Don't be a lonely entrepreneur

You’ve just moved to a new place. Not completely out the country, but far enough to put you out of visiting distance from the friends and family you left behind. Safrean Dave Henderson shares a few simple tips for the isolated entrepreneur who finds themselves (and their businesses) in a new and unfamiliar location.

As entrepreneurs, we do tend to spend our time huddled behind screens. We punch away at the keys desperately replying to a deluge of emails, each reply bringing us closer to the mythical-moment of “inbox zero”. However, we tend to forget that on a deeper level we yearn for that handshake or hug from another warm body. From sharing a beer at your local pub to those networking events we always seem to regret attending.

I recently moved provinces within South Africa, shifting from the hustle and bustle of Johannesburg to the more open and somewhat arid Cape Town. The reasons for the move are not important, the bottom line is that I found myself in a new town knowing very few people. After the initial excitement of the move had died down, I realised that if I didn’t prioritise socialising I was destined to become the male version of a cat-lady. (A dog-dude?)

Here are the things I found got me outdoors quickly with little or no monetary investment.

1. Find a Meetup near you

This has to be my favourite tool to find groups of people doing fun things. From hiking clubs through to board game evenings, this platform hosts hundreds of groups. Each group focusses on a specific area of interest holding semi-regular events for their members. The groups are free to start and generally low cost (if anything) to attend. You simply sign up, create a profile making sure to indicate your hobbies and interests. Meetup then does the rest, flagging those upcoming events that match your interests.

When Monday morning arrives and – like me – you don’t feel like another week spent entirely in your own company, hop on Meetup and search for events happening nearby. Your only responsibility then becomes to make sure you attend the events you have committed to. Don’t be that person who promises to attend three events on the same day and then pitches to none.

Within my first few months in the Cape I had found 3 fun groups, attending several of their events:

2. Find local events, the easy way

For those Capetonians reading this article, you might already know how busy the local social scene can be. How then does the entrepreneurial-nomad discover what is hip and happening? Obviously, it goes without saying that the events vary based on your interests. Allow me to introduce one of the lazier ways I discovered I could flag nearby events without leaving the comfort of my favourite chair.

As many events around Cape Town have migrated their ticket-booking functionality online, browsing ticket vending platforms such as Computicket or Quicket yield a plethora of serendipitous social situations. Most of these websites have the ability to sort the events based on geographical location, or by the type of event. Hop on now and see what events are happening near you!

3. Check Facebook

Yeah, I really hate giving advice that may result in additional time spent entangled on FB, however, they do have an extremely simple system for finding nearby events.

You could start by stalking the profiles of Cape Town-based friends to see if they are attending anything of interest. My advice – ensure you update your location on Facebook so that their algorithm automatically starts promoting events near you. Make sure you deliberately “like” one or two of these events, even if they have already happened. This should give the Facebook algorithm a kick up the pants to start alerting you of similar or upcoming events. 

How to update your location on Facebook?

 4. Get involved in sports

  • Doing 

If you enjoy an active lifestyle, consider finding an exercise group near you. Sweating alongside others is one of the easiest ways to break the ice and make that friend for life. Struggling to find a serious sports buddy? Gumtree has a section dedicated to those people looking for a regular sporting partner.

Struggle with small talk? Try this. Question: How much does a polar bear weigh? Enough to break the ice…{Forgive me!}

  • Watching

Every province in our country hosts some sort of stadium. Soccer, Rugby or even roller derby could be a fun way to pass time. Perhaps you can find a group on Meetup that would already be attending an upcoming sporting event. Or you could choose to stay home this weekend, again. Up to you.

5. Spend an evening with StartupGrind

These events – hosted worldwide – are for the more tech-savvy entrepreneurs amongst us. I had enjoyed a few of these events in Johannesburg already before I realised that they had a regular Cape Town chapter. Knowledgeable industry-experts feature at these events sharing their insights. I have attended several of their events in Cape town on my own and I have never felt too weird about it.  

6. Work from a co-working space

I attribute working from shared working spaces to my longevity as an entrepreneur. Without these spaces I would have been found at home slumped over my empty coffee mug long ago. There are hundreds of co-working spaces scattered throughout the country, naturally these spaces are found in the busier cities of Mzansi. Do not expect to find a co-working space in Buffelspoort.

These venues will find you sharing office space with other entrepreneurs on a similar mission to you. The shared space will have daily and monthly rates, so make sure to enquire about their pricing and figure out what works best for your pocket. On average I found that a single day visit was around R200 on average, whilst the normal monthly cost was around R2500.

Here is a list of shared working spaces from around South Africa. Courtesy of the kind folks at Silicon Cape.

7. Work from fun places

For the days where you absolutely must destroy monotony. Every entrepreneur should be well acquainted with your local coffee shop, so why stop there? I found several places within the city with stunning surroundings where I could work from un-accosted, ranging from the Company Gardens Restaurant within the city centre, through to the Hang Ten beach-side café in Muizenburg. These places were happy to host me for a few hours at a time as I sipped appreciatively on their coffee whilst banging on the keyboard.

To find these places, start by asking yourself what areas of beauty exist within driving distance from your home. Then look for a coffee shop or café in that area. Pick up the phone to see if they mind you working there for a few hours.

As an added bonus, I recently realised that most libraries around the country will happily play host to a silent keyboard warrior. Know of a nearby library? Pay them a visit. 

8. Discover business or interest groups

Every entrepreneur knows of the industry bodies within their areas of expertise. They will also more than likely have gatherings of those people who might be your customers. Find them. You need to know which industry body you fall under.

My business empowers those people who would like to publish a book so my industry body is PASA (Publishers Association of South Africa). My customers are those people who are looking to create and publish an eBook. A quick Google (or a similar search on Meetup), will return a host of events that authors frequent. Book fairs for example, are hosted throughout the country on a fairly regular basis. In places where the local book-scene might be quiet, it is never hard to find a weekly writers group to pop in and visit. Google is your friend.

And don't forget to check SAFREA's events calendar to find out when the next Coffee Club is happening near you. You could also start your own and invite fellow Safreans to connect over drinks or coffee.

9. Meet potential customers in person

This is a fairly simple shift to how you might be doing business already. It requires little effort or change from how you might already be doing business. Those clients (or potential clients) within driving distance, invite them for a coffee. Or jump in your car and drive out to them. The next customer you find yourself emailing that stays around the corner – arrange that coffee chat. Make a new friend. (Then sell them something. Kidding!)

Struggling to find a current client around the corner? It might be a great time to reach out to past clients and arrange a follow up on whatever work you might have done for them at the time.

About the author

Dave Henderson is the founder of the self-publishing platform MYeBook, a business aimed at empowering authors and giving them a voice within the vibrant self-publishing community. Since 2012, this proudly South African entrepreneur (Nedbank Business Accelerator Finalist 2018) has helped thousands of authors around the world to reach new readers by leveraging the power of digital distribution. To learn more about Dave, please visit his award-winning business blogpersonal blog and connect with him on social media: FacebookTwitterYouTube and LinkedIn.  

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