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Micro Business Forum, a friendly business network that allows small businesses to grow big together

The idea of running your own business and being your own boss can sound liberating and empowering … until you actually do it and realise what a very different playing field it is, requiring another mentality and skill sets.

One of the biggest challenges for small business owners is feeling the responsibility of the business entirely on their shoulders with nobody else to brainstorm with or make decisions with. You are the brain of the business, and when you first start out, you are expected to take on all the roles - director, administrator, accountant, cleaner, salesperson, customer service, marketing, supplies … it can all get rather overwhelming.

And when you do get the business off the ground, you alone take on the worry and stress of staying afloat, bringing in the profits, innovating, and navigating past competitors in your industry.

Family and friends can offer moral support and perhaps chip in with some skills. Small business owners can still feel vulnerable and unsure of decisions and risks and are susceptible to so many uncontrollable and unforeseeable circumstances.

What if there is a place small business owners can go to for support, for networking and to learn from other people's experiences?

The Friendliest Network in Town

The Micro Business Forum (MBF) was created with this in mind. It is the only professional network to support solopreneurs and micro business owners with fewer than 5 employees.

MBF allows small business owners to connect with like-minded individuals in a similar situation. It takes the sting out of the loneliness of running one's business and provides a networking opportunity to help one another grow. It is an empowering space for small business owners to know there is support to help them thrive. There is nothing like stepping into a space and meeting people who know exactly what you are talking about and how you feel, and who have taken a similar journey.

MBF has gone through a few rounds of christening and it started in 2003 as the Home Based Business Club. Later, the name was changed to Home Business Forum (HBF) and membership has grown since then to include micro business owners and the self-employed. On 22 February 2013, it finally took on the name of Micro Business Forum (MBF) as it is known today.

As a testament to the success of MBF in what it has set out to be, it is now affectionately known as The Friendliest Network in Town and businesses recognise it as the Home of Entrepreneurs.

MBF has proven that doing business can be happy, friendly and supportive.

A Bundle of Sticks

MBF has a whole new take on the concept of doing business. Instead of focusing on stereotypical ideas of ambition and competition, MBF brings businesses together, connects people, and shares experiences and skills in order to grow together.

Aesop's story of the bundle of sticks is what MBF is doing by bringing together small businesses.

Alone, a small business owner has to rely only on themselves to survive. As a single stick, it is easily breakable and there is no support system to help one single business ride through a storm. Just think about the last few years when Australia has endured so many challenges - droughts, bush fires, a pandemic, floods. The psychological toll on a single business owner to get the business afloat through all that is immense.

Together, small business owners support and encourage each other, pool together their talents and experiences, and brainstorm and share tools, strategies and resources, precisely during the most difficult periods. Nobody is alone or left behind. Ultimately, the whole community thrives because everyone is growing.

Learning to Grow

Having an open and learning mindset is what helps businesses grow, and MBF is rich in its opportunities to provide education, networking and support. Whether it is a start-up or an established micro-business, people can come here for regular events to learn, grow and succeed in what they do.

Members of the MBF love sharing their expertise and skill sets. A single person cannot do everything and excel at everything. MBF has more than 40 members who each bring in their talents and knowledge. You can start a casual small talk with someone at an MBF event, and what starts off as a simple conversation turns this person into exactly what you need to help your business take that one more step ahead. Talk about serendipity!

Conversations bring businesses together and each person's complementary skills can help businesses grow. MBF boosts a rich diversity of innovative products and services and the members are all contributing proudly to the growth of the Port Macquarie Hastings region.

There is an amazing range of skills and experiences MBF members bring to the table. You name it, they've got it - taxes, environment, graphics, gastronomy, counselling, history, photography, marketing, wellness.

Get to know the members here and you may be inspired to attend the next MBF event just so you can get to meet all these amazing people and learn about what they do!

One of the challenges of running a small business is making sure owners take time off from the daily running of the business to actually work on themselves in terms of learning and upgrading of knowledge and skills. Without a support system, small business owners will have to put in the extra effort to hunt all over to meet this need, and going for a workshop here and an event there can feel sporadic and lacking in structure.

MBF has made it easy for business owners to fill this need - their meetings, deeper learning workshops and coffee connects allow business owners to have everything in one location, and the activities have been specially selected and organized by people who understand what they need. At MBF, there is a sense of structure, togetherness and stability. There are plenty of opportunities for members to explore business ideas, learn from subject-matter experts and speakers, from worthwhile business alliances, share insights and build relationships.

And the big bonus here is, people actually have fun! Business and Fun can go together! If you have never experienced what a fun business event is like, it would be well worth spending a day at MBF´s numerous events and see for yourself!

Being Accountable

Another interesting aspect of networking at MBF is how it introduces the concept of accountability. Anyone can attend endless workshops and build up knowledge but that alone is not enough to make a small business grow. As your own boss, who is there to make sure you really go out and do what you said you would do? And when the going gets tough, who is there to keep you on track and keep going?

At MBF, its friendly and supportive environment allows its members to stand by each other and keep each other accountable. They share their ideas and plans, and keep each other on their toes in order to move their businesses forward. In fact, there are "accountability buddies" at MBF! Sometimes one just needs a little nudge to get us off our chairs to make something happen, and the best people to do that are the ones who are on the same journey and can understand what is needed to motivate a fellow small business owner not to give up.

MBF facilitates being accountable in how they provide spot on and relevant topics for small business owners to learn about and experiment with. It is provided in manageable doses and there is something business owners can implement after a workshop or event. Members learn about how to make an effective email campaign, how to build their own WIX website, how to track cashflow, how to tell their brand story, how to manage taxes etc. Members can pick and choose what is most relevant to them and use these sessions to identify what is missing in their business. The next step is to give it a go, which can be a scary thing to do, but having a supportive environment at MBF means members always have someone they can check in with as they implement new strategies or tools in their business.

The value of MBF is how they guide members into topics that may feel confusing, complicated and which cause business owners to feel dread and procrastinate on. It is given in bite-sized, supportive and fun events and there are opportunities to dive deeper in when members are ready to do so.

Sharing our Stories

Port Macquarie Hastings is home to 84,525 people, supports 29,368 jobs and has an annual economic output of $9.545 billion. It is a region that is growing in popularity and the NSW government has plans to transition it into a true Regional City.

Every face you meet at an MBF event contributes to these numbers. MBF continues to grow through the years and there is a healthy mix of new start-ups and mature small businesses from all industries.

What makes the ambience at MBF so special is how people come together to share and listen to each other´s stories. When a small business is invited to speak at MBF, it is not just about sharing strategies and useful information. It is also about hearing someone else´s journey, being inspired by how they grew through challenges, and seeing how another person´s journey can be applied to our own circumstances. Small business owners feel a sense of connection and understanding at MBF and it is their home base to return to through their small business journeys.

So is it worth it, running your own business? MBF helps to make the journey and experience a rewarding one - what drives people to do it is a sense of pride in building something of their own. Having a community of like-minded people who are on the same journey and can boost your spirits and keep you going is the motor that drives the economy of the region. MBF is proud of what their members have achieved and are helping others to achieve. It is a cyclical paying it forward of experience, encouragement and skills that keeps members staying on and growing at MBF. Here, no business is too small to be insignificant, and every single business that thrives adds to the growth of the region.

So yes, it is all well worth it! A cup of coffee at MBF, anyone?

MBF, Micro Business Forum, feature by Brilliant-Online

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