No-code tools have been especially helpful in building communities. You can automate emails, sales funnel processes, and subscriptions via simple integrations, and there are great examples to follow.
Here’s one: Mitchell Wilson built a community of psychedelic enthusiasts and professionals on Webflow, Circle, ConvertKit, and a few other awesome no-code tools. What’s more, he got it funded too!
Here’s his story.
My name is Mitchell Wilson. I live outside of Nashville, Tennessee.
I have a 9-5 sales role at Olla — a cannabis ecommerce company. I’ve been in the legal cannabis industry going on 5 years now; before that it was skydiving!
On the side, I am building a community for up-and-coming psychedelic professionals called Psychedelic Grad.
And apart from that, I write blog articles and send out a weekly newsletter on how to live a damn good life. It's been so much fun so far! I just started writing articles, but I've been consistent with the newsletter for 52+ weeks in a row!
I started the Psychedelic Grad community about 2 years ago. It has evolved in scope and focus so much since that time, but now we are entirely niche-driven. Our niche is for up-and-coming psychedelic professionals. The idea is for all those people wanting a career in this nascent space to come together, share resources, exchange advice, and go on the journey with other colleagues.
It was very important that the community be organized, collaborative, and ‘on-niche’ (if that's a word). Now we're growing more and more all the time, especially after we launched our podcast, Curious to Serious. Currently, there are about 600+ members in the community!
About 21 months ago I was catching up on a MAPS Grad Student listserv and found myself blown away by the quality of people present and the conversations I saw. It was made up of tons of people serious about studying psychedelics in a professional manner.
I wanted to replicate those two same pieces into a more modern format and medium.
There was a very obvious spark of inspiration in the group and with the renaissance booming, I wanted to pour gas on that fire and build a community with passionate people like that.
Building a community of psychedelic-enthusiasts
Now with the community blossoming, every day I'm reinvigorated with the range of interesting people being added all the time. As with the community itself, our podcast, Curious to Serious, is focused on one very specific niche topic: How do up-and-coming psychedelic professionals navigate these brand new career paths?
On the show, we interview those who are already working within the space (or at least many steps ahead) and reverse engineer how they got there.
The answers aren't always clear, but community makes it easier.
Our tech stack
It took several months to get our tech stack right, but now we're in a good spot. We use Webflow for the landing page and sign up pages just because it allows for maximal customization as we ramp up into the future with things like a blog, job board, etc.
Some of my favorite websites are made with Webflow and I want to be like them! The learning curve is fairly steep, so I recommend using templates to get the hang of it. No need to reinvent it all yourself.
We use ConvertKit for our emails — we send out a custom weekly newsletter to everyone that provides value in a slightly different way than they'd otherwise get with just the community platform.
I wanted an email service that looked super clean and I could write emails that looked as if a friend sent you them. I'm not interested in using tons of pictures and customization. We use Circle for the community itself — it's the cleanest looking that I've experienced. Super organized and modern. I love the UX, the analytics, and the ease of which an admin can manage it.
Previously two versions of the Psychedelic Grad community were built with Wix and then Tribe.
Let's just say I'm extremely happy with Circle.
We also use Airtable for our community calendar, our newsletter automation, and for podcast guests wanting to be on our show.
Connecting our no-code tools together
Here's how it all flows:
- People sign up on our Webflow site by dropping in their email
- This gets them onto our weekly newsletter via ConvertKit
- In their confirmation email they can just click a button to join the community via Circle.
For the weekly newsletter:
- I have a Zapier zap set up to pull the RSS feed of a collaborator's site and add it to our Airtable database. We use this content for our 'Research Analysis' of the newsletter.
- Our community calendar is created with Airtable and we also provide a form to our members so that we aren't the only ones sourcing everything, which would be time-consuming.
- Each week, when I go to write our weekly newsletter, at least 80% of the content is already sourced and all I have to do is copy and paste it in.
I'm sure that I can automate more of this in the future, but it's a start and it certainly is saving me a ton of time as-is.
Becoming your own bottleneck
As the work moved along, I found two main issues coming up:
- Bandwidth and time commitment on my end
- Financing the project, since it currently isn't set up to generate revenue
After about 10 months into the project, I realized that I was a HUGE bottleneck for what was going to be possible with the community.
If it was all up to me working on this outside of raising kids and my day job, it wasn't going to get very far. So I started building a team of folks to help out with the project and that's been the biggest life-saver!!
Now there's a co-creator — someone to stay on top of engagement and also help with the podcast as a host. There's also someone else that is the other co-host of the podcast. So I'm relatively hands-off with the entire podcast production.
Someone else puts together our monthly member meetup via Zoom (soon to be native to Circle with their updates!). And now, after such a long wait, we are actually going to start tapping social media too, with a former co-worker joining our team!
As for the money part, this was super hard for the first 12-15 months. It was all out of pocket for me and I just couldn't keep it going any longer. Especially since it hasn't been set up yet to generate any revenue; it was just an expense for me and made it really tough to stay motivated.
There was a point where I was considering getting out of the project — maybe even just turning it off since I couldn't afford to keep it going. But I had the idea of reaching out to Rick Doblin from MAPS.
MAPS is one of the most recognized organizations in the psychedelic renaissance and in many ways, has paved the way for dozens of other newer companies. I reached out to Rick at MAPS and just straight-up asked if he'd sponsor the project — and he said YES!
So now, our current operating costs are covered and that's lifted a huge weight off of my shoulders. Since then, we’ve launched our podcast, and have continued to grow the community. One day in the not-too-distant future, I hope to create a revenue stream that helps us take it to a whole other level.
If you’re building a no-code project, here’s my advice: get going then get good. Ask for help. Constantly reignite the initial spark that started it all.
Thanks for sharing your story with us, Mitchell! You can follow his journey here.