The secret sauce to building communities
As I previously wrote about a month ago, since getting on Clubhouse I've been able to start organizing and providing value to the Florida entrepreneur community. It's a vibrant and growing community, too. In my opinion, it already rivals Silicon Valley/Alley in so many ways, including on the diversity and inclusion front, which, I think will ultimately be incredibly beneficial long-term. I could gush forever about how awesome the Florida Entrepreneurs community is but, for today's 10x10 writing challenge post, I want to talk a bit about something I've been doing that I've found to be extremely helpful in building this community.
I feel like community building has become a lost art form. This is something I even struggled with until recently. I used to think I'd need to keep building and building until I eventually had the community I wanted, but the truth is, it doesn't work that way. As it turns out, in order to build a real, vibrant, healthy community the secret is actually a lot simpler. You ready for it?
Just show up.
What I've learned about community building
In the past two and a half months, I feel like I've finally realized the best ways to build communities. I'm seeing the success of it first-hand. The Florida Entrepreneurs Club on Clubhouse has well over 300 members/followers in just a few short weeks. We're hosting rooms multiple times per week and expanding our footprint across the state. My goal with FLEC (Florida Entrepreneurs Club [this link has 20+ invites for Clubhouse. Update: they're gone!]) has always been to act a bridge between what's going on down here in South Florida and further up north in Tampa Bay, Orlando, Gainesville, and Jacksonville.
But how did we get here?
The hardest part of starting a community is finding the courage to actually go do it. For me, it was the fact I had literally nothing to lose. I moved down to Boca Raton from NYC back in June and I knew no one. From June to mid-January when I finally got a Clubhouse invite, I was languishing. I had no way into the Florida tech/entrepreneur community. There were no meet ups or gatherings happening due to COVID so Clubhouse was ground breaking for me.
In just a few short days, I was realizing the power of the app to connect people, so I decided to reach out to an early contact of mine that I had met on Clubhouse a few days prior: Nicholas Mohnacky. I straight up asked him: do you want to start a Florida entrepreneurs room/club with me? His excitement was palpable and so off we went.
How we've fueled our communities growth
Nick and I are both startup guys, we recognized that we needed to run this club like a startup. Move fast, iterate, and take lots of notes for learnings. To practice what we preach, we asked Miriam Dorsett and Michelle Bakels, two incredible women to help us with our mission and being the awesome people they are, they agreed. One thing I noticed early on is to build a great community, you need to have great roots. You need to have people that are smart, thoughtful, and passionate. These people are the roots of your community, they help add value throughout and that's truly an immeasurable metric to try and track. When you identify people like this, hold on to them, keep them around.
When we hosted our first room on Clubhouse, I'll be honest, I wasn't sure who would show up. I was nervous. Nick and I had invited some people, but there's never any guarantee they'll show up. What if we bombed? What if it was just me, Nick, Miriam, and Michelle? Then I realized: so what? What if it's freakin' awesome!
Spoiler alert: it was freakin' awesome! And the turn out was great too.
That line of thinking changed me forever. I'm doing this because it's something I enjoy and I want to provide value to the community. When Nick and I started this, we didn't go into it trying to make money – only add value to the community. And I think that's what separates our community from others. We're not naive though, we know money is important and the way we've built the community is so that it can feed off what Nick and I are building down here in sunny South Florida.
I'm here, building the TechCrunch of Florida and the club allows me to find and connect with incredible founder's down here, who by the way, are building amazing businesses. I'll be covering so many more in the coming weeks and months! Meanwhile, Nick is building his incredible company, BundleIQ which is a phenomenal tool for all entrepreneurs.
Key community building takeaways
Just show up – If you think there's a void or an underserved space, build a community around it. For me, it was the fact that all these startups being built down here need press and I think it's a tremendous way to add value to the community. Bottom line: offer more value and help than you ever expect to get back.
Be inclusive – Being inclusive is so powerful. Lots of people talk about it, but I love that we're actually practicing it. Our rooms are frequented by such a diverse, incredible group of people. In fact, we've definitely met new people each and every room we've hosted. That's incredible!
Be consistent – We kept our M/W/F schedule since the beginning of time and I think that's been very helpful. People will fill the time with something else if you're not consistent.
Move fast and iterate – Nick and I have been moving so fast! We just launched this 10x10 writing challenge in a matter of a few days. We're in the midsts of planning a trip to Miami in early April to meet up with people down there and further strengthen the community. When we have good ideas, we run with them. I've found running with ideas and building the airplane while falling from the sky to be a very effective and efficient approach (maybe that's because we're still relatively small scale, I guess we'll find out with time).
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