How To Build A Thriving Community Organically With Tracy Harris
I just interviewed a friend, but also a fellow podcaster, Tracy Harris from Mums With Hustle. Tracy got vulnerable and shared how she was always destined to be a teacher but there was something inside her that wasn't quite aligned with how education was saying she had to be. I can't wait for you to see how she has launched and grown her online business organically and now has a thriving Mums With Hustle community! Get ready for some Q&A!
How did you get started with your entrepreneurial journey?
Tracy: “For the longest time I felt uncomfortable even talking about how it all started because it was such an identity shift or maybe even crisis for me. I didn’t study business, I didn’t have an entrepreneurial background or anything like that. In fact, I started out as a primary school teacher and executive leader at our school. I absolutely loved it! I believe I was just always destined to be a teacher.
You become conditioned to a society's version of a teacher. So naturally I gravitated towards the traditional classroom and I really did love it. But there was something inside of me that wasn't quite aligned with I guess how education was saying that I even had to be as a teacher. I wasn't able to fully tap into my gifts and lead in a way that I felt like I was called to lead.
So, motherhood brought an interesting chapter to the whole, Tracy as a teacher type of thing that was happening in my life and it wasn't so supportive. It was a very difficult transition into that and I look back now and I'm like okay, no, no, no!! That was God or the universe or whatever you want to call it kind of guiding me and really letting me know that I needed to change course. I was such a loyal person that I needed kind of like a rock bottom moment or I needed it to sting in order for me to wake up and be like okay, no... I need to leave.
That whole return back to work experience did come with a lot of trauma for me. I had to go through 18 months of therapy. I was doing a lot of inner work. You know during that time actually before I ever went back to work I did start my podcast, my blog called Mums with Hustle and I started it just being a thing on the side that I did want to eventually turn into a business. I didn't really have a great huge vision, no business plan, anything like that. It was more of this casual thing I truly just wanted to jump on the podcast each week and either interview a guest or share the little baby steps that I was taking in creating my own startup hopefully with just inspiring one person to kind of take bold action in their own business regardless of where they were.
But people very quickly, jumped on and they were like, Oh my God! Where has this thing been in my life, like I need it! I love it! I love learning from you! It was in those moments I was like, I'm still teaching, but I am doing it in a way that aligns with who I am at a soul level. There's great purpose in my work and the universe is blessing me, God was blessing me and I was like okay, no, no, I'm going to do this! I have a chance to make a true impact here.”
I always think the reason I'm doing what I'm doing is because I resonate as a teacher. I thought if I want to be a teacher, I need to be a school teacher and I realized there's other ways to be a teacher. I love that we kind of have that in common. I want to ask you, how did you find out about podcasts? Were you really listening to podcasts? What made you think, I should do this?
Tracy: “We were listening, myself and my husband, we’re like mad podcast lovers! So for several years before I even started Mums With Hustle I wasn't ever listening to the radio on my commute to work or if we went on a big drive on the weekend we would put on a podcast.
I was like, yeah, I don't need to have a product or service to be able to start. Just leading with love and giving value to people that need it. I saw a need and I just jumped on and just literally took it day by day.
It was just so nice to hear that there are people in the world that actually just want to make a difference and that, that is the big thing. It wasn't money. It was the impact in the service because I'll just tell everyone, if your motivation is purely money well, you're going to run out of gas, you're going to run out of steam quite quickly especially if you know the challenges pop up, setbacks, all sorts of things happen in your entrepreneurial journey. So if the heart and soul is there, like that's the stuff that gets you through.”
What are some things that motivated you to get this started and then keep it going and have it grow to such massive growth?
Tracy: “With what happened in my life, I've even experienced loss like losing my dad when I was 17. I didn't realize how much that shaped me as a person, values wise. Then the whole return to work thing and it's just like I know that when stuff happens in your life you have two choices. You can fight with the same weapon but it's like no, no, no. If you didn't receive compassion, then be compassion. If you didn't receive love, then be love. So if you didn't receive support from females then be the support for females. I brought all of that so much into the culture and brand and space of what is Mums With Hustle and I feel like that's why I've got the beautiful tribe that I have.”
Starting in September 2015, did you start your podcast right away or when did you start it?
Tracy: “I started right away and we launched with three episodes at one time and again I think advice from Pat Flynn, back in the day, and the purpose behind that is so that you know you’re launching this podcast and letting people know that this is a thing now. You don't just want them to come consume one episode and then like, then what?
So we had three there and people did generally listen to more than just one if not all three and they loved it and consistency was really important. Also to not only show up for my audience but also for my own accountability and building a habit around showing up. So right out of the gate I said you can expect an episode every Monday. It was scary though. I was like Oh my God, what if I don't actually like podcasting?!”
Let me ask you, what if you didn't like it? What would you have done?
Tracy: “I would have like changed. I hate to say it. I would have said you know, audio and podcasting really isn't my jam, maybe written word comes easier to me, so I'm just going to give you all of my love and value through a blog. If you actually head over to Mums With Hustle blog, you’ll see that we haven't really contributed any new articles to the blog in quite some time and that is because podcasting really is the best way for me to show up, it's easier. I'm just a person that loves speaking.”
Somebody is probably thinking, what if this doesn't work out? What if I don't like it? Then you'll tell people you're changing, that you're evolving and you didn't like that and you want to serve them in this way. So I think that's so beautiful that it's okay to just get started and see what happens.
Tracy: “Imagine if I made that fear based decision to just stop because I wasn't sure if I would like it. Well, you only know if you actually start. It's like over 150 episodes now and I get to speak to incredible, incredible people. I can't believe that that is this job that I've created for myself. The universe is 100% left me breadcrumbs because when I walked up to University to kind of apply but whatever it was that I was going to study I was so torn.
I really I was so close to submitting the application for journalism, communications, broadcasting. I applied for both. I was like I'll just leave it leave it to God to say what I get into the teaching or the broadcasting and it's just wild because it's like now I literally have been led to blend the two with what I'm doing.”
I want to ask one last podcast question, when you started the podcast, did it take off right away, was it slow, lessons learned...anything you can share for our listeners?
Tracy: “I am quite blessed that it did take off right away and it is because I think I was so different but I definitely had a bit of a pre-launch, marketing strategy or awareness campaign. I took to Instagram as a place to kind of launch Mums With Hustle. So head on over to check out Mums With Hustle on Instagram…if you scroll all the way back you'll see my very first post. I kept it all there because you know, you'll see you me trying to figure out Instagram, you'll see the clunky branding you'll see my logo come to life, my brand voice takes shape and it's because I want people to know that we all start where we're at.
We all start with zero followers. We all start with bare bones or nothing. Some people delete that stuff, they archive it because of shame or they're a bit embarrassed but it's like, no! This is why I'm so passionate about Instagram in particular for building an online community. The beauty of building an organic community is that it has allowed me to connect with the hearts and the people that I actually truly want to serve.
And for the longest time I didn't have to ever look to paid advertising or anything like that in my business. You do not need to have money to start and grow a successful business. I think that's the beauty of growing a really authentic and organic online community and Instagram has been an amazing vehicle for that. So in launching the podcast I think I was on Instagram like for a month or two before I actually shared the first episode. In that stage I was just really in an awareness stage but I started growing my email list from day one. No freebie. Just telling people I made this thing, it's going to be Mums With Hustle and I think it's going to be this thing, sign up here to learn more about it and don't miss out on the podcast when it launches. So that's kind of all it was and 30 people joined up overnight. That was really cool.”
You mentioned having this person, this influential person come on your show, not only does it have to be the podcast but even Facebook lives, Instagram, Instagram TV, those are such great opportunities to interview people that will have the same audiences. Not everybody will share it out, but some of them will and just by having a few people on could really help grow your list. So I think that's really important that people hear that.
Tracy: “I have to be bold I guess in putting myself out there and I just did it through DM’s. A lot of people have asked me like, how did you like start talking to her? And people can have such a fear of people based on the size of their Instagram following. I sent out about 10, maybe 15 DM’s to various people, bloggers, business owners, people that were marketing on Instagram.
I just sent the DM’s out to different people but I personalized those DM’s as well so that it had their name and I spoke to them about what they're doing, why I admire that, why I think coming on the podcast is also an opportunity for them even though I had zero listeners at the time. I knew that this thing was going to grow! I think it's about making your vision bigger than your fear. I know you believe that as well. And it's just going for it. It's okay if some people say no. Some people don't even get back to you like I could see that some people read the DM but they never responded.
I was leading with love and from my place of intuition I was like, okay…she's got kids, she's probably read it and she's like me, she plans on getting back to me later and she's forgotten or maybe she's in an awkward spot and she couldn't write back. So it's like just be really careful of the inner critic and the self talk when things seem like they're not going your way.”
It's a very different situation when you connect with people. Instagram is just such a great way to make those connections. But then like you said get your ego out of the way...some people will say no. Some people will ignore you and they mean to, they're too busy and that's okay. But if you try to reach out to 10 people or 50 people sometimes just one person saying yes could be such a big thing in your business.
Tracy: “Totally. And now I try to pay it forward as well. So I have been the first guest on some people's podcasts. I mean I can't always do it but I definitely try to do that where I can!”
When you start to get people on your show, you can say hey, here's some episodes we've had in the past, all of a sudden you can get more. So it's a slow start and you kind of build from there.
Tracy: “I feel like all collaborations are like that or I'm often talking with my tribe about influence marketing and all of that stuff and and they want to know how can you get your product in front of an influencer. Truly it comes down to relationships and sometimes just going slow so that you can kind of like actually build a relationship right.
#1 follow them on Instagram. #2 engage with their stuff. If you actually want to contribute to the question that they're asking, if you can relate in a personal way or Instagram Stories is amazing because you have the opportunity in most cases to reply to someone's Instagram story and that goes straight to the DM’s and you can build relationships like that as well. But just be yourself and treat them regardless of their audience size or regardless of how successful they are in life or in business. Don't be intimidated by that. They're just people at the end of the day.”
How are you using Instagram? What is your favorite way to use it and how often are you really active?
Tracy: “I am on Instagram every day in some capacity but you don't need to be posting on Instagram every day. I post several times a week, some weeks more than others because I'm actually just posting intuitively when I have something to say and that means that I'm posting live and that shocks a lot of people. I don't have pre-written content or I'm not using some third party app to post for me, it's like when I post it's me.
So if you're going to engage and leave a comment on there, I'm going to write back to you. So for me to be able to do that and for me to be able to make sure that every post is with my ideal audience in mind, not myself in mind, it means that I'm not posting every single day because I want it to be quality over quantity. I also want to be able to tap into things like Instagram stories and use that purposefully and joyfully like I don't want to be rocking up Instagram and it's feeling heavy, like I've got a post today what am I going to say and it's like I'm just posting to stay relevant.
I don't believe in that. So that's what I mean. I post when I have something to say, something that is going to benefit my audience. I post live because I'm not posting for the aesthetic. Don't get me wrong your visual brand is super important on Instagram but I see a lot of small business owners and entrepreneurs getting distracted by the visual goal by the patent on their grid and they end up posting for themselves or posting for their brand aesthetic rather than posting for their audience.
I'm always looking at things like my analytics. For the longest time I didn't really want to be posting all of these pictures of myself but the analytics don't lie...my audience wants to see my face. They want to connect with me and not some stock image, not some flat lay of my desk. You're going to be put at the top of that newsfeed regardless of how often you post if there's someone that regularly engages with you anyway. When you do post Instagram is going to make you be visible to them.”
Are you as amazed by what Tracy has shared as much as I am?! If you want more of this conversation be sure to check out episode #292 of the podcast. You can connect with Tracy on Instagram, @Mumswithhustle, and be sure to tag us with your big takeaways!