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With Candice Ammori

Building Authentic and Fruitful Relationships as a Climate Entrepreneur

Successful entrepreneurship is largely a relationship game, so it’s vital to foster connections with people who will support you as you grow your business. Yet many entrepreneurs struggle to build meaningful relationships within their community. When everyone’s short on time, how can you cultivate and strengthen your friendships? And how can you harness your connections for your business - be it in sales, funding, or partnerships - without taking advantage of other people?

Candice Ammori is CEO of Climate Vine, a collaborative community for climate entrepreneurs, investors, and practitioners. We sat down with her to discuss tips on forging authentic relationships, how having other people in your corner can open up opportunities, and how to ask for help from others in your community.

Transactional vs non-transactional relationships

There are two different approaches when building relationships, and they generate very different outcomes. The first is transactional, meaning you’re deliberately entering into it with an outcome in mind and see the other person as a means to an end. While you might be able to leverage this relationship to get you closer to your goals in the short term, you’re not setting yourself up for long term relationships or success this way.

On the other hand, a non-transactional relationship may never deliver tangible advantages, but it will always be genuine, mutually supportive, and bring you joy. While the other person might someday be able to help you, you aren’t going into the relationship with that outcome in mind.

How to cultivate non-transactional relationships

1. Have clear intentions

Don’t approach people with an ulterior motive or expect a pay-off from the relationship - speak to people with the sole intention of building a genuine connection.

2. Be open and authentic

One way you can start growing your community and attracting like-minded people is by being more publicly open about your values. Many entrepreneurs often keep this side of themselves hidden, but people will gravitate towards you if you’re authentic and genuine about what matters to you. Similarly, don’t try to build a relationship with anyone whose values you don’t respect - this will only make you respect yourself less.

3. Build the relationship slowly and casually

Everyone in the startup space is incredibly busy, but developing worthwhile relationships doesn’t have to be another mammoth task on your plate. Small, low effort gestures - such as emailing someone an article they might be interested in or texting them that you’re thinking of them - go a long way towards building a relationship with depth. And, if there’s something you’ve always admired about someone in your network, tell them what it is when it comes up - they’ll be grateful that you shared.

4. Don’t talk behind people’s backs

Don’t speak poorly about people - the chances are it’ll get back to them. If you do find yourself thinking poorly about someone or something they did, it’s time to have a candid conversation with them to understand if it was just a misunderstanding or if you’d want to rethink the depth of your friendship.

5. Be personable

Without going overboard, share details about your personal life, and ask people non-invasive questions about theirs so they can reciprocate. Seeing each other as full people with lives outside of work will make your relationship more authentic, and help them trust that you aren’t trying to leverage the relationship for your own personal gain.

How to harness your relationships for help

1. Build their confidence in you first

Early on in the relationship, the other person has little evidence to go on. If you ask them for a favor - say, to introduce them to an investor - too soon, they might be worried that you’ll fumble it, putting their reputation at risk. Instead, start small - ask them for advice, or if they can help you brainstorm. Letting them see you navigate challenges and overcome adversity in your work will help them build confidence that you’re competent, smart, and value-driven, and then they’ll be offering and excited to connect you with whoever makes sense.

2. Be shameless and direct when asking for help

Don’t assume that you’re burdening people when you ask them for help. The people you’ve built a strong relationship with will be delighted to see you win, because that’s what a genuine friendship looks like. Don’t shy away from being vulnerable, but be direct at the same time. Share with them a concrete action that they can take to help you move forward.

3. Do the legwork for them

The worst thing you can do is ask for help and then sit back and expect the other person to handle everything. Do everything you can to make it as smooth as possible for them. For example, if you’re asking for an intro, write a blurb that they can forward on in the same email as your request, so all they have to do is click one button. Make sure the email is written in your voice and don’t ghostwrite emails as if it’s in their voice - no one wants that. And extra points if, in your forwardable blurb, you give the receiver of the intro the option to either meet with you on a brief call or to send them questions they can answer asynchronously.

Candice is the founder and CEO of Climate Vine. Before that, she …was the founding Director of the On Deck Climate Tech Fellowship which brought together 650+ people across the climate ecosystem in multiple cohorts. Fellows raised a combined $350M+ in venture funding, more than two dozen companies emerged, and hundreds of emerging contributors transitioned to the climate innovation space. Candice's methodology for Climate Vine brings together her 10 years of experience and learnings in collaborative strategy. She maintains deep vertical knowledge as an active investor and advisor to emerging climate tech companies. Candice holds degrees in environmental policy and business and an MS in biostatistics, focused on the ethics of AI, from the University of Michigan. She has lived and worked globally in microfinance, business and tech in places ranging from Cambodia to Singapore and London.


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