With the recent announcement of our new course, ‘Launch a member-based business in 3 weeks — no code required’, we’re casting a spotlight on some incredible businesses that have already done what our course aims to teach and inspire in others.
That is, to be able to get an idea for member-driven business off the ground quickly, build a community to support it, and do it all using no-code tools.
By shining the spotlight in this way, anyone looking to launch their own member-driven business or community can hopefully take what other successful entrepreneurs have done and use it to help drive success in their own ventures.
We caught up with Caro Griffin, VP of OPs at Tech Ladies, a bootstrapped, member-driven community making in excess of $1m/year in revenue and doing exciting things for the tech and community spaces.
Introducing Tech Ladies...
“Tech Ladies is a community of women working in all aspects of tech all over the world, who are supporting each other through growing their careers. We really exist to facilitate those connections, and also help connect our tech ladies with opportunities and to help our hiring partners connect with tech ladies.
Structurally we have two main parts of the business. One is a free membership community — it's free to join, you get access to our secret job board, our weekly newsletter, a public Facebook group.
The other is our revenue arm, and there are two main sources of revenue. The first is our hiring services, which includes our job board and our candidate database amongst other things; the other is our paid membership community, called Founding Membership.
Across all platforms, our community has 100,000 members and around 1,200 of those are founding members.
Tech Ladies began in 2016 as in-person meet-ups hosted by our founder, Allison Esposito Medina, but it’s grown over the years to become an online service with members spread across the globe. In the last two years we've really been growing exponentially, and we're on track to double our growth this year compared to last.
Supporting women and non-binary individuals to overcome tech-industry challenges
I think women and non-binary individuals working in tech face unique challenges specific to their gender identity, oftentimes. What we're providing is a support system. It helps you build your network, which in turn makes your career more sustainable.
Allison saw firsthand that one of the ways to make sure your career has security is to build and grow your network. And so at Tech Ladies, we wanted to make it easier for women in tech to not only network and share opportunities with each other, but also to have someone that they can go to for support. To celebrate the wins with like-minded people, and to also seek help when you’re struggling with things.
Providing community value and keeping it relevant
Tech Ladies provides a lot of resources for our members to take advantage of, including speed-networking events, professional development opportunities, webinars, and weekly career coaching.
There are two things that have been most valuable for our members. One of them is weekly career coaching, where two professional career coaches host a career chat for our founding members once a week.
It's a space for our tech ladies who are job searching, or in a new position, or are going through something at work, to come and get support on that topic, get advice, and also share their own advice with other tech ladies. These sessions are incredibly helpful for our members, but beyond that they're also a great way to build our community.
The second resource our members find most valuable is tailored one-on-one coffee chat pairings, which we facilitate using a tool called Orbiit.
Facilitating one-on-one member connections
Once a month, founding members have the opportunity to sign up for a coffee chat with someone who we think they'll find interesting. Using Orbiit, members can opt in to answer a couple questions and the tool handles the connection of members that match one another.
Using a tool like Orbiit is particularly ideal when you’re managing a large community and you want to offer them a premium experience. We have a private community for founding members where they can browse member profiles and DM each other (and our members are always super down to be helpful to other members). But there’s definitely a higher barrier to entry that way than just, say, filling out three questions with Orbiit and letting the tool do the rest.
Running a member-based community using no-code tools
We use a lot of no-code tools at Tech Ladies! Specifically for the community aspect of the business.
The particularly great thing about no-code tools is that you can whip up features and services for your customers quickly and effectively depending on their needs and what they’re asking you for.
Here’s a breakdown of the tools we use and their function:
👉 Private community: powered by Mighty Networks
👉 Emails: MailChimp and lots (and lots) of Zapier zaps
👉 Customer support: Help Scout
👉 Internal project management: Airtable
👉 Community one-on-ones: Orbiit
👉 Events: Eventbrite and AddEvent
-- a note about AddEvent. We just started using this tool as a nice way for us to create a founding member calendar that tech ladies can sync to their own calendars. It automatically pulls in all the events, provides Zoom links, and generally just makes it a lot easier for members to join without having to RSVP or subscribe or remember to check anywhere.
👉 Candidate database: bespoke using Webflow, Airtable, Zapier and Active Campaign -- I built this recently using just 4 tools. And I built it in like a week!
Using no-code tools to quadruple (yes, quadruple) revenue
The candidate database has been created to assist our hiring partners in a wildly competitive market that I, as a previous recruiter, have never seen before. The database essentially allows our partners to connect with tech ladies without having to go through us, and it’s also a great way for us to really tap into our community and truly help connect them with opportunities beyond just the job board.
It sits alongside our site (which is a custom dev job) and as mentioned above, I built it using Webflow, Airtable, Zapier and Active Campaign.
The best part is that it has quadrupled our revenue.
It’s led to so much growth because it’s filling a really valuable need that we’re seeing in the market. Hiring partners want to be able to connect directly to tech ladies — that was something they were asking for. And no-code gave us a fairly cheap and quick way to build that out. This has allowed us to not only close more partners, but also to charge them more for that service.”
Advice for startup membership communities
Some communities are started the way Tech Ladies was — in person get-togethers that fill a need for people to physically connect. Many more are launched virtually, and some of those then form in-person off-shoots so people who have met online (and often live in the same location) can get together.
But how would someone looking to launch a new community know which way to start?
Caro’s advice is to validate the need of your niche first.
“Communities exist to serve the community and to support the community. So I think knowing who your community is going to be — who your audience is and what they need from you — will help you validate your niche. The sooner you can figure that out, the better. That should help you determine whether your community is better served in person or online.
Obviously no-code makes all of this really so much easier. But starting is the most important part. I know there can be a lot of barriers, but just remember that you can change platforms, the name — anything — later. Just get started and see where it leads."
Bootstrapping your way to $1m ARR
Tech Ladies is proof that you can build a profitable member-driven community without the need for investment or an overly expensive cost to launch.
For a long time, it operated using a handful of consultants and freelancers and no full-time employees. Caro was actually Tech Ladies’ first hire, in September 2020. As the company is growing at a pace, they’ve focused on hiring (from within the community, no less!) and Tech Ladies now has five full-time employees.
The key takeaway: the barrier to entry when setting up a member-driven community business is lower than you might think.