Last week I returned from North America after a month or so scouting out opportunities for my business. I spent a fair amount of time in New York and I have one big piece of advice for you all: get over there!

Business people and entrepreneurs are rolling up their sleeves and getting things done. New York is an electric place and there’s a real buzz about the economy in the US. Partly I think it’s that so many people are so sick of politics that they’re saying ‘enough’s enough, let’s just get on with it!’.

While I was there I also attended The Stevie Awards for Women in Business presentation night. I was nominated in four categories and I’m very proud to say I picked up a gold, two silvers, and one bronze award on the night. The gold award was in the category of Most Innovative Woman of the Year (Advertising, Marketing & Public Relations) and it was great recognition for the work my team at Bendalls has done in creating and building The Female Social Network.

The Stevies is an international awards program recognising excellence among female entrepreneurs and executives. As such, I was lucky enough to be in the company of some incredible women from around the world doing brilliant things in business. It was both inspiring and humbling to be in such fantastic company.

A few of these entrepreneurs really stood out for me as exemplifying the very best of what it means to be a woman running a small business. One of these was Michelle Visco Bauyon, who took out the gold prize in the category of Female Entrepreneur of the Year (Business Products – 10 or Less Employees).

She leads a company called the Alpha Enterprise, which specialises in water chlorine import and manufacture in the Philippines. I received a silver award in this category, but being a runner-up to someone like Michelle is truly an honour. Safe drinking water is not always guaranteed in the Philippines and the aim of Michelle’s company is to be the number one provider of water hygiene and disinfection solutions in the country.

Water chlorination is an area I know absolutely nothing about! But Michelle’s is the classic small business story: identify a problem you can solve for your customers and provide a great solution. That’s what small businesses and entrepreneurs try to do every day.

It was a rewarding experience hearing female entrepreneurs from around the world tell their stories and talk about their experiences. For that alone, it was worth going to the awards. It was a nice bonus to pick up a few gongs too!

As I mentioned earlier, if you get a chance to go to New York, do so. People there want to do business and they want to hear about your ideas. They’ll also quickly tell you whether an idea is for them or not. They cut to the chase. But it doesn’t have to be New York.

Maybe your company is better suited to finding an opportunity in London, Paris, Dubai, Bangalore, Beijing or Tokyo. What I’m saying is that we have fantastic small businesses in Australia, but it’s a small pond.

If you want to grow, you need to look beyond into the big, wide world of opportunity. Digital technology and the internet have made it possible to operate a successful small business at global scale. Make the most of that opportunity.

Fi Bendall

Fi is Westpac / AFR 2015 100 Women of Influence, described by CEO Magazine as the CEO's Secret Weapon she is one of Australia's most respected thought leaders in the digital space. As an expert and pioneer in digital strategy and with over 23 years experience in the digital / tech sector over three continents, Europe, USA and Oceania; Fi has a depth of understanding unique to Australia.

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