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I built a successful community - what next?

Two years ago I built a successful community of women executives who work in the music industry. The network has 1300+ highly engaged, highly qualitative members worldwide and we organize speaker events in London, LA, Lisbon, Barcelona, NYC, SF, Berlin and with various conferences around the world. The brand is recognized and respected in the music and music tech industries.

It feels like now is a good time to take a step further and make the community a sustainable business, however I'm torn between not-for-profit and profit. I'm a huge fan of the startup model and I would love to take that route, however I am scared that making profit a focus will take away from the community's authenticity. This is a community that has been operating purely with volunteers.

The other idea is to register it as a charity and aim for funding not from its members, but from collective crowd funding, brand partnerships, grants etc.

These are mostly strategic questions but I also have questions around financial and legal implications of registering the main entity in the US vs. other countries since our reach is global.

Your advice is much appreciated, thank you in advance!

/AM

8 Replies

Devin Dixon
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Devin Dixon Entrepreneur
Business Developer Extraordinaire
To be honest, 1,300 people is not that much but that's not the only metric you can use. How many pageviews do you have? average time on the site? etc. What is nice is that you have a community of decision makers. Decision makers are nice targets because they ability to spend a companies money.

So first, get all your stats together and position it in away that sounds attractive. For example, we have 1300 decision makers that visit the site twice a day, 3 times a week for 20 minutes can interest advertisers and sponsors because they know their information is being viewed.

After you figure out the value of members,community, and metrics, try to figure out who will pay for what and why. For who are you solving a pain point for that is willing to pay you?

Based upon the results and your vision and what you want for growth, then I would choose your entity type. If you would like to build a start-up for profit, chances are you will need outside funding in which you will need to give equity, in which corps work best. Or if you want a simple business that is just extra income on the side, and LLC is fine.
Anthony Zeoli
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Anthony Zeoli Entrepreneur • Advisor
Digital Strategy and WordPress Consultant and Trainer
Today, you can run both. The nonprofit can be responsible for a specific area of focus and apply for grant funding. The difference is simply that a nonprofit does not give money back to investors or shareholders. It plows the revenue back into the organization to continue to develop programs for the common good. The for profit arm can take on other tasks, raise money from investors and give a return on the investment.

WordPress.com is owned by Automattic, the for profit company that runs the service and builds additional tools like JetPack. The WordPress Foundation is responsible for maintaining the open source WordPress project.

So, if you can figure out what the nonprofit arm does, for example, focus on women's leadership issues, scholarships for women who want to get into the music industry, a think tank that publishes research, or provides certificate training. And, the for profit arm runs the conferences and events, sells brand sponsorships, and creates an online community publishing content and selling access to that content.

Here's a good Harvard Business Review article on the subject:https://hbr.org/2013/02/should-your-business-be-nonpro
Richard Reed
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Richard Reed Entrepreneur • Advisor
Director of Marketing at Labdoor
You should also consider a benefit corporation. This is a fairly new entity type that is gaining popularity in the US. The purpose of the benefit corporation is to make a profit, but also to make a substantial and sustainable contribution to the world around them. Here is a great article by a leading legal authority on the subject:http://thehumanist.com/magazine/may-june-2014/features/the-benefit-corporation. If this is of interest, I would be happy to make an intro.









Miriam Eaves
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Miriam Eaves Advisor
Managing Director, Cargile Group
Good day. I built a similar group which was a US 501 c which allowed us to take corporate donations. We funded member fees and donations so hired an Administrator. Also, we had a scholarship for young women. . Miriam C Eaves [removed to protect privacy] 917 885 9057 Sent from my iPhone
Peter Rafelson
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0
Peter Rafelson Advisor
Founder at Activate Her Voice
Andreea - We should discuss developing this more formally - please see: www.activatehervoice and contact me. I have founded a powerful networking platform for building and managing communities and organizations like yours: www.digiramp.com
Peter Rafelson
0
0
Peter Rafelson Advisor
Founder at Activate Her Voice
http://activatehervoice.com/
Rob Gropper
0
0
Rob Gropper Entrepreneur
Director at PetHero, SPC - Member at Eastside Incubator - Principal at Tuxedo Technologies Group
there is a middle ground between a 'for profit' and a 'non-profit' (or not for profit) known as a "social purpose corporation". "B corps" are very similar. something to consider if you feel your community fits such a model.
Nipun Gupta
0
0
Nipun Gupta Entrepreneur
Cybersecurity Consultant, VC Podcaster
I am not sure about how to incorporate it, perhaps folks above me can give you a better answer in that regard, but IMO you should think of the following ideas:
  1. Making the community even bigger by leveraging your members. I have found that Snapchat is a great way to engage them best, also try doing a takeover on "womenintech" Snapchat channel
  2. Creating amonetizingstrategyby seeking out strategic partners.Your community has a bunch of female musicians, you could sell music and women products pretty easily to your members. Are you charging from concert venues for speaking engagements ? In the long term, you could become a one stop shop for women speakers.
  3. Gauge community's interest levels for strategic initiatives. For example, to me - shesaid.so can easily becomea talent sourcing agency for musicians, but is that really the direction that the members want to go into ?
Hopefully this is helpful, feel free to reach out for more :).

Cheers,

Nipun
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