Heather Doering has learned many lessons for success in her nearly 20 years as an entrepreneur, but there are two that stand out: appreciating the importance of others and the value of persistence. She has faithfully applied both lessons to her own career growth and to her desire to support other women in business.
“Owning a business today requires so much knowledge,” she says. “Having a circle of trusted colleagues that you can turn to for advice and support can mean the difference between success and failure. But finding and developing that network can be a challenge, particularly for women.”
That’s why Heather, who recently received a Royal Neighbors Nation of NeighborsSM grant, started a different kind of networking group, the IN3 Network. Founded to INspire, INform and provide INnovation to women entrepreneurs, the Detroit-based organization practices a “give to give” philosophy which Heather believes, in the long run, is more productive than the typical “give to get” mindset she has experienced in other business-building groups.
“Our meetings end with each member making an ask for help,” says Heather. “The group then commits to providing the help needed. It really keeps everyone focused on others and sets our group apart.”
It’s also why she is so appreciative of the grant awarded by Royal Neighbors. Heather recalls, “When we started, we had an amazing energy. Everyone believed in our ability to help women entrepreneurs. We had big plans! But having Royal Neighbors step in and say, ‘We believe it, too, and we’d like to help.’ gave us a sense of validation.” The grant enabled the group to build a website and begin to advertise their networking summits and lunch-and-learns.
Reflecting on her journey to the IN3 Network, Heather says, “Another important lesson I’ve learned is to never give up.” She adds, “You may end up facing a different direction than planned, but there’s value in pursuing the new path.”
Heather’s road to success began nearly two decades ago when she opened a Detroit-area chapter of a national networking group. “In the end, that company didn’t work out, but it made me realize that there is a great need for that type of support,” she explains. She then began working in direct sales through which she learned she had a gift for sales and for training other salespeople.
Before long, Heather had amassed both the skills and confidence to start her own company, Ace Strategies, a digital marketing firm that helps clients utilize web-based platforms to enhance their businesses. It was around that time that she pivoted once again, pulling all her experiences together to create the IN3 Network. “I had become a confident business owner, but I realized that I lacked certain skills that could take my business to the next level,” she says. “I also knew that I could use my knowledge and experience to help others.”
The IN3 Network took off so quickly that Heather soon set her sights on another goal: hosting a multi-day business conference for female entrepreneurs. Although the conference did not meet expectations, it brought Heather to the attention of the coordinators of Money Smart Week, a weeklong series of presentations in various cities around the country that help consumers improve their financial literacy. The Chicago-based group, which was founded by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, asked Heather to coordinate their Detroit event. It was such a success that she is in her third year of managing the annual program.
Working with Money Smart Week has given Heather the confidence to take another run at organizing a women’s business conference under the IN3 Network banner in the Fall of 2020. She continues to apply lessons learned as she plans this conference and hopes it will kick off the organization’s next wave of growth. To date, the In3 Network has connected over 1,000 women and is looking to broaden its training and education offerings to reach even more. Heather credits a core group of women involved in the network with fueling the expansion. She states, “They are so passionate about the mission and have faithfully supported our efforts.” And, she’s thankful for both the plans that she achieved…and those that did not pan out. “I’m grateful for my struggles,” she says. “They’ve propelled me to where I am today and where I see myself tomorrow. There are no barriers.”