The Role of Networking in Expatriate Female Entrepreneurial Activities
The research aim was to evaluate the role of networking in expatriate female entrepreneurial (EFE) activities within Central Europe. The study reviewed existing research in the field, then analysed data using a mixed method approach from a quantitative survey and qualitative focus groups which explored:
1) EFE personal situation and business motivation;
2) business portability; network members and the support they give;
3) networking methods; and the extent networking contributes to marketing within the expatriate female entrepreneurs business.
This research was unique in its field, and highlighted the emergence of a new breed of entrepreneur: the expatriate female entrepreneur, specifically looking at the role networking plays in her entrepreneurial activities. The study addressed the issue of who the EFE is, what her business does, her motivation to network, and the drivers behind business creation whilst living as an expatriate.
The EFE is a unique type of entrepreneur; she is an idealistic sustainer, wanting to fulfil her business dream whilst maintaining a healthy work/life balance. This is made possible by being an astute business woman, with a clear vision and a business plan that is portable for possible future life-changes. She is generally aged between 31 and 50, multi-lingual, confidant, highly motivated, and a conscious and proactive networker, building her networks strategically from an early stage in business development. Although a significant proportion of EFEs have an expatriate partner, and may be regarded as trailing spouses, their motivations for business start-up indicate they are natural entrepreneurs and not entrepreneurs out of necessity (as proposed by previous researchers in the field).
The EFE’s sociability is core to her success and motivation in networking, along with a willingness to adapt and change with different locations. She builds a strong, supportive network of close family and peers to provide inspiration, motivation, emotional support, and tangible or informational resources when required. The EFE affiliates herself with several formal networks to help establish herself into the community as a serious business person. She does not shy away from male-dominated network groups, but prefers the support and solidarity given through a professional women’s network. Her strength lies in spotting niche markets that need to be met with an international yet personal touch to the business offering; this is her Unique Selling Point (USP). This personal touch is the basis of her business marketing, which relies on building up trust and respect amongst clients, fellow entrepreneurs and other network members to develop a strong recommendation and referral system.
The key factors highlighted by EFEs that affect the success of an EFE business start up are linguistic ability, having access to customers or new markets, and to utilise fully the local professional groups and support networks that are available. An EFE must utilise her networks to sell her products or services through personal promotion to generate positive referrals and recommendations. If the EFE focuses her networking efforts in these areas, she should create and maintain a successful business venture.
Future guidance that an EFE can take away from this study is for her to utilise fully the advances in technology which make it easier to set up a successful business, in any country and any language. She should draw strength, and inspiration, from the increasing number of EFEs in existence who help and support each other to succeed in the expatriate business environment.