I'm taking this moment to reflect on what has been a big week and to celebrate virtually. And in the process, hopefully inspire you with the message that you can do anything if you simply start.
When you work in a big organisation and you roll out a major initiative, there are celebratory beers in the boardroom or at the least, a round of backslapping to say: we did it. When you work on your own, you don't have that. You can work your socks off and do something huge and you turn to high five someone and find yourself left hanging. So I'm going to share my week here to give myself a virtual high five.
Back in January 2017, I set up a Facebook group for women who like walking - Glamoraks. I had no idea what I wanted it to be, but I knew that walking made me happy, and perhaps I could help make other women happy through walking. I spent the last year doing a lot to turn that fledgling idea into a potential business. You can read about that here.
This week I took a major step. I moved my Facebook group into a new home - a community network exclusive to us. Doing this was a terrifying move. I had no idea whether people would move. I had spent a year growing my Facebook group to over a thousand members and now I was going to throw a hand grenade into the mix and say: We're off!
The other bit that was terrifying was how fast this happened once I just got started. In January 2018 I spoke to some app developers about creating an app for Glamoraks. I wanted to find a way to help women find other women to go walking, hiking and adventuring with.
After getting some eye-watering estimates, I started googling: how to create an app without being a coder. I found someone who wanted to charge 4 figures who would teach you how to do this. I didn't have four figures in spare cash lying around. But that person mentioned the name of a network in passing. I googled that network - Mighty Networks - and began to investigate it. On 1 February I created the Glamoraks network on Mighty Networks. At the same time, I gave a brief to a graphic designer to create a logo and branding so that it looked more professional. On 12 February I had an intro call with one of the Mighty Networks team to find out how I should be using it.
I created the rough framework of my network and invited 10 people from the Facebook group to try it. I then tried to figure out how to use the network myself. We all learned together.
That same week I attended a weekend-long business planning course to try get clarity on what this group could be. I left still not entirely clear as it was such an unusual business model but I put a potential launch date for my new network for the beginning of June.
I started to see how people were using the network, what worked and what didn't. I invited more people in to try it out. On 27 February I discovered an absolutely jaw-droppingly amazing course from Tara Gentile who runs a Mighty Network who explained how to create a community. I devoured all 32 modules of the course in less than a week, creating my plan as I worked through each module. Having done the course, I had my aha moment. I could see how I could take a free Facebook group and turn it into a paid membership group if I just used the right strategy. (Here's hoping it's the right one....the proof will be in the pudding in a few months time).
In between all of this, I took on new and serviced existing Campfire clients, including some pretty big web copy writing projects. And my husband has been abroad for most of this period, which meant the parenting and household duties were exclusively mine.
The week commencing 12 March, I realised that I could make this launch happen much faster if I just knuckled down and created all the onboarding materials. So that's what I did. In two days I had written every policy document and created a heap of How To guides for the group. I rebuilt my website, complete with new branding, and updated all of my social media content to reflect the new branding.
I set a date for the go live launch - Tuesday 20 March. I sent out an email to my newsletter subscribers and posted in the Facebook group. Then I had to try figure out how to create a Facebook live that let me share my screen (Belive.tv in case you're wondering) - I literally did this the day the event was due to happen. I created the content I needed to share, practiced and then did it.
I ran my live Facebook event explaining why we were moving off Facebook, where we were moving to and gave them a tour of the new network. I told them they had until 13 April to move and they would get free lifetime access. Thereafter the payment plans would kick in. My reason for this: I wanted to thank my original members for sticking with me as the group changed and grew. But I also need a critical mass of people to make the network effective. Equally I need to make money from it to cover costs and frankly, to pay myself for the time I've invested in creating this. So by making it free to start with, I would get the numbers in, which means once the paywall starts, people would see that there is an active group rather than tumbleweeds - and would be more willing to pay to join.
I shared the link on several relevant Facebook groups and used other social media to drive awareness.
In 48 hours the group has grown from the 140 initial users who had been dabbling with it, to 515 at last count (it's gone up by 3 in the time I've written this post). Given it took me a year to grow the Facebook group to 1000 and it's taken just 48 hours to get to half that, I am really happy. And the comments from the people in the group make me happier still. And the fact that they are coming from all over the world is even better.
I know that this is the easy bit. There is so much more work to do to retain them, engage them, to manage to grow that number and more importantly, manage to grow it once there is a monthly fee. I need to create branded merchandise and connect with outdoor brands to get sponsorship, advertising and discounts. I need to set up an entire calendar of member events and run member interviews. I need to create my marketing plan. And I still need to finalise my legal policies. It is a gargantuan amount of work and frankly it's terrifying. The little voice of fear keeps popping up to say: who are you to do this? It's going to fail. You went too fast. You weren't ready.
But if you wait until you are ready, you will never, ever start. Like ever. You need to learn as you go. It is the best way to learn. Evolve it and change it and adapt it if necessary, but just start.
If I think about the fact that it's been just over a year since I set up the free Facebook group with nothing more than an idea. And it's been not quite two months since I discovered this new platform, the fact that it is live and has over 500 members in it who are chatting and communicating.... well that looks like success to me. My inner critic wants to rain on my parade and without any team members to say: 'Hell yeah, we did it!' it can be easy to listen to it. But I'm not going to.
I am taking this moment, right here, right now, to say: Hell yeah, you did it!
What comes hereafter is a challenge for another day.
Thanks for listening and being my virtual high five. And if you are currently sitting with an idea but aren't sure how to make it happen. Just start. The rest will follow.
If you would like to see the fruits of my endeavours, go to www.glamoraks.com and if you are a women who likes walking, please join. I would love it if you could share the link with anyone you know so that I can rapidly grow the group before the 13 April deadline.