected from a larger community; my co-founder lived in a different country, and my only real connection to other people my age who felt an affirmation with the startup world was the small entrepreneurship club at my school. I figured that was all I needed. I didn’t know how wrong I was until I saw how community could be.

Within the first week of joining Next Gen, my calendar was filled with ‘phone dates’ with as many members as I could fit. We were talking about collaborations, trading inside tips, and offering referrals and network expansion. I saw immediately what community could do – and all this happened just from connecting with people who lived nowhere near me. Imagine the power of activating community on a local level – connections, friends, and colleagues who live just around the corner.

Now, I’m more than just a founder. As the Director of Community for over 2,600 entrepreneurs, I’ve seen firsthand how impactful a network can be, and I can’t believe I was ever so isolated from so many movers and shakers. From my experience, here are the reasons local community is so important as an entrepreneur:

1.Your Local Community can alert you to nearby resources.

Connecting with others who live in your town can help you learn about nearby resources you never knew about, such as your city’s Chamber of Commerce, or networking groups for other business owners. These resources are sometimes challenging to locate on your own. Smaller networking groups and events are not always advertised in places you’d normally see them. Having a community near you to alert you to must-have opportunities and must-attend events can be vital to your startup.

2.You have work buddies.

The long hours in the coffee shops – we know they get tiring! Other entrepreneurs near you can hold you accountable to your daily goals by working alongside you, and even share their own best working spot secrets nearby. It’s easier to work when you’re with someone who works the same crazy hours and puts in the same ‘hustle’. I always get more done if I have a set time to meet with someone just like me who needs to work just as hard.

3.You have friends at events.

Sometimes, I don’t like going to networking events if I have to walk in alone. Power in numbers! Having a community of local entrepreneurs to accompany you to events can help to 10x the impact, and make networking easier – more friends to cover more ground and make more connections. So, not only are you learning about more events, but you’re making more friends to come along with you to them!

4.The Ripple Effect of Connections

The more people you start to meet in your local area, the more you’ll continue to meet. Your new connections will introduce you to their connections, and, before you know it, you may know everyone in your whole city or campus! Trust me – knowing everyone is incredibly advantageous when you’re a startup founder. That’s a group of people who can advocate for you, market for you, and share your message.

5.You’ll know who nearby to call on.

Need a trademark attorney? Meet Jane from down the road at the nearby coffee shop to go over paperwork with you. Can’t figure out the bug in your app code? Meet Sam for breakfast and see if he can figure it out. In a world that’s so used to conducting meetings and asking for help over phone or video call, it’s nice to have that personal touch, and to be able to call on those around you for their expertise. The more you harness the power of local community, the more you’ll know who to call on, and when.

6.You can host events!

Have you ever wanted to host your own entrepreneurial event, but didn’t know who to invite who could benefit? Or do you have a core group of connections, but not enough people to fill an auditorium for that speaker you’ve been wanting to bring in? Connecting with your local community at large allows you to begin to invoke real influence. Hosting dinners, networking events of your own, and speaker events positions you as a true entrepreneurial leader in your community.

As if these six reasons weren’t enough, remember that cultivating community is the way in which we make the world feel smaller. As entrepreneurs, we strive to hold the globe in the palm of our hands: to know everyone who can help us, and to expand our network as far as possible. Harnessing the power of local community is where it begins.


  • Haley Hoffman Smith

    Speaker & Author of Her Big Idea

    Haley Hoffman Smith is the author of Her Big Idea, a book on ideation and women's empowerment which debuted as a Top 3 Bestseller. She has been featured in Forbes, Entrepreneur, and the Washington Examiner, and graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Brown in May 2018. She is the founder of the Her Big Idea Fund in partnership with Brown's Nelson Center for Entrepreneurship, which awards grants to women who apply with BIG ideas, and Her Big Lash, a cosmetics company.

    At Brown, she was the President of Women’s Entrepreneurship and started the first-ever women’s entrepreneurship incubator. She speaks on topics such as women's empowerment, innovation, social impact, and personal branding regularly across companies and college campuses, most recently at Harvard, TEDx, SoGal Ventures, University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, and more.