Every time someone asks me how I started my hugely successful community, I smirk.
The truth is, it was entirely by accident.
Unlike so many others, my community’s origin story doesn’t begin with strategic planning or multiple ideation sessions. It was a happy accident that has changed the lives of women around the world.
The year was 2014. I had a background in finance and start-ups and found myself working on my very first company. As most founders and first-time entrepreneurs know too well, I felt completely alone and isolated.
None of my friends or family could relate to my journey as an entrepreneur. Instead, they’d ask why I quit my job in finance and why I wasn’t trying to find a new job instead of attempting to go out on my own.
Everything changed for me when I joined forces with another entrepreneurial woman. At first, the two of us would meet up for brunch and co-working sessions, and just generally support each other on our journeys. It was an encouraging and impactful friendship that I hadn’t experienced before.
The two of us soon became three, four, eight, ten, and more. Every weekend, I continued organizing these brunches and building this small community while pursuing my entrepreneurial dreams.
A year in, we began calling ourselves Dreamers & Doers – a private collective that amplified extraordinary entrepreneurial women through thought-leadership opportunities, authentic connection, and access.
With all my new responsibilities in community building, I knew I had to either go all in or stop working on it entirely. By then we had created a Facebook community of more than 3,000 women, and supporting them was becoming a full-time job.
That’s when I decided to give myself fully to the community and find out what Dreamers & Doers could become.
Today, we’ve built a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem of 35,000 women with our highly-curated private collective of 750 extraordinary women at the core.
We became profitable in year two (four months into starting to monetize!) and to this day, more than 98% of our revenue is generated through recurring membership payments from our private collective members.
Including myself, we have two full-time team members and 10 part-time contributors.
Of course, the journey here was anything but easy — but I’ll save those trials and tribulations for another article...
For now, I’m beyond excited to share some origin stories from fellow community leaders.
It’s so easy to compare our beginnings with someone’s middle or end, without knowing how some of our peers’ journeys may have begun.
Here are some rare insights into the very early days of how these 5 community leaders found their start.
I hope they are not only inspiring and entertaining, but that they also encourage you to continue pursuing your community dreams with the confidence and knowledge that we all started somewhere.
A community of people of Asian descent who sew.
“After eight people were murdered — six of whom were Asian women — in Atlanta in March 2021, I was reeling, as were many of my friends.
“It felt like the only corner of the internet that wasn't in shock was the online sewing community, which I was a part of. The apathy and lack of discussion around current events bothered me. That is when I realized there wasn't an online space for Asian people who sewed. With a little encouragement, I decided to put a call out for help to start a community space and podcast.”
“Don't go it alone. You can organize and grow a community with a team. You'd be surprised at how many people genuinely want to help build communities but just need some direction or ideas.”
The go-to network for ambitious female professionals in Kenya.
“Young women in Kenya are seeking new approaches to advance in their careers and build their businesses — WomenWork was born out of the need for women like this to find a community and resources.
“While structural barriers require policy changes to enable women to grow, we saw that by using a digital platform we could enable women to gain peer-to-peer support, expand their networks, and gain access to opportunities and capital.
“This approach has been effective and our community has grown to almost 5, 000 members — and continues to grow daily.”
“Strong admin is critical. Admins play a crucial role in shaping the culture, setting rules, and drawing attention to specific aspects of the community.”
A social enterprise that cultivates meaningful connections through arts-based experiences, with a focus on women's community and empowerment.
“Ten years after moving to NYC to be a part of its art scene, I realized I had become too distracted by work and other commitments to even take advantage of the city's cultural life.
“There was a Broadway show I wanted to see, but no one I knew was willing to pay $80, even though they would easily spend this much out drinking at a bar. I felt frustrated that so few people I knew were interested in getting out and experiencing the lifeblood of the city.
“So I decided I wanted to meet other women who were as passionate about the arts as I was — and who would make time for, and prioritize female friendships.
“Be very specific and upfront about what sort of members you would like to join the community — and those you don't. Use your ideal customer avatar as a guideline for making decisions.”
The community for small business owners looking for visibility and value while gaining tactical PR skills.
“It started out as a Facebook group to host my ‘5-Day PR Challenge’ where I taught founders how to write their newsworthy pitch over the course of five days.
“Because of the value and supportive nature of the group, it has grown to nearly 2,000 entrepreneurs since February 2021 with no ads and only word of mouth.”
“Always create from your why. If you’re holding back information because of the scarcity mindset that people will not buy from you if you give away too much valuable information, your community will reflect that scarcity.”
Want to share your community origin story? Join the conversation on The Community Club.