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by Zeina Muna, Director of Business Development, iFundWomen

I remember feeling opulent the first time I bought toilet paper and other household items on my smartphone. It seemed ridiculous that something as small and easily accessible as dental floss could be ordered online and arrive 2 days later with free shipping. Fast forward to today, and you can now ask a voice-controlled speaker to re-order your toothpaste on-demand. It seems everything in the world is becoming virtual - you can even get birth control or talk to a therapist online.

But there is a dark side to living virtually - screen time is an undeniable issue in today's society and people are feeling isolated, alone and disconnected from one another.

In my role as Director of Business Development at iFundWomen, I speak to budding entrepreneurs every single day about their business concepts. Most of the products and services being created today have a common need state that they are tailoring to - people want to connect with other people. Just this month I've seen ideas for a pop-up space to play board games, a bar without alcohol, and a number of female co-working spaces for independent workers.

Moreso, there is a significant swell in online communities which host IRL (in real life) events and workshops. If you are a woman living in NYC right now, you are probably a member of Ladies Get Paid (a group focused on salary negotiation and professional development for women), HEYMAMA (a group for working mothers) or Freelancing Females (the name says it all).

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With these online communities, you can find your tribe online and then meet a room full of strangers and effectively trust them immediately. This is what the modern day book club looks like and the topic could be motherhood, nomadic life choices, glass ceilings, racial barriers, and the list goes on. These communities are unique because, although they are significant in size, they have mastered how to maintain an intimate feel.  Ladies Get Paid has over 15,000 members on their Slack channel alone, HEYMAMA has activation hubs in six cities, and Freelancing Females boasts over 13,000 members globally. Yet, their events are frequent and cozy enough that you can spend the evening deep in discussion with a handful of people and leave feeling like you actually made a friend.

These strangers are important. You might find yourself suddenly a mentor or a mentee and the outside perspective can help you bridge the gap in your personal and professional development. These strangers probably won't replace your best friends (or therapist), but they might turn into invaluable connections, sources for unexpected education, much needed accountability, and inspiration for growth. In our iFundWomen Slack network, you might even meet your technical co-founder or find your next social media manager.

Sarah Sommers, Olivia Owens, and Zeina Muna of iFundWomen joined by Amri Kibbler, Co-Founder of HEYMAMA

Sarah Sommers, Olivia Owens, and Zeina Muna of iFundWomen joined by Amri Kibbler, Co-Founder of HEYMAMA

The start of a new year is the perfect opportunity to reflect on what you have achieved in the last 12 months and set the stage for what you would like to achieve in the next 12. Identify the areas of personal growth that you want to explore and find the strangers to explore them with.

If you’re interested in setting some goals for the year, sign up for our Goal Setting Webinar!