“Create community.” With Fotis Georgiadis & Natalie Franke

To me, helping people transform their passion into a sustainable business is the most rewarding pursuit and I hope our movement continues to grow and bring value to business owners. As a part of my interview series about the ‘5 Things We Can Each Do Help Solve The Loneliness Epidemic’ I had the pleasure to interview Natalie […]

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To me, helping people transform their passion into a sustainable business is the most rewarding pursuit and I hope our movement continues to grow and bring value to business owners.

As a part of my interview series about the ‘5 Things We Can Each Do Help Solve The Loneliness Epidemic’ I had the pleasure to interview Natalie Franke, Head of Community at HoneyBook and co-founder of the Rising Tide. After seven years as a freelance photographer, Natalie started the Rising Tide to curb entrepreneurial loneliness and provide solopreneurs with the resources and support they need to be successful in business. Since the Rising Tide and HoneyBook joined forces in 2015, the community that Natalie built has grown to more than 75K small business owners who meet monthly around the world. Natalie has been featured in the New York Times, Forbes, NPR, Bustle and others. She studied neuroscience and the psychology of seeing at the University of Pennsylvania.

Can you share your “backstory” with us? What was it that led you to your eventual career choice?

Absolutely! I was raised in a family of science nerds, so I initially pursued a degree in visual studies with an emphasis in neuroscience and psychology at the University of Pennsylvania.

I loved psychology, but it wasn’t feeding my creativity. That’s when I started photographing weddings on the weekend. The side-hustle quickly turned into a full-time career. Freelancing has many perks, but it also comes with an unsettling amount of solitude.

For seven years, I did what I loved, but I did it alone. With my background in psychology, I’ve always been interested in how our brains are designed for connection. So, I started looking for the thing that I felt was missing in my life as a freelance photographer: community.

Since then I’ve dedicated myself to helping freelancers connect with one another in the spirit of community over competition. What started as a local meet-up quickly grew into a global movement that led me to HoneyBook and my current role as Head of Community.Today, my focus remains the same and we’re working every day to bring business owners together to support each other.

If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

I knew when we started the Rising Tide that I couldn’t be alone in my desire to find community. I knew I couldn’t be the only one feeling lonely. That said, it’s still wild to step back and look at what the Rising Tide has become. I could never have imagined that in just four and a half years we’d be a community of 75K with 430 community chapters in cities around the world.

The Rising Tide has always been about empowering small business owners to succeed doing what they love. When we joined with HoneyBook we were able to double down on this mission by providing freelancers with not just community support and resources, but also the software they need to actually run their business.

To me, helping people transform their passion into a sustainable business is the most rewarding pursuit and I hope our movement continues to grow and bring value to business owners.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

Yes! We just wrapped up a very exciting project at HoneyBook — my husband and I sold our house to go on a road trip across the country and meet with small business owners from coast-to-coast (all with our 9-month old in tow!).

As Head of Community at HoneyBook, finding opportunities to connect with creative entrepreneurs is essential. The more we know about the people we are trying to serve, the better we can support them. And I thought, what better way to connect with the community than to hit the road and meet them where they are.

But this wasn’t the only reason for the trip. When I was 28 I had surgery to remove a benign brain tumor and at this very vulnerable time in my life, the creative community was there to lift me up. They had my back personally and professionally without question. I knew that when I was well again, there was more that I could do to give back.

So for two months we travelled across the country to host meetups In 14 major US cities. At each stop I was reminded of how powerful human connection is. By coming together as a community we can help each other overcome challenges, celebrate wins and, most importantly, fight the epidemic of loneliness that so many small business owners face.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

We’ve always got something up our sleeve, but I’m particularly excited about our latest feature launch. We just released the HoneyBook scheduling tool which helps business owners schedule client meetings two-times faster.

We know that for service providers, meeting with their clients is an essential part of their business. In fact, those that meet with prospective clients are 40 percent more likely to book them. But we also know that scheduling meetings is time consuming; many business owners spend more than two hours a week sending emails with their clients to schedule a meeting. That’s a lot of time that could be spent on something more valuable like practicing their craft or spending time with family.

That’s why the scheduling tool is so powerful. It eliminates the email back-and-forth and gives business owners their time back. In doing so we’re literally delivering on our mission to help freelancers spend more time doing what they love.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?

Brené Brown, I’m deeply inspired by her ability to combine research and emotional intelligence to inspire!

Can you share with our readers a bit why you are an authority about the topic of the Loneliness Epidemic?

Simply because I’ve lived it. Freelancing for seven years brought with it a lot of joy, but also a lot of loneliness. It was this experience that inspired me to found the Rising Tide and which led me to build community at HoneyBook.

And with 35% of Americans freelancing today, we can safely say that loneliness is prevalent across the US. It’s crucial that we acknowledge its existence if we ever want to overcome it.

Through my journey of freelancing, being diagnosed with a brain tumor, and my current role at HoneyBook, I have experienced the power of relationships deeper than ever before.I am now focused on motivating others to invest in their community and overcome the loneliness epidemic.

Can you articulate for our readers 3 reasons why being lonely and isolated can harm one’s health?

There are so many reasons why isolation is bad for your health. Here are the top three:

  1. It can cause mental health issues: A deficiency of relationships will play through our brain with an emotional soundtrack — sadness, emptiness, deprivation. These feelings tear away at our emotional well-being and deprive our brains of the nutrients it needs to feel happiness.
  2. It can cause physical health issues: Studies have shown that the mind and body are intertwined. Our thoughts, feelings, beliefs and attitudes have the power to affect our biological functioning.
  3. It leads to poor decision-making: When you exist in a negative state of mind, whether it be sadness or anger, it influences your actions. Because you feel low, you make poor decisions.

In which way is loneliness harming our communities and society?

Connection is a lot like food. Every community needs it to survive — we are a social species! Throughout the history of mankind, our social networks (communities, families, etc.) have enabled us to survive and thrive as a species. As social animals, human beings need connection in order to feel whole.

Our brains are hardwired to empathize with others and our biological and psychological systems long to thrive in collaborative and communal networks. A lack of support can discourage you from creating beautiful businesses and relationships, two things absolutely key to a functional community.

Our technology has the power to connect billions of people in one network, in a way that was never possible. Yet despite this, so many people are lonely. Why is this?

It’s easy to keep life’s low points to yourself, while sharing the polished highlights on social media. But doing so can lead to loneliness because we prevent people from getting to know our true selves.

We all have highs and lows and it’s important to realize that going through them is actually what brings us together. Shared experiences — the good and the bad — create connection. For me this looks like sharing my health struggles and the lessons I’ve learned in life and in business. Once I started opening up about these vulnerabilities more frequently, I began building stronger relationships with my community. I’m encouraged to see that this behavior is increasing in the creative community and more people are pulling back the curtain on the every day challenges they are facing.

Technology can also rob us of the real, human, interaction that is so important to our health. That’s why Rising Tide chapters host in-person meet-ups once a month. We’ve seen first-hand how bringing people together can have a huge impact on strengthening online relationships by providing a tangible space for connection, empathy and support.

In your experience, what are the 5 things each of us can do to help solve the Loneliness Epidemic? Feel free to add a personal story, if relevant.

  1. Create community: Find a group of people with whom you share a common interest, whether it’s your occupation, education, hobby, or purely for networking purposes. There are all kinds of meetups happening every day with people around the world — seek them out and join in! And if you can’t find a community that fits your interests, create your own!
  2. Show up as your genuine self (in person and online): Each of us is unique with our own experiences and perspectives. This individuality distinguishes one business from another, but it’s also what makes each of us interesting. So don’t be afraid to be yourself. Vulnerability and openness can actually bring you closer to others by encouraging them to reciprocate authenticity.
  3. Take breaks: Please, everyone, do yourselves a favor and take breaks throughout the day. Not only will it help with your overall productivity, but it’s so important to have a healthy work-life balance that’s custom to your own unique needs.
  4. Be kind to yourself (and unplug!): Instagram and other social media platforms are incredible tools for freelancers and small businesses to grow their customer base and get their stories out there, but you must rid yourself of unhealthy comparison. One way to do this is to unplug every so often and reconnect with your realworld surroundings.
  5. Turn strangers into friends: Move beyond your circle and spark up a conversation with a stranger. Humans are designed for connection and you might be surprised to discover that people have a genuine interest in who you are and what you’re all about.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Twitter: @NatalieFranke (verified)

Instagram: @NatalieFranke (verified)



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