I love that people think it’s so easy to build a community. Really. I’m not being sarcastic.
I love it because it means that lots of people are excited about bringing people together, and it means we still have lots of options for finding one another in this very impersonal online world we now live in. But I don’t love watching so many of them fail. And many of them do, including a few of my own attempts. And while I’m still learning what it takes to build a community, I do have some pretty good lessons learned that I’m happy to share.
As you probably know, we have been working on expanding Her Corner into other parts of the country. Most people agreed that this seemed like a logical next step – we have something that works here, let’s bring it to other markets. Hard work, but doable.
But guess what? It is turning out to be VERY hard work. Most people, and most especially women, do not have time to get to know me; I’m just one more person that they’ve never heard of. It’s even harder since I’m from out of town. Convincing all those people that I’m trustworthy, and more importantly, worthy of their time – it’s a long, hard road I’m walking down.
Nonetheless, I’ve learned a little secret to building a community. It is not to come in and take over and pretend like I care about this new place as much as I care about my own hometown – who could after all? The secret is this:
I have to have someone who’s already there. Someone who knows the people in the area. Who knows the businesses. And most importantly, someone who cares about building a community.
So my advice to you is this: Rather than trying to go in and build a community from the ground up, try to partner with other people who have already done it. Someone who is already trusted. And find a core group of supporters in that market. Not just the one community leader, but the other members who also believe in the mission and share similar values. It’s no surprise that the right team is the secret ingredient. But it’s not the only one.
Equally important is that your own heart has to be in the right place. No one, certainly not me, wants to be part of something that is built around the fame and wealth of one individual. That’s the role of a fan. When you want to have members who feel included and like they have a voice, you have to be building whatever you are building for the right reasons.
I haven’t figured it out yet, and to be honest, after a few steps forward, we – the Her Corner team and I – definitely took several steps back. We found a great team. A really great team. But the markets didn’t align. So we went back to the drawing board.
Communities are built on relationships and trust. And at the end of the day, that, like everything else, takes time.
Frederique is passionate about helping women take their businesses to the next level of growth and success. As founder and CEO of Her Corner, she applies her entrepreneurial spirit, management consulting background and business operations expertise to give women the springboard they need to move forward.