Do you know I have now been in business for myself for sixteen years? I just realized that at the start of this year. I don’t often give that much thought. The years just seem to fly by. Of course, business-wise, there are one or two years I’d rather forget! I did learn very early on, the importance of networking and having a good support system in place to brainstorm ideas, troubleshoot difficulties and share information. Over the years I have belonged to a wide variety of groups: women’s business groups, Chamber of Commerce, decorative painters groups, networking groups, design groups, artists groups, etc.
I have also been part of an online Stencilers Group for probably a good ten years now. This group formed as a subgroup of a much larger online group when several of us became disenchanted with the politics of the larger group. This Stencilers Group has about twenty active members now, from all over the country. The group has evolved from avid, professional stencilers (back in the day), to a group of women who share what’s going on more in our personal lives than our work lives. I’ve met some of the members at conventions and other’s I have never met. Whether we have met or not, this wonderful group has stayed so connected throughout the years that we all know each other very well. Some members have retired, others have moved on to other types of work. Although the focus has shifted to our personal lives more than our working lives, this group remains a great resource when I’m seeking input about a work project or situation.
Now, with the presence of Facebook, I have another network of decorative painters I am “friends” with, although not friends like my Stencilers Group. This Facebook network of like minded business friends, provides me with feedback when needed, but mostly they inspire me with postings of their recent works and enlighten me with news about products, workshops and resources.
On a local level, I am a half-hearted member of a Design Salon group, which I vow to be more active with this year, and a founding member of a small group of decorative painters who try to meet every few months to share new techniques and information.
I’ve been thinking a lot about all of these groups lately because when you do not get up and go into an office each day for work, you really do need to cultivate a work family. And, unlike going into an office environment each day and interacting with the same group of people, when you work from your home, you have the advantage of choosing which members will belong to your work family. Recently, my good friend and fellow decorative painter, Chris Smith, lost her husband very unexpectedly. I reached out to our local group of decorative painters to inform them of this tragic loss and they all responded with such kind words and support for Chris. At the wake and funeral both, I saw several past and present decorative painters and designers, all who have worked with Chris over the years, there to offer support and comfort. When I read Chris’s facebook page, I saw post after post from all her fb “friends”, the same decorative painters we both interact with from all over the country, expressing their kind words of sympathy and collectively, as an extended work family, giving her a virtual hug. I’ve always known the importance of having a work family, but recently saw first hand, just how valuable this family truly can be.