The Community Strategy Podcast: The nexus where online community strategy meets intentionality

65 of 121 episodes indexed
Back to Search - All Episodes

Episode 90: Finding happiness together in community as an entrepreneur with Laurence McCahill

by Deb Schell
October 16th 2022

Send us a Text Message.

In this episode of the

Carlos is his co founder and they founded the happy startup school about 10 years ago actually, uh with in person events in a park in London and what he said was this community building process was a lot about faith and iteration and changing and acceptance of like how this changed over time. They had launched a an in person event through meet up using meet up dot com, having meet ups and then people kept asking about how do we connect after this. And so it was based on the validation that he found working with these entrepreneurs and business owners and new startups, people or people who wanted to start. And I had an idea and want to start a business but didn't really know how and realized that all these people didn't want to sit at home alone and and do you know, creating content and doing things all by themselves, really wanted to connect with community, which is what I'm all about. And we talked a lot about how to collaborate within community.

He broke down, you know, the strategies that he used with a medium blog to build his audience as well as an email list. He really built an in person initiative first though that was how they found really true success monetarily. So they had an in person event with 100 and 50 people, they've had that just recently. So he shares about the summer camp that they just experienced uh they talk about the online community, what they're using now for the platform, how they chose that platform and kind of about, you know, what the future is for startups and just turning in on, we don't like as a startup, I don't know about you if you're a startup or if you're identify as a founder or startup or an entrepreneur or maybe a solo entrepreneur, but it's hard, it's hard work and you're doing a lot and you're trying to do it on the fly and you're trying to figure everything out and change as rapidly as possible when you're getting feedback from people. And so one of the biggest tips that he talked about was just trusting in the values that you establish.

And so some of those values for him were asking a lot of questions of themselves as founders and the members as well. Just talking about, you know, how can we put purpose in front of profits? Is it possible to do that? What does that look like and not just as a hobbyist but as a business owner? Um so many things in this episode that came up for me and I joined the happy startup school as a member over the summer time and have just been enjoying our random conversations with this. Um this one virtual call that I've been attending throughout um are my time there online in their online community as I'm in the U. S. And they're in the UK and europe. And and so it's been really interesting. One of the things that I had to learn and I'll wrap up here was just to drop my assumptions around what meeting is and what talking about a business as a founder is because honestly I showed up and just realized that we could have deeper conversations and meaningful and purposeful conversations without talking about pressing and offer and marketing and sales.

So I wanted to just shout out things tolerance and the happy startup school. We're sharing these amazing learning lessons with us today on the community strategy podcast. and there are some amazing tips in there. So I hope you enjoy it. Let's get started. Hi all and thanks for joining us again with the community strategy podcast. My name is Debbie Shell, I'm the host and on this podcast we chat with community leaders and professionals, building online communities with purpose and intention. And today I've got Lawrence now I'm gonna Lawrence Macao, that will do with me today. Tell me where you're calling in from today Lawrence. I'm calling in from Brighton in England in the UK. So just on the south coast, about an hour from London, which I'm guessing most of your listeners will know about. Yes, yes. The audience here with the community schedule podcast is kind of shifted between between the US and the UK europe audience.

So yeah, gotta mix there. Thanks for joining today. It's a privilege to be here and I'm super excited to get in and learn a little bit more about you. I've, I've been a part of the happy startup school, which you've been just celebrated. What, how many years that you've been running? The it will be 10 years this month or next month maybe I can't quote, depends on what you define as the start date, but in my eyes, it's like when we registered the domain name, so I might need to go and check exactly when that was because that's I don't know about you but the thing if I got an idea, I just register a domain name and probably years later have hundreds of domain names that never came to the see the light of day. But yeah, that was one that stuck. So Yeah, work that one Out, but it's around now, 10 years, decades, very cool. So tell us a little bit about the happy startup school and what the vision was there and how that got started, wow, well, I'd love to say we had a really strong vision of what this was going to become back then, but really at the time it was more of a, I think an idea, maybe a wish and a frustration.

Um so myself and Carlos, who's my co founder and longtime friend, we were running a web design agency around that time and we were working with a lot of entrepreneurs who wanted to bring their ideas to life and so on, that journey would help them build their website and over time we ended up developing a real niche around helping people to build online platforms and applications and that became their business. So in some ways we were helping them not just to build a website and a brand, we help them to build a business online. So we start to then, you know, craft really in not just product design development, but also in terms of startup coaching mentoring therapy, call it what you will on that journey. We we just hit a bit of a war where we realized a lot of the work, work around startups. A lot of the narrative was very much all of the same ilk I build something to grow it, to scale it and often to sell it.

And we weren't really inspired by that after working on a few of those projects. And so in some ways the happy starts school was almost a bit of a backlash against that we wanted to explore. Is there another view of entrepreneurship that put purpose before profit and looked at success in different ways? And so really that was our idea at the start was like, what would business, the world look like if we put purpose happiness impact before profit. And that was really it, that was just an idea we had and so we put that out and Well 10 years later, here we are. But you would never have imagined what we'd have done if we'd have set out maybe we would have been scared to start if we had known the path we take. Mm And I was just thinking about what is that? What does that to me? I'm thinking, okay, if you have a business that's not focused as much on profit, then is that a business or is it a hobby? Well this is it. And this is why it was never assumption, it was just a question if if anything and this is why on our programs.

Now in conversations, we often ask people like, what's your mission question rather than what's your mission statement? Because yeah, I believe that curiosity is what brings other people in and, and actually that's what works for us is like, we're trying to work this out, is this is actually an assumption that could be true. So, so yeah, we, we've always put money um, at the heart of everything we do, but it's not the most important thing. And so that's, I think one caveat, it's not just a question of like, do, I don't go down the purpose route or do a kind of prophet route. I think it's a mistake a lot of people make is they think I neither need to be a nonprofit or charity or I need to be a sort of money hungry billionaire unicorn. And that's, there's no in between the way we see it is, it's just having other forms of currency almost in terms of how we make decisions and for money not to be the sole driver of that when we're thinking about building our businesses. And how did you work with entrepreneurs in the past or was that something you were doing before you and Carlos started school or is this something that was you had previous different background that you transitioned into this?

Yeah. Well, like I said, we were helping people to more than anything built a shop front online for their businesses. So a lot of these people were were startups, more small businesses really, than typical tech startups. But as soon as we started to niche into, you know, helping people to bring their their kind of digital ideas to, like, I often the first version of prototype of an application or an app, then that's when we really started to attract more first time entrepreneurs often, and so probably for a good two or three years before we started the school, we were working with these individuals or teams to help them just explore what does this product look like and so on that journey, we learned loads on their time often. But yeah, this was their baby, this was their startup. And so in some ways we were thrown into their world, which gave us a lot of, well, a lot of challenges, but also a lot of learnings to which we then channeled into what came next. So yeah, we felt like we did our apprenticeship really over those few years where we were just understanding not just what is it people are trying to do, but like why they're trying to do it.

And that was the bit that fascinated me particularly was what made them start this business, What was it about them that connected them to this mission that they were on? And in some ways, as a designer, helping them to tell their story to the outside world, like how do we get people to care about this product, not just by it, but by into the story behind it and how do you think that um what were some success stories or is there anything that you remember from that time that really impacted you? Yeah, Well there was, I know there's a lot of situations where people didn't necessarily, I want to be prodded and probed in the way we were. So there's a lot of frustration. I think some of the clients were because they didn't employ us to be difficult or challenge them. So you can't, you don't want to be coached, right? Yeah. Constant challenge of client wanted you to do what they say and not ask questions you're like, but we can't do what we need to do without some of these, these questions. I've run into that a lot in my, in my experience with clients and I love questions.

Um, I was a background in journalism. So I've definitely asked lots of them over years and I find that they just helped so much in getting clarity right. It's that thing of, you know, at the time, the way we positioned ourselves was we weren't really sure what our true worth was or our true value. So clients would come to us picking us up against, you know, maybe a development shop in Asia and that would be like, okay, I just want to, here's a brief go build it. Give me a quote, what can you guys do versus actually maybe the brief you've written isn't really worth much because you don't really know what you're basing it on. There's a lot of assumptions you're making about this product. So in some ways we wanted to rip it up and start again, but that's not the most diplomatic way of going about it. So we try and have workshops and conversations to get people to open up and then to realize, you know, we want to build something that no one wants. We don't waste all their money on a product that maybe isn't the right product. So that was, you know, learning for us in terms of how to navigate that and how to deal with entrepreneurs and be sensitive to a vision that they've got because we can all be stubborn stubborn lot.

So you don't want to be to have ideas that we want to, we really believe in or locked into, but then have a hard time seeing all of the when people poke holes in them. Uh we're just asking, asking the, challenging the question to, you know, make things successful to make it clear to me because you know, messaging and how you speak about something is how people relate to what you're talking about. Yeah. How did you transition then to client work and then the startup school, what did that look like? Um Well it was more of an evolution really, I would say. So, you know, we started out doing web design work, then we evolved into this startup studio. So we built a process and some services around helping people to bring their first product to life. And then the happy startup school really started as a side project. So it wasn't like we just jacked in the agency and just followed that path. It was very much, you know, test and iterate an experiment on the side and we'd always wanted to build our own products.

So there was a vision both me and Carlos had, I think, to eventually take on this learning, we've had building our agency and then apply that to our own thing. So even though as an agency founder, I suppose any creative working for other clients, you're you're your own boss, but you're not, you know, you have a bit of freedom, but you kind of lose a lot of creativity and autonomy because ultimately, as we said at the beck and call of the people paying the bills. So I suppose the route for us was either we become more skilled, become more thought leaders in that space, maybe builder, bigger team, bigger office, bigger clients, you know, and grow the agency, which was a bond route and there was lots of people and friends and peers we had who took that route, but that didn't really inspire us. Like we'd have conversations with some of these people and it just didn't sell that vision to us for what we wanted for our lives or careers. So I think we struggled with it, I'd say a new vision for that business because we were 10 years in, I certainly got to the point where I wasn't really enjoying it as much as I was at the start, I was doing less creative work, more managing more um you know, more operations in some ways because a lot of projects we're working on became six months, 12 months a year long project.

So I don't know, I like to start, I like the honeymoon but at the beginning where you're getting those ideas out there and I was doing less of that and more just account management really, which wasn't really my skill set and so the happy startup school felt like a fun part of my week. It felt like more and more the thing that energized and excited me and then I go back to the client work and it felt like putting an old pair of shoes on, you know, when you get a new pair of trainers or sneakers, you feel like this is exciting and you put the old slippers back on and it didn't fit anymore. So it took a good couple of years, I would say for us to really understand what it was we were creating and to build the confidence really, to be able to, to just eventually close the agency and to, to move into this as our full time venture, which in some ways was only possible due to the community we built, which had given us that confidence, there wasn't much, we weren't there sitting in there in stealth mode. Planning this out was very much in collaboration with others, which was a big part of that.

Yeah. What did your community strategy look like? That's what I'd love to dig into. Their Do you have a lot of planning around a community strategy before you launched or brought people together? You know what I was about to say, you're making it sound like there was a strategy. Carlos wanted one. Carlos is always saying, what's the plan? Show me the plan? Um Carlos, by his own admission, loves loves control. He's a scientist by background, you know, he's he's, his skill set is not just, but you know, there's a big part of him that is good in structure and so for me, I was really following my gut with this and my feeling and intuition around this is something that could be our future, then, you know, something we can devote our time to. So I would say it was a strategy, but I would say there was a faith faith in terms of, You know, we're getting more response from this within a few months of doing it than we had done in 10 years of running an agency. You know, just the level of feedback and this, I guess just the depth of the depth of response was, you know, this is what we maybe could be doing and when you're doing creative work a lot of time, the feedback you get is something's wrong, you know, fix this change.

This is very, very rarely get praise or any sort of really positive. It's not true. You probably get some. But um yeah, I certainly felt like, yeah, the second that you second that you like, you spend, you know, months on, on a website and your marketing and all these things and then you're like launch day, Yea, celebrate, put it out there and then there's 17 people that are like, hey, you have something spelled wrong on your website. Hey, this link doesn't work. Hey, I think you should do 17 others. Do you have an email list yet? Do you have your social media following? No, we just started, you know, shut up, do your own business and then talk to me after you've done all the work. But people love, love to just dig in and be like, here do this. Um which is frustrating as a startup. Yeah. And also because we were building eventually a lot more complex systems that there was no code underlying.

It was software and so that was on another level whereby wasn't just a typo on the website, it was like if something's wrong with the code, then it could just throw out the whole app. And so the level of responsibility that came with that work became greater and greater and so that was the source of stress and anxiety, sleepless nights because you're thinking, God we're learning was doing this work, you know, and technology is changing all the time and so you know that I think and, and we were working with entrepreneurs who this is their baby, this is there, you know, the kind of thing they're living for and so they expect you to pick up the phone on saturday and fix something because if you don't then what they're going to do for the next few days they're gonna stress out. So yeah, that, that was not, I would say a path that we could have bought for many years because yeah, that takes an awful lot of commitment to that. Yeah, the tech stack, where, where did you start with your community? Did you start with muddy on in the beginning? No, so we're on mighty networks now. Yeah.

But um, no beginning it was, it was more in person to be honest. We didn't really, I mean this is like what, 2012. So we actually started on meet up. So we, in some ways meet up, I would say was our, our test bed really, we started a meet up group in London, you know, the great thing about meet up certainly then was it was pretty popular. So a lot of people in London were on it, we offered something different, there was a lot of tech start up meet up groups, there was a lot of coding groups and design groups, but there was nothing that brought all of these things together and a bit of social entrepreneurship to it, so we, you know, we have people sign up, we could see who was signing up, we could ask them the question, we could get some information that way from them, and so we just start to run some regular monthly meetups and then that, you know, in person on the ground was a way to slowly build that community and naturally at the end of those meetups people, so how do we stay in touch, how do we stay connected? And so we could see that there was a need there rather than us building out a strategy of this is how this is gonna work, We were very much reacting to what we were hearing because we never set out to create community, it was very much following that thread, following that idea and yeah, just a bit of serendipity, a bit of a meeting of needs, let's say that they're kind of connected us to that community, um meet up is such a interesting um way to, I think it's such a great way to, to just start and connect people with one common thread and then um building those relationships, is that how you kind of, it sounds like from what you're explaining is that's how you kind of, did you know, conversationally ideal member interviews, figuring out who your ideal members were and who I was going to be the right fit for the community that you wanted to create.

That kind of remember one of the things that um I remember reaching out to a few of the people that signed up to the group and just said do you fancy a chat and so would have a call with them just to understand like what was it about the group that you like the look of? Because obviously have a description and there's, you know, that was all just amazingly valuable feedback for me to know what resonated with them about this, you know, was it just a random time you said startup or I'm new in London, I just want to meet some new people or was there something more whereby your message, your mission sounded really interesting and so those conversations really helped and so yeah, those meetups were like one big focus group in some ways to understand what some people's mind, like what challenges are people facing? Like what talks to people find interesting and just who are they like who are these people like are they start ups? Are they designers, are they developers, are they people who work in corporate? And it turned out it was all of those people, there was this real mix of people from different, you know, different points in their entrepreneurial journey, but also just different jobs and careers, so it wasn't just they're all entrepreneurs looking to find purpose.

For example, it was people who love the ethos, who actually that attracted people from, like I said, people who work in corporate, you want to learn about how to bring more purpose and meaning to those environments or people who work in schools who might be a teacher who are curious about well being and how we can apply that to education. So that almost was like a little microcosm of the community we put today, which is this melting pot of people and ideas all connected around a common set of values, I would say. And then mindset around work in life. Yeah, so, so interesting and for everybody who is listening to the episode, just a scoop for you, that David Siegel, the ceo of meet up is going to be episode 100. Um so I'm super excited uh that David has decided to speak on the community strategy podcast. So uh the the community that you've built, you have, I don't know, a couple of 100 members I think right now.

Um what was the transition like from like meeting up online or sorry, in person to transitioning it to an online community? What did that look like? Uh well, it was very much born out of our summer camp event which we run annually, so that we did the first one in 2013, so we'd run meetups for a few months and then we had this desire really just to put on a day event. So rather than just a couple of hours in the evening, we put on our first summer account, which was just a day in London in Hyde Park, um and off the back of that again, the same questions, how do we stay in touch? And so we create a facebook group at the time, which was a simple way to just keep that community connected. And then the following year we did our first weekend, some account which was three days we had 100 and 50 people come for that. And that was really when everything changed, I would say, we closed the agency six months afterwards, we ran our first leadership retreat after that. We start the online community, so did our first online course, so that was almost the catalyst for everything else.

So the people that were kind of coming consistently to the meet up, we're kind of the pool with who came to your summer camp, Is that partly? But also we were blogging at the time. So we started to build a following on medium medium must say, bizarre other channel to reach people and meet up was great for, you know, in person contact specifically to London and Brighton where we eventually moved to. But the beauty about blogging or podcasting as you know, is you can reach anyone Anyway, and so we had this kind of parallel community is really, really global community building online. And we had a local community building on the ground. And so some of the people who came from some account came from overseas, which surprised us in some ways that they felt they knew us well enough, trusted us well enough to jump on a plane and come to this crazy day in London. But at the same time we didn't sort of push against that because we were just really curious like what, what are they, what they're not finding where they are, that they find here.

And so that again, made us think, well, there's definitely something here, if someone's willing to trust us enough to jump on a plane to come and hang out with us for a day. And so that's where this online community came in more was, again, how do we bring these different people together? Both people on the ground and people who've met online. Yeah. What was your experience with just developing these relationships? And um did you build a social media channel? Um as you were growing at the same time? Um was it a multi day where you're doing email lists? There's some people that are going to listen to the episode be like, were you doing all the things I think email building our email list was probably one of the most fundamental things we did from the start and so meetups. Great, but you don't have access to people's email in some ways. I wish we'd been a bit more so diligent about how we did that. Yeah, especially when we did meet up to try and get people's emails. So but we did try and direct people to our email newsletter and so we offered free e books and things and you know, um discounts on the events and yeah, we start to grow that quite quickly.

So we start to go from like a few 100 to a few 1000. And so that really became where we talked to people how we communicated. But then on the back of that medium start to take off and we start to see a lot more traffic on medium than we did on our own blog. And so in some ways I wouldn't say that was a bad decision. But now looking back now media has changed the algorithm like with any social media channel in some ways you're then tied to them. But then when they changed the algorithm, you don't get the same response that you did before. And so we've got something like 100 and 20,000 followers on medium. We used to get tons of traffic whereas now, you know, it's like talking to an empty room and that's the trouble with some of these platforms. So yeah, I would say our email list still is how we basically communicates in most of our community. And then that's the bit I find challenging. But this is my community is a couple of 100 but we've probably had like 5000 come through our programs. We've had, I don't know, probably almost 1000 come through our summer camp.

So there's all these like sub communities of of the happy startup school, we've got a facebook group with 500 in it, which is our summer camp alumni, we've got God knows how many WhatsApp groups of all the different cohorts and programs and retreats. We've run With maybe 20, people in each one that many of them are still active. So I'll go with Mighty Networks just to bring it all together, but it hasn't actually materialized like that. It turns out it's actually just a specific group of people who have a need to stay connected in this way online or regularly. Whereas a lot of the other groups are really those who had shared experiences and they've had a connection at a specific time and place and so that's allowed them to build that connection and be quite happy with that group that they have rather than feel the need to connect with the wider community or other people who they may have not shared an experience with. So that's been an interesting learning for us. Yeah. And what brought you to Mighty um well we tried almost everything else at the time.

So we tried facebook groups, we tried slack um there wasn't the the choice that there is now I would say in terms of community platforms, mighty Network was one of the first remember when it was mighty, I think. Yeah, yeah, so I liked the vision for it. I liked the fact that it was bringing everything together in one place, particularly with us doing in person events, online events courses. And so the idea that this was a place where you know, and even we had like at this point, years of resources and videos and so this archive of stuff and so it seems appealing to be able to just say here it all is everything in one place which obviously comes with challenges because it's less focused than maybe some platforms. But for us it was just the best at the time for what we could find for what we needed, what's your experience now with the platform and um, you know, there's constantly new features coming and they have live streaming now and all of these other um, changes that are happening, where your, where your thoughts at, you're gonna stick stick with me or because you know, I think the live streaming thing, we didn't really experiment with much, but I think there's a temptation with any platform we found this years ago is the temptation to just try and build one thing that fixes every problem.

And so we used to be there and on the receiving end of this when the client says, yeah, I'm frustrated with being using this for that and this for that. I just want to create one thing that brings it all together. Um, I think the challenge with that is, you know, we use crowd cars for our live podcasts and it works really well and we get really good engagement on there. We assume we use male chimp, we use mighty networks, you know, that can be annoying for a lot of people to have all these different apps out there. But in some ways trying to replace it all with one thing is difficult. So I kind of mighty networks almost as assignment in some ways for for us for a lot of things we do to be able to say look with the crowd cast, go check it outside there. Um, so we have to use some of the features like live video and things like that in the same way. Um, but I said that the things that is good for is particularly courses that we hosted our programs on there and we tried other platforms from that and we found it to be a, a good way to do that. Some of them have just been too complex for what we need the course, building platforms, talking about.

Exactly, yeah, we use teachable and try some others before. So, so yeah, that's useful to have the courses all in one place and I could see that being more of where we focus on the future is being able to create more mini courses and to be able to create those are mighty networks and not have them spread all around the internet. Yeah. So I know your community is paid, you have a paid membership and then you have courses that are an additional payment or programs that you have that are additionally charged. And that's kind of how you've been um able to be profitable and successful in continuing in the community building space. Right? Yeah. So a few years ago our vision was more to do the in person events because we love doing those but they're really hard to build a successful business around a sustainable business because the margins are so tight and events are unpredictable. But so then our vision I would say was to create more of a scalable community where we could get a lot more members paying a little bit and again, harnessing this global community that we built, I think the challenge with that for us was what is it, what is it we're trying to sell like what's the problem we're trying to solve and that we found given the diversity of our audience as I said before, makes it difficult because we have people have been running businesses for 10 years.

We've got people who are starting out, we've got people who aren't even starting a business but want to learn about this stuff. So what we found was actually if we can have a place where we can bring all this stuff together and then create more separate paid courses where we solve a specific problem. So whether it's our vision program where we help people get clarity on their what we call the Excite Strategy or our pricing course where we help people to be more comfortable pricing, they're worth these are more specific pain points that we can help people with and actually we can still build community around those things because they're all cohort based, but everyone's coming to the same entry point and everyone's got the same need and that in our eyes is not something, you know, in the past would have thought, well, you know, we just throw that into the membership we've actually found particularly for more challenging problems that sale complex problems to have cohort based programs with a start and an end has really helped to both help us build a business around it. But also help the people, we can help have more more attention from us really is guides and mentors.

Yeah, I think it's hard to do a membership uh monthly membership program because you're constantly having to to support those people versus a standard program where it's like six weeks or eight weeks, you know, it's beginning to end. And then you could have breaks between for reviewing and kind of gaining insights from your your experience, right? Um but you you do have, so I'm in the in the membership part of it and there's the only call that I really can make because of the timing is the the Soul Soul Cafe, which is a really interesting experience completely, not what I was expecting when I first joined, but I've been loving those conversations was your vision for um, the membership community component. Well, that's interesting. The interesting thing about it is in some ways it's been about letting go of a vision for it. So in the past we've always tried to force it and tried, you know, because it came off the back of the community, it wasn't something we said, let's let's go start an online community, it was very much like we want this, we need this.

And so it felt like a responsibility, We had to create a space for people to stay connected because some people wanted that by trying to make that the main thing, as in the main revenue generator for the business, I think that was the mistake we made because like you said, it's a challenging business model and it's not to say it's impossible, but for us it was a challenging one. So then we were trying to create an artificial learning journey, for example, that people could go on, so when they join, you know, they can sort of get resources and tools and things that can help them move forward. Um what we've actually found is creating space for others to step in. I sold cafe is a great example of that. David Pepper who came to summer camp a few years ago and then shared this vision that he wants to collaborate with us around. I think he wanted to call it. Soul works at the time, so helping founders and entrepreneurs explore their spiritual side and actually explores overlap between spirituality and entrepreneurship. So the more you end of what we do, let's say.

Um and so that Soul Cafe started out as a group for that space and became a regular bi monthly event where, you know, we get to discuss some of the bigger questions that we might be facing in a safe, friendly space. And so that really became something that's stuck and we've seen this again with other things like Francis and Simon who are community members, they run a marketing session every month. And so creating space for others to step in by us stepping out has been really interesting to see happen. And that's one thing we see at our events like summer camp, I mean aren't front and center, we have a host, we have other people come, we give other people a platform to shine. Same with our retreat altitude. We, you know, we don't really bring in any external speakers or workshop leaders. The group creates the content and we just facilitate that and host that and when necessary or when it's needed. Well stuff in to offer our advice and knowledge. So that's kind of what we do with it just to see how it's evolved over the online space has been interesting because we were almost trying to take a different tact of we should be doing it this way.

We're doing it wrong when actually maybe just doing the way we do it is fine as long as we see it as as we said, not the main um revenue generator for the business because yeah, as we found, if you got a leaky bucket, like it, if you got leaky bucket, there's no point bringing more, bringing more water into it. And so that's what we found is because we weren't really clear about what it was, the turn would be higher. And so that made it more difficult to get to make it sustainable just as our main thing really. Yeah, you just had us, you just had a summer camp last month. Yes, it was almost four weeks ago. Yeah. How was that? Tell me a little bit about that. Um I mean it was amazing and exhausting in equal measure, I would say. So we haven't done one for three years because of covid. So in some ways it's been, I'd say it was a really good thing to have that break because we've been doing it nonstop for 78 years. So like anything if you take a step back, have a chance to reflect and reassess, then you come back to it with fresh eyes.

So I would say, I mean a lot of people said it was our best one because a I think people just very grateful for it because you know, two years ago we never knew when we'd be able to do this kind of thing. Again, people really enjoying the richness of just being in person, in nature outdoors, just being able to spend time together. And a lot of people who'd met online to so many of the people who part of the community or done our programs over the last couple of years know each other really well but never met in person. So that was really lovely to see as well as all the people who maybe have been before who were just reconnecting with this experience. So yeah, it was, it felt like the most, well, I'd say the one with the most depth, most emotion in some ways because for a lot of people this is the first time they've been able to do something for themselves for so long. Um but yeah, I found the build up quite quite tiring because there's so many things that I've just forgotten or because you have done it for so long, you just out of the habit and so you know, everything just took more energy and effort and we wanted it to be amazing because we set a really high bar for ourselves.

So that yeah, I'd say me Carlos probably last week was the first week we kind of could breathe again after after some account because yeah, you just realized what you're holding and then when it's finished a lot of relief, I would say first and foremost that we report it off and excited again about doing it next year now. It's fresh in the memory. Yeah, super exciting. And how many people are at that 150. So we don't have any more than that. Yeah, deliberately I think it's Dunbar's number social anthropologists. But yeah, we found any more than that. It just becomes too many. It's just the perfect size group for the experience we create. So we only sell 100 tickets 50 and then there's 50 of the 150 are the crew volunteers and all the speakers and workshop leaders and activity leaders. So we, we look for people that want to stay for the whole weekend. So every speaker stays for the whole three days, which makes it really special. And I love that you were talking earlier about community led events and community led initiatives because I think, you know, community members, uh, elevating them, you are are giving them a voice, which is what community is all about, is allowing people to be seeing valued and heard.

And um, just that, that, um, ability to see that um, is a really great asset for, for you to just say, oh, you know, let's let's empower these people. And um, that's what I get, I get. I get a buzz off that more than I do. You know, for example, like giving talks like we had three talks each day and three of those were were people from the community and for some people, they were the most powerful stories because you know, one guy chris came to the first summer count like 89 years ago, really quiet shy, came the second year and it was only after about two or three years, he actually decided to start his own business and now he's up there talking about this brewery that he's built and it was just a nice message for those that have come before me for the first time to say a don't beat yourself up if you haven't changed the world by Monday morning. But I also understand that this stuff takes time to percolate and so you might get some inspiration, some ideas, but maybe the time is not right now and go easy on yourself.

And I think a lot of people, all of us are guilty of wanting to do more and feeling like we should be doing more. But actually some things just take time to happen. Yes. Being patient is the hardest part just doing the work. We're talking about marketing actions. And I know you wrote a little just recently, I saw this morning in the community that you posted about a little book that you wrote based on some posts that you did on linkedin. Um, can you tell us a little bit about that real quick. Yeah. So the funny thing is I actually wrote in the forward for that little book was I have been trying to write, I would say in the book because that's the way I've kind of framed it, which has meant it's become this Yeah, Rod from my own back, basically I've always wanted to write a book, have a physical thing, you know, just because I've made everything online or an event and just kind of disappears after you've made it to have a thing. It's a big thing for me, a couple books behind me, but I've ended up making it to bigger things. So what I found really is was just writing small microblogs, let's call it on linkedin.

And it's one of the things we get people on our program to do. We have a content challenge. We get people to write something small each day. And in some ways just get out of the head and start working out loud as we say. So that's something I took on my own at the end of last year and did 100 day challenge on linkedin to just write something small each day. I built this habit basically, we're within 20 minutes, I can just Get something up then if it's not done in 20 minutes, I'll just post it anyway. And so it's less about when it's done. It's more about the 20 minutes are up to something building the habit muscle. Exactly, and hitting published, that's the key thing, you know, not having the fear and the fear sort of tends to dissipate the more you do it. And so that's one thing and then also understanding that Some of the things you thought were amazing, other people don't really connect with some of the things that took you one minute, get hundreds of likes, other things that, you know, took you hours to get less. So you almost learned to detach yourself from from the success or failure of anything you put out.

And so yeah, I got to, I think April and then just went through what I'd written and put the best 50 of those into a little League book, which hilariously I did nothing with until a few days ago when someone in one of our groups actually an event we did last week, a little meet up going full circle and we were talking about the fear of hitting published and lots of people talking about all these posts they've got sitting in their draft or a podcast that they've got sitting in a draft because they're scared of it might be the best one, but it's never seen the light of day. And so I was helping them and they're realizing actually I've done this little book that I actually put out there, I can't talk. So that inspired me then to just do the same and share that with people and then just let it go. Like don't get too wound up about the response. Yeah. And don't linger with with what everybody else thinks about it. Like your, you put your words out in the world and they're out there now. So it actually feels very cathartic.

It just felt like a release, you know, like the closing ritual that's done and now I can move on to the actual book now. What's the book gonna be about? Well, that's my biggest problem really is I I'm really good. Normally like having a vision for something and, and then it just falls into place. I think the challenge with this is I've always tried to take a lot of the things I've written the past and build a book around that. So in some ways I would say it's it's our philosophy, it's, you know, about being a happy entrepreneur, building a happy startup, building a happy business. What does that look like? How do you do it? And what does it look like? How do you do it? Give me the Secret source. Okay. I did a blinking version in like 30 seconds. It's interesting cause I had a call with one of my groups today. I'd say one of the biggest things is a is courage. Courage is in short supply for a lot of us were so worried about what other people think. We're worried about our own inner critic like me with the book, but, you know, having the courage to just maybe walk a different path and that is expected of us.

So, it's really about courage, alignment. I would say about, you know, aligning what makes you happy with what makes you money and what makes an impact in the world. We might know those things. Yeah, and it's about balance, you know, it was Mahatma Gandhi who said, happiness is what we say, what we think, what we do in harmony. And so that's one of the things I see with a lot of people we work with and I've struggled with in the past is how do you walk the walk? How do you, you know, work with clients you really want to work with and do the work you really want to do and make the impact you really want to make. And I think that comes down to a courage, the community and and be confident in yourself and your ideas and not worry too much about the future, because uncertainty is everywhere, but we never really understand that until it hits us in the face. So, yeah, trying to trust that you'll be okay, even if things don't work out. Do you think that having a partner was a game changer for you in this journey that you've had?

Yeah. And, and to be honest, I don't know it any different? Well, I say that I was freelance for five years before me and Carlos set out in business together. I definitely got to a point where I was feeling a bit isolated with it and it wasn't fun anymore. It was just me, you know, with my clients. So yeah, I on one hand I would say, you know, having a business partner is the best thing you can do. But on the other hand, I know how difficult it is to find a really good business partner, like a life partner, the more you want to, the more elusive it becomes. So in some ways our community is really a community of a lot of solo solo preneurs, you know, companies have one or creatives or coaches or consultants who maybe don't have that business partner and crave that connection. And so I think that's what we found is you can find that support in other ways, you don't have to have a business partner, you can collaborate with others who share your values and that that trust can still be there. And so in some ways that's what I think our community is therefore it is to give people other playmates to support them or to help them with the things they're not good at or to hold them to account if they are really bad at doing it themselves, which we all are and to be that, you know supportive but critical friend, which colleges to me and I am to him, which I think is a beauty of a good partnership as you, you can be there to sort of pick each other up when it when it's bad, but also to sometimes give you a kick up the backside when when you needed to Yeah, last rapid fire question, what do you think is the best advice you can give to yourself when you were starting out in community building for other community builders out there, that might be just getting started.

Oh I would say there's something about putting your own life jacket on first. It's a bit of a cliche but any community builder would tell you, you know, it is not for everyone, it's a hard gig in some ways because you're giving so much and I think only through giving to the point of no return to a lot of us end up realizing what our own boundaries are. So I think that'd be one thing for me is in terms of energy and time just be really protective of your own time and and boundaries around that and to do the things that make you top up in terms of energy and then I'd say on the money side to the same token, you know, understand that you have to meet your basic needs as a business. And so understanding the difference between building a community or movement and building a business and the two can overlap, but it might be that the money doesn't come from, where you thought it might come from and so to not lose sight of that, do you know Pamela Slim, have you heard of Pamela Slim?

I don't know, her body of work. Yes, so she was recently on the podcast and one of the things she had said that I really thought was interesting and I had just never really thought about it in the terms that she used empire versus ecosystem of like are you building an empire, were you building an ecosystem of of peers? And I think um for the heavy startup school, you're definitely building a system of peers, of people who are, you know that you can share and uh maybe post that thing that you're afraid to post on social media, but posting it maybe in your community um for these startups are it's a little bit more accessible. Yeah, exactly and understanding that we're all still trying to work this out, you know, it's easy to try and look like you know what you're doing and you're the expert, you're the, you know, the leader of this thing and there's a lot of gurus out there and there's a lot of people who need gurus so I can see that is appealing but yeah, we've never been that that kind of person and all people and so being as vulnerable as anyone who's starting out and understanding we are all still on a journey and every business, every career is still evolving, particularly the moment, so yeah, I think that gives other people permission to do the same.

Yeah, I know. So, the happy startup school, you just started your um your cohort that's going on right now. Is there anything else that's coming up for the happy startup school that you're looking forward to? Yes. So, Well, further away next year, some accounts back next September in 2023 and we've got our altitude retreat back in June in the Alps next next year. Um I would say in the next six months it's for me, it's writing like writing the goddamn book is on the poster in front of me. And also more collaborations, like some accounts reignited my desire to just connect with more people and we've got so many amazing teachers and mentors and friends who whose work has inspired us and continues to do so. So yeah, the energy I get off other people is something I want to bring back more so what that looks like, I'm not sure. But again, trying to create space for more playmates and see what comes from that. Cool, alright, if anybody's interested in joining the happy starts school or talking with you, what's the best place for them to go?

So they just go to the happy startup school dot com and there's links there to pretty much everything we do and yeah, just email Hello at happy startups dot c o if you want to contact me or Carlos that will come through to us and any questions, please share them with us. Cool. All right, well thank you again for being here and just deep diving with us around this community strategy that you've evolved over time and continually for the emergent strategy, isn't it? Before? There's a book called the Strategy and that's community building. That's what they talked with in monday community about work shopping and um, just developing as you grow and building it with them instead of for them. Um, which are some key components I think in, in community building. So thank you so much. All right, take care everybody for uh, for everybody. Just so your head's up. I did post on social this past week. You've probably already seen that before. But the community podcast is going to be on a pause at the end of the year.

But now, before we reach 100 episodes, we're celebrating with David Siegel coming up the end of the year. But in the next 10 episodes, you'll hear some amazing speakers that are coming up uh, including Tony from the muddy community Director of Community and a couple other really amazing people. So, and of course Lawrence's episode today, which is wonderful. Lots of lots of takeaways there. So, until the next time, I hope you're finding calm in this day, evening or afternoon. Have fun. Find calm. He'll get a little happy. Right, get a little happy in your step and until the next time. take care and see you later. Bye. Hey, this is Deb show and I am super so psyched to let you know, I am writing a book. Big deal. I know maybe it's not for you, but for me it's a big deal. And guess what? I'm writing this book for you because honestly, as a new community builder two years ago in 2020 I had no idea what I was doing and I really got really confused easily.

So I'm going to simplify things for you. But what I need from you right now is to actually help me make this book possible and so you can support me with a crowdfunding campaign that I'm running through. I fund woman. I'm going to have a link in the show notes. Please support me this, this is running from september 1st room through the end of october So I'm really hoping to reach my goal to be able to write this work style book. It's gonna have worksheets, it's gonna have templates, it's gonna be something that you can actually use today. It's not a course that you have to take for four weeks. It's not um, a big book that's not going to give you actionable steps. You're gonna be able to take action the same day that you read the book. I'm super excited about this. I've had lots of feedback from clients. But this is what they want. This is what they need. So I'm putting it together and I hope you can support me with it and I hope I hope it's going to help you. So let me know.

Please check out the show notes for that link to the I fund Women crowdfunding campaign for the new book I'm writing. It's called creator to Community Builder. I'm so excited. Thanks for helping me if you've already donated.

Episode 90: Finding happiness together in community as an entrepreneur with Laurence McCahill
Episode 90: Finding happiness together in community as an entrepreneur with Laurence McCahill
replay_10 forward_10