Owning your own business can seem like a daunting endeavor. Although a high percentage of people say they would like to own a business, only 10% of the workforce actually has taken on the initiative and risk of entrepreneurship. Whether you decide to have an online or brick-and-mortar business, it undoubtedly takes courage and vision to make the leap. When you are first starting out, it can seem overwhelming because you are juggling responsibilities across many fields such as product or service development, finance, technology, customer service, marketing, communications, and product or service delivery. However, being your own boss also has many rewards and benefits that, with the right support system in place, will significantly outweigh the challenges.

I have to be honest with you: at times throughout my five years as a business owner, I wanted to give up and felt like I should “get a real job.” I have felt like I’m on a roller coaster ride of self-confidence one day and insecurity the next. As an entrepreneur, you’ve probably also noticed that your family and friends who have always had traditional jobs do not understand what you do or why you are so passionate about it. They may even question you and cause you to doubt yourself. Working by yourself can get lonely, and sometimes you feel insecure and scared about the future. Even though you have traded a safe and secure job for freedom and independence, you often experience uncertainty and doubt in your skills and your decisions. Take a deep breath right now however, and know that these feelings are a normal and natural part of entrepreneurship. It does get easier as you find your tribe of supportive people.

In the early 1900s, author Napoleon Hill noted in his research that there was an “x” factor that many successful people had in common. He observed that they met on a regular basis with like-minded individuals. He further noted that when they came together to brainstorm in a common endeavor, it was as if a “third mind” was created from their collective energy that gave them special insight. Th is type of group was vital to the success of many famous people throughout history such as C.S. Lewis, Henry Ford, J.R.R. Tolkien, Benjamin Franklin, Theodore Roosevelt, and Thomas Edison. In his book, “Th ink and Grow Rich,” Hill called this phenomenon, “masterminding.”

In working with women entrepreneurs, I’ve discovered just how important masterminding is for sustainability and success. Women are naturally drawn to connection and engagement with others, and when we embark on the entrepreneurial journey, it is especially important to have a strong support system in place such as a mastermind group.

Th e modern mastermind group has taken on many forms, and you ca n now find groups for writers, inventors, social reformers, entrepreneurs, real estate investors, and even CEOs. As you consider the many aspects and options, choose based on your personality and your needs. It is important to note that a mastermind is different from a networking group. Even though you will build business relationships and referrals naturally, the purpose of the mastermind group is to be in the collective energy of other forward-thinking entrepreneurs.

Your mastermind group is the place where you will gain insights and perspectives to take your business to the next level. Fellow members will become your advisors, your confidantes, and your friends. It is a safe place for you to share your struggles, be encouraged, and get clarity on your mission and vision. Members build trust in each other’s ability to give them objective feedback without judgment. Some members have been in business longer than you and can give you guidance and advice based on their experiences. Each meeting will leave you recharged and inspired, knowing that you absolutely can succeed as an entrepreneur. As Napoleon Hill wrote, “Your mastermind group is like having an objective board of directors, a success team, and a peer advisory group, all rolled into one.

Before joining, first visit the group that you’re interested in. A structure and purpose for each meeting is essential to success. Th e group should have a strong leader who will establish and maintain policies and procedures so the meetings are beneficial for all. Th e meeting should also include an agenda with interesting content and discussion so the group energy does not stagnate.

Consider these questions after you visit a mastermind group:

• Did I feel pressure from certain members of the group to buy something from them?

• Would I want to become friends with most of the people?

• Was everyone equally valued when they share about themselves or share their input?

• Did I feel supported and inspired?

• Are some of the members a few steps ahead of me in business?

• Did some members seem to be mostly concerned with their own agendas?

• Was the discussion engaging?

• Did members want to get to know me?

• Did there seem to be cliques within the group?

Finding the right group is like finding the perfect dress—you’ll know it when you’re in it! You’ll have the opportunity to interact with many interesting people and stretch yourself in ways you never thought possible. When you have this supportive tribe of like-minded people in your mastermind group, the possibilities can be endless.

If you live in the Pittsburgh area, I invite you to try out one of the Pittsburgh Women’s Mastermind meetings that I host. Find all the details at www.pittsburghwomensmastermind.org.

If you are not in the Pittsburgh area or would prefer to participate from the comfort of your own home, I also lead the virtual mastermind group, Momentum Mastermind. View upcoming session dates at: momentummastermind.com.

Joy is an award-winning business coach and speaker who helps women create the clarity, strategy, and mindset they need to take their business to the next level. She is the founder of Pittsburgh Women’s Mastermind for Entrepreneurs, a fast-growing and engaging group with chapters in the South Hills, Robinson, and Cranberry. Joy's programs, UPGRADE™ coaching and UPGRADE™ Virtual Mastermind, have been transformational in helping women move from stuck to success. In addition to working with her clients, Joy enjoys spending time with her husband and three teenagers including her special needs daughter, Amber, who is Joy's continual source of inspiration.