The purpose of this investigation was to gain an understanding of the use, function, and support dimensions of developmental relationships for small business apparel retailers by applying focus group data collection techniques and interpretive analysis. Data collection took place through eight focus groups with small business owners/managers in six mid-western communities. Results indicate that, indeed, networks, role models, and mentors are viewed as necessary and important mechanisms for information, support, and guidance. However, focus group participants noted a lack of access to such developmental relationships. In terms of functions performed, having a business colleague to confide in, and relate to, was of particular importance in gaining access to knowledge and support in decision-making. Gender differences in the use and perceived value of the developmental relationship were also noted. Based on the study results, four hypotheses were inductively developed and pose areas for further research investigation.


qualitative research

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