How I Created A $1.5K/Month Online Community For Early-Stage Entrepreneurs

Jochem Gerritsen
Founder, Enter Network
$1.5K
revenue/mo
1
Founders
2
Employees
Enter Network
from Utrecht
started November 2018
$1,500
revenue/mo
1
Founders
2
Employees
851
followers
710
followers
3
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Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

Hey! My name is Jochem Gerritsen and I’m the founder of Enter Network — the online community for European Early-Stage Entrepreneurs.

The main thing I do is run a community of 50+ starting entrepreneurs from all over Europe. Our members work on SaaS companies, hardware products, software development agencies, and much more. The 2 things we have in common are: 1) We’re a supportive bunch and want others to succeed, and 2) we’re all here to learn and grow our businesses.

Our community consists of everything you need as a starting entrepreneur. Think for instance of:

  • A Slack community so that you can easily speak to other founders and learn from one another
  • A variety of deals, such as free copywriting and software development services
  • Access to 20+ startup mentors
  • Networking sessions to get to know other members
  • Weekly online meetups where we invite an expert entrepreneur to share his or her knowledge about a specific topic
  • Mastermind groups to hold each other accountable
  • And much more!

I started Enter Network back in 2018, but only launched the membership model this year (on 9 November 2020, to be precise). Currently, the revenue is around $1,500 MRR. This comes from founders who are regular members of our community or take part in an online mastermind group.

how-i-created-a-1-5k-month-online-community-for-early-stage-entrepreneurs

What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

Back in 2018, I was working on a blockchain startup in Utrecht, a relatively big city close to Amsterdam.

I realized that there was a lot for me to learn, but I found it difficult to connect with other founders to learn from! I didn’t have many entrepreneurial people in my group of friends and always had to go to a different city to join relevant meetups.

So this was a clear problem that I was facing, and I quickly came with the solution: Hosting meetups myself!

I created a meetup.com account and asked a friend to speak at my first meetup; on social media marketing. I think around 10 people came to the session, among 5 of which were my friends.

Still, it was a good start and in a very easy way, I had validated that there was a demand for new meetups in Utrecht. This gave me enough confidence to host a monthly meetup, in which more and more entrepreneurs joined.

how-i-created-a-1-5k-month-online-community-for-early-stage-entrepreneurs
An older version of our website

Over the next 1.5 years, I hosted around 15 meetups on different topics — from online marketing to B2B sales, and from startup funding to recruitment. At the time, this was still more of a hobby. I made around €150 in revenue (and €50 in profit) every month, and it cost me a lot of time.

Still, I didn’t mind. It was great to meet other entrepreneurs in this way, and it was fun to do while I was still running my other company.

Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.

Things changed for me last year. My co-founder and I decided to sunset my previous company (the blockchain startup), and I was looking for something new to do.

I was still very passionate about meeting other entrepreneurs and helping them, so I did some interviews with people who regularly came to the meetups I hosted. I tried to find new aspects or services that I could help them with.

Using these interviews, it became clear that many founders enjoyed the meetups, but also found them a bit superficial. Because at any meetup, you don’t really get to ‘dive deep’ into your business’s problems, but rather you just exchange some pleasantries in a networking setting.

So the solution for this was creating a peer support group (or ‘mastermind group’) of entrepreneurs. At the start of 2020, I brought 5 entrepreneurs together and we started to meet each other every month; to discuss our goals and challenges.

This worked very well, and there was even more demand for new groups. Simultaneously, I realized that to make Enter Network into a self-sustaining community, we needed to ask members for some sort of commitment.

This would allow me to run the mastermind groups, start organizing online events, and offer members a variety of services to allow them to grow faster. That’s why I created a tiered membership system so that people can join for a monthly fee, allowing me to keep the focus on offering and expanding a great community.

Describe the process of launching the business.

My main launch happened on 9 November 2020. This launch represented a switch from a free Slack community, to a paid community of early-stage founders offering not just a private Slack group — but also a whole range of other services.

Simply put, it was time for me to ask for a commitment from our members; otherwise, Enter Network would cease to exist. As such, it was quite a nerve-wracking moment. We started with around 120 entrepreneurs, and if all of those said “No, I’m not interested”, then there would not be any community left!

So I crafted 120 messages to all these people individually and hoped for the best. Luckily, around 20 indicated they wanted to join and since then we’ve been able to grow that to 50 entrepreneurs from all over Europe (including Belarus, Czech Republic, UK, Germany, and many other countries).

I suppose that one main lesson that I learned since then, is that your community (or product, for that matter), is not for everyone. Some people will see value in what you offer and are willing to pay for it. Others just prefer to have things for free, and that’s fine too. But in the end, you can’t run a business on ‘free’, so you have to focus on those customers that really enjoy what you’re offering and are happy to pay the price.

how-i-created-a-1-5k-month-online-community-for-early-stage-entrepreneurs
The new version of the website

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

Many different marketing channels are still on my ‘to-do list’. From launching on ProductHunt to running paid ads, there are a lot of options available to us.

However, my time is limited and I have to run our current community, so what I and my colleagues did over the past few weeks is focussing mostly on promoting our meetups and blogging.

Specifically, we post every event that we organize on Meetup.com — in different groups. We currently have three groups (one in Utrecht, Amsterdam, and London), and the vast majority of our community has come into contact with Enter Network for the first time through one of these groups.

Meetup really is a great way of connecting to potential customers. It allows you to put events (and your brand) in front of people without you having to do a lot of active outreach. Currently, we have set it up in such a way that people can join any one event for free, and they have to join our community if they want access to other events too. This works well because it allows people to simply check out what we do, and I can tell them a bit more about all the other services they get access to when they join.

In addition, we focus on acquiring organic traffic and creating good blog articles. For instance, we do a ‘Behind the Business’ series where we interview members of our community about their company. A recent example of this is our interview with Hearthy Matcha’s founder Christelle Vinot.

It’s an inspiring interview, and we shared it on different social media channels (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc.). Especially on LinkedIn the interview did very well and has led to a significant amount of traffic and a few new email subscribers.

how-i-created-a-1-5k-month-online-community-for-early-stage-entrepreneurs

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

We’re doing quite well today! We have around 50 members in our community. The company is profitable though not yet ‘ramen’ profitable, but it shouldn’t take too long to reach that level.

For 2021, we have plans to be much more aggressive in terms of marketing and sales. To actually start reaching out to starting entrepreneurs from all over Europe and see if we could interest them to start a trial with us.

Simultaneously, I want to make use of all these different marketing channels that are still unused until this point. A good ProductHunt launch would definitely have a great effect on the number of community members, as would some simple advertising on Google and Facebook.

The ultimate goal with Enter Network is to connect 1 million entrepreneurs. That certainly seems like a lofty goal, but I’m confident we can reach that number. The trick is to leverage the enthusiasm of our members and allow them to easily invite others. This will make us THE community for early-stage entrepreneurs throughout Europe and beyond.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

This may sound a bit cliche, but it really helps if you have a solution for a problem that you yourself experience. For me, the problem was that it was difficult to easily connect with other entrepreneurs. This was a problem for me — and still is a problem for many others.

Because Enter Network is a community of like-minded people, we have been able to create a clear-cut solution to that problem. Simultaneously, it’s easy for me to empathize with members who may want to join our community because I’ve experienced the problem myself. This really has helped me in optimizing our community and making sure it fits with the target group.

A second thing that I have learned is that it’s so important to onboard your customers. Specifically, I find that if someone joins our community (Slack, events, etc.) but doesn't actually introduce themselves, then that’s a clear sign that they are likely to churn. Of course, it’s clear why that is — they haven’t put enough effort into the community to really enjoy the benefits that it brings.

That means that it’s incredibly important to do onboarding well and to make sure that people who start a trial membership put some effort in to get to know others in the community.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

As mentioned above, one of the favorite tools we use is Meetup.com. It really has endless potential in reaching your potential target group. I would advise almost anyone to use the platform for customer discovery.

If you’re just starting and want to talk to customers, what better way is there than to organize a meetup around the topic you’re interested in? Also, you position yourself as a thought leader when you host these meetups, which is a great way to bring potential customers to you.

Other tools that I quite like are Reply.io, which allows you to send email drip campaigns, and of course Slack that we run our community on.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

Probably THE most influential book for Enter Network has been the 1937 classic Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill.

The reason is that the book really coined the concept of a ‘mastermind group’; A group of entrepreneurs that come together regularly to discuss their goals and challenges. For me, creating mastermind groups for our community was a great move and really helped us in getting some initial revenue.

Plus, there are some other communities like Indiehackers that have inspired me over the years. These show what is possible, and how many early-stage entrepreneurs there truly are. In other words, such communities indicate the potential of Enter Network, because our target group is vast.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?

One main challenge I have struggled with and am still struggling with is how to deal with people that say ‘no’ or who want to cancel their membership. Because I’m quite an empathetic person, it really feels like personal rejection when people reject your company or offer.

My suggestion is to keep sharing these feelings with others (and preferably, other entrepreneurs), and to get inspired by other founders. This way, you can overcome the negative feelings associated with cancellations and rejections — which are inevitably a part of entrepreneurship!

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

At the moment, I’m looking for a co-founder or partner who can help Enter Network grow further. There is a lot of potential in our community, but I simply need more resources to put into marketing/sales and connect tens of new entrepreneurs weekly. So if you’re good with marketing, excited about startups, and love to talk to other founders, contact me at Jochem @ enter dot network.

Also, while we don’t have any other (or intern) positions open at the moment, you can always send me an email! I’d be happy to take a look at your application.

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!

-  
Jochem Gerritsen   Founder of Enter Network
Pat Walls,  Founder of Starter Story

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