WHEN A NEW MOM in Tacoma had complications after a pregnancy, another mom organized a meal train for her — from Southern California. They’d met not as neighbors but through a business networking group called the MOB (as in Mom-Owned Businesses) Nation.
“A lot of these women haven’t even met in person, and yet they’re showing up for each other in all these amazing ways,” says Aria Leighty, the group’s founder.
Many professional groups have managed to stay connected through the pandemic. After all, the groups tend to be full of sociable, hardworking, can-do types comfortable using technology. And the groups’ whole reason for being is helping each other succeed in business — a kind of cheerleading that’s more welcome now than ever.
As many depressing news articles have pointed out, these times have especially affected working parents. With kids at home and business-as-usual disrupted, their always-tricky juggling act of keeping parental and professional duties on track has only gotten that much harder. As has this thing called networking, which is so important but always has been so scary (and now seems all the more difficult because so many in-person events are not happening).
That makes supporting one another that much more crucial.
Leighty, a creative consultant, started the MOB Nation in 2012 as a Portland-based Facebook group that has grown to 11,000 members, mostly in the western United States. While there are paid membership levels, the Facebook group and regular meetings are open to anyone who identifies as a working mom, whatever form that takes. Membership spans a wide gamut: candlemakers, lawyers, building contractors.
Unlike many other business situations, the meetups are family-friendly. “We wanted to make it a safe space if you were tagging a kid along,” Leighty says. “In other networking situations, you might have to wait until things are ‘better’ to start showing up.”
During meetings, a speaker gives a brief talk. Then participants separate into online breakout rooms for a few minutes of speed networking. The meetings usually end with a raffle, something I admit would make me more likely to attend any kind of event.
“It’s a great time to have positive energy and feel-good time,” says Kristen David, a Seattle-based member whose company, Upleveling Your Business, teaches owners how to manage their businesses.
“You’re constantly learning from someone who’s been there, done that,” David says. “People all the time are sharing what they’re doing, what’s working for them.”
The network is all the more important at a time when small business has taken the brunt of the pandemic’s economic impact.
“Those who made more money were great about helping struggling businesses,” Leighty says. For other moms, “Their businesses might be on hold, but they’re using their resources in other ways.”
Networking groups help connect people with needs to people who can help. An out-of-work mom might work a few hours a week as a virtual assistant to an overwhelmed fellow member, for example.
“You help another person in small ways sometimes, but it can be a big leap forward for them,” David says.