I've belonged to Etsy Dallas for about four years now. Through my team - I've gained friends, gained great knowledge, and learned more about other small business owners experiences. I truly belong to the church of FIND YOUR LOCAL TEAM. I'm constantly on the recruit for it, because I believe in it so much.
While you may not be local to Dallas, I'm certain you have a local group you can belong to (or maybe NOW is the time to start your own team!). There are so many types of small business groups, so it can be hard to find one that truly fits your needs. I love Etsy Dallas so much because of the philanthropy, the inclusiveness, and that it's one of the longest running teams in Dallas.
1.) Non Profit
To me the most important thing is that the team is non profit. There are tons of teams where the membership is prohibitively expensive, and the members seem more like acquisitions than true members. Non profit also means that the team is working for YOU. I was approached by one of these groups where you are required to come to a breakfast once a month and are allowed a 30 second "ad". I don't want to sell my business to other business people, I want to talk and learn, and discuss, and even vent a little! This group seemed stuffy and not my people (though I'm absolutely sure it works for some.)
2.) Designed for your industry
While this may seem like a no brain-er, the group I was talking of before was designed for bigger companies in tons of different industries, like roofers and lawn care companies. Look for a group that is specific to your small business world. I'm assuming since you're reading this, it's also your Small Business Handmade World. Though I'm sure there is cross-over in some basic things like invoicing and marketing, our needs and perspectives are very different.
It's easy to belong to what I call "Sleepy Teams". They have a name, you pay dues, but the team doesn't seem to do much. Why waste time? Do your research before you join and see how active they are on social media, what sort (if any) classes they offer, what sort of activities they offer, etc.
4.) True Teammates
I really love my team because I feel it's "Community over Competition". There are other bath and body shops on the team other than myself. You'd think as competitive and saturated as the bath and body industry is, I wouldn't interact much with these other members. I absolutely love them. I love their perspectives, and the products they make, and I love gabbing industry with them. If you feel the team you've joined encourages competition over community, you might want to keep looking. To me, it's competitive enough out there, and it's good to nurture your local family.
The Last thing -
If you've found a team you really like after doing the research, be sure to invest in it! I don't mean money, of course, I mean your TIME. The saddest thing is meeting members at the beginning of the year, and then never seeing them again. They are missing out on so much! Be sure to volunteer, go to the meet ups, attend the classes, and participate in the discussions. The value is truly beyond measure.
Happy Team Hunting friends!