It Takes a Village: Why Community is so Important
Natalie Franke knows how important relationships are, and how lonely entrepreneurship can be, so in addition to her already successful wedding photography business, she built The Rising Tide Society, one of the largest groups for creatives, on the idea of community over competition. Now, RTS has over 400 Tuesdays Together meet-up locations, and has had partnerships with Honeybook and other large companies. In this episode, she's giving her insight on why community is so important, how to overcome fear of your competition, and how to find or start a community where you fit right in. If you're looking for a heartfelt, motivational conversation, then Natalie's interview will absolutely resonate with you!
HOW DID SHE GET HERE?
Natalie was thriving with her six-figure, full-time wedding photography business in Annapolis, Maryland, but despite the financial success, she felt alone and isolated. She realized that in order to break down how photographers looked at one another, or how any creatives looked at each other, she had to change the way people viewed competition, and approach people from a standpoint of community, connection, and collaboration instead. So the Rising Tide Society was born out of her isolation and the desire for more face-to-face contact and human interaction with other creative business owners. She posted about a meet-up on social media, and friends in other cities became interested in hosting them too. In June of 2015, they launched a handful of small groups, and in just a few months, it grew to hundreds of monthly meetings around the world.
WHY IS COMMUNITY SO IMPORTANT AND HOW HAS IT IMPACTED YOUR LIFE PERSONALLY?
It boils down to one thing very simply: human beings were not meant to go it alone. Society has evolved so that we have less face-to-face conversations and more texting. We put more emphasis on social media followers to decide our worth, and we spend less time letting our brain create empathy through personal contact. When we start to realize that we’re all far more similar than we realize and that we all struggle, those feelings of comparison, jealousy, and competition fall away, and we can plant the seeds of community.
It was not even a year ago that I was being wheeled in for brain surgery, and I appreciate community because I’ve seen first hand how powerful it is. I had Rising Tide leaders sending cards, and neighbors cooking me dinner, and received an outpouring of people coming together just to support me. I believe in the power of communities because they’ve saved me time and time again. There’s nothing more powerful than knowing that people are there for you and ready to help you carry your burdens and support you.
HOW DO YOU THINK COMMUNITY PLAYS INTO THE SHAPING OF OUR OWN PERSONA IDENTITIES?
We’re sponges, and we absorb everything around us - both the energy and the people we surround ourselves with. They say that you become a combination of the 5 people you spend the most time with. So it all comes down to that idea of community: are we surrounding ourselves with people who are building us up or people that are making us feel less than. Our personal identity is heavily influenced by those in our inner circle. The key is very carefully and very intentionally choosing those people that you surround yourself with the most, so that you’re choosing to spend time with people who empower and challenge you and who have the desire for you to grow and prosper.
It’s knowing when to let people go too. You have to be willing to cut toxic people from your life, including on social media. You have to be willing to guard your heart and your energy source. We complain all the time about comparison, but we are in control with who shows up on our feeds. It is okay to unfollow people or brands or accounts that are not positively impacting your life at the moment. It doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t care about those people, it just means you’re willing to protect yourself at this point in your life. We have to get our own hearts in the right place before diving into community and trying to impact other people.
"I’m not social media free, but I’m free from the struggle of social media."
WHAT IS YOUR ADVICE TO SOMEONE WHO’S TRYING TO BUILD A COMMUNITY AND WHAT STEPS CAN THEY TAKE TO GET PEOPLE INTERESTED IN THAT COMMUNITY?
One of my favorite books is “Tribes” by Seth Godin, and in that book, he talks about how any community is made up of 3 core pillars: you need to connect them to an idea, you need to connect them to a leader, and you need to connect them to each other. I think most people miss one of those things when trying to build a community. If you’re trying to start a community, odds are you’ve decided to take on that leader role, so congratulations, you have on pillar.
From there you have to rally around an idea that is greater than the sum of it’s parts. What is your why for this community? The final piece is the one people forget the most. You’ve got to bond them with one another. Give them a place where they can get to know each other, create inside jokes, build relationships, etc. I think the last one is the difference between a good community and a community that doesn’t work, because celebrities attract people to themselves, but leaders empower other people to become leaders too, and I think that’s what we have to see in growing communities.
Want more words of encouragement and uplifting stories from Natalie? Follow her over on Instagram to keep up with the amazing things she’s doing! If you’d like to join The Rising Tide Society, click here!
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