Community Over Competition with Natalie Franke

On The DMV Wedding Pros Podcast this week, I got to chat with Natalie Franke. Natalie is best known as a creative, entrepreneur, writer, and speaker. She is the Co-Founder of The Rising Tide Society and Head of Community at Honeybook. All of her projects and features can be found on her website.

We talked about The Rising Tide Society, and how Natalie sparked #CommunityOverCompetition. We talked all things community and connection, showing up for yourself and your business, being transparent online, and so much more.

Hey Natalie! I'm so excited you could join us today. Give yourself an introduction.

I am Natalie Franke. I am a wedding photographer by trade, turned community builder by choice. I created a community of small business owners called The Rising Tide Society alongside some really incredible co-founders five years ago in Annapolis. It has grown and evolved into this really extraordinary group of people that champion a mindset of community over competition in over 400 cities now around the world. Over 77,000 members. My day to day work looks like supporting our community, and building resources that help small business owners to thrive and beat the statistics, as we like to say, and to support one another as we rise together.

That's awesome. As a fellow Annapolitan and as someone in the wedding industry, I'm really excited to chat with you and bring listeners into this conversation. I'd love to just chat about how this spark started with this philosophy of community over competition, which I'm assuming started with your wedding photography business. So if you could share that with us.

Absolutely. I started photographing weddings toward the end of high school, prior to going to college. I mention that because for a number of years throughout my time at Penn and while I was studying at school, I was building my business. I was trying to figure out if this was something I could take full time. If this was just a dream, just a naive hope that I had that I could be a full time photographer, or if this was a sustainable livelihood that I could step into and that I could grow into. So for years and years and years I hustled incredibly hard to build my business, and when I finally graduated I had booked up more than enough weddings in order to step in and be completely full time, and not have to go and look for a full time job, which to me was winning, adulting on all cylinders. It was the dream, and the goal.

What I didn't quite realize in taking that step and jumping in full time was that entrepreneurship can be incredibly lonely. It can be so unbelievably isolating. It can be so difficult and stressful and overwhelming. It feels like there's no escape from that endless rat race of getting ahead, of working harder and faster than our competition. I experienced that first hand when I was building that photography business, especially when I leapt into the full time role and had bills to pay, and at that point student loans to pay, and a lot of responsibility on my shoulders.

Truthfully, I was just craving to be a part of something that was bigger than myself. To be a part of a community, to belong, to be welcomed, to be able to support others and be supported in return. I didn't know where to turn for that. I saw some groups that existed in a creative industry, but it was always industry specific. It was photographers sitting with photographer or designers sitting with designers, or it was veterans in business who had been doing this for ten years and they weren't open to newcomers coming in and shaking things up. I couldn't really find a place where I saw a real environment of welcoming others that I wanted to see, that invited all different industry types and people to sit at the table. Somewhere you really could sit next to an artist, or cinematographer, or consultant, or a strategist, or a maker, and have a conversation about small business ownership where everyone was open and giving and didn't feel like they needed to hide their secrets, and really wanted one another to win, really was rooting for everyone to make it.

And so, over a conversation with friends, we ultimately decided to try and build that community in Annapolis. That is where Rising Tide began. It was never meant to be this massive community or international movement or hashtag with four million posts on it for Community Over Competition. It was really a coffee meet up in Annapolis, Maryland, meant to change the way that small business owners connected and supported each other in our hometown. What ended up happening was, we started it, we started taking those steps, and we started getting people together at a coffee shop. And others noticed. They saw us doing this on social media, Instagram in particular, and within hours of our first meetup we had people reaching out to us saying, "Hey, I want this where I live. I want a group that gets together that supports each other. I've been looking for what you're creating. How do I build it, or how do I start a group here?"

From that moment on, I think we realized there really was a need for this. And a need for someone to facilitate it. For years I had looked around and said, "When is somebody going to fix this? When is somebody going to create this group?" and I realized nobody was going to create it but us. We adopted that mentality very much with Rising Tide, where whenever we got those messages we just said, "Hey, do you want to be the leader of this group? Would you like to start one in your area? Do you want to create a chapter? This is our mission, these are our core values, this is what we stand for. If this sounds like the type of world you want to live in too, then it's time for you to step up and lead."