080: How to find your community market fit – with Najva Sol

Najva Sol is the Head of Product & Marketing at Earnest Capital, where she runs an invite-only community called Founder Summit. In this episode, she joins Ward to discuss the challenges of finding your ‘community market fit’ but it can make a huge difference once you do.

✍️ Show Notes

📄 Show Transcript

This transcript is computer generated, please excuse any errors 🙂

Ward Sandler: Welcome, everybody! Today I’m talking with Najva Sol; she has over 12 years of experience and community building, brand storytelling and digital strategy. She’s currently a mentor for Built by Girls and Head of Product and Marketing at Earnest capital, where she runs an invite-only remote community of founders, building calm, profitable, sustainable companies.

Najva, thank you for joining us on the podcast. We’re thrilled to have you here to talk all things community,

Najva Sol: Thank you so much for having me. It’s a real pleasure, and I’m excited to chat a bit today.

Ward Sandler: Okay. Awesome. We often see that communities like products fail while trying to find their market fit. Finding it doesn’t happen overnight. So how can our audience find their community market fit and what lessons have you learned while doing that?

Najva Sol: Unfortunately, I don’t have them, I don’t know if I’ve like ever hit it a 100%. I feel like I’ve gotten really close, and then I’m always getting closer, and that’s kind of my goal. Certain communities I’ve worked on in the past where you were like, yes, we’ve got this. We like to have it, but that those communities have been around for like 10 years. And they’ve slowly, not only when have they like get it, but then they’ve been like, okay, we have community market fit with our niche audience. Now we need to get community, but that’s not enough to sustain the business or that’s not enough to sustain the thing we want to grow what that market is and fit them as well. So that’s one thing, but when you’re starting something, when you’re just building, I think yes, sometimes it’s like very obvious. It particularly helps if it’s functional. If you’re like, we are people who are doing the same thing together. And so you are building for a function thing, like we are developers, we have this specific problem we’re going to solve this collectively. Or we are, a group of marketers who want to share tactics and tips and if you want to be like really specific, like you can find community market fit the morning show where you’re like, we are the seven neighbourhoods that are surrounding a park. And we’re the community of people who want to garden in this park together. It’s pretty easy, not easy, but it’s clear a path.

So with Founder Summit, I was actually brought in after the community had sort of already existed because there was a conference that had been canceled just because of COVID and then there were all these people, essentially in a Slack or in a Circle who hadn’t asked for a refund, but who were just like, okay, well, I guess whoever knows when the conference is going to come back, we’ll just hang out digitally together. Let’s do something with the canceled events. Let’s bring people together. Anyway, we seem to need it at this time. However, when that happened. I hadn’t been the person to gather people. I wouldn’t say that I understood why they had come together, why they were sticking around when the thing they’d originally paid for was gone. So there are some other underlying motivating need that kept people, some people, many people fell off, but like some people coming back being like, I’m still looking for that thing that, that missing puzzle piece hasn’t gone away, and I believe in you, Founder Summit to still deliver that for me. And so for us, it’s been, I’d say it’s almost, I started at the end of April, like the beginning of May, and, I’d say it’s been months and months and months of doing things, trying things, to figure out exactly what our community is. We tried something on the weekends and realized really quickly, cause there’s another wonderful community, bootstrap makers called Weekend Club, and we quickly realized that the people who had come to our community didn’t want to do stuff on the weekends with us. They are people who are building businesses or like their founding companies specifically so they don’t have to work weekends and nights. They have kids, they have things that they want to do. They really value work-life balance. That’s one little hint as to how to get to a community market fit. I got little hints along the way, as we tried things and finally, it was not til seven months after I started working with this community that I was like, ‘Oh shoot. I think I know what brought people together’. That’s wild that it took so long, and it realized that Founder Summit is actually because there are founders who basically still have just an idea to founders who have been running the same company for 10 years. They’re founders in food, health, and Agro health, and SAS, and like developer tools. What is bringing all these people together? And why are they so connected and so relevant to each other? It’s a community of values. It’s not like a church exactly. But when people come together around a shared belief, that’s a really nebulous and complex thing to pull out function as much easier belief as much harder. And, Founder Summit is people as founders coming together around a shared belief, that business can be built a different way. And they’re sharing their resources in this new way of business building. So they’re pulled together by the text of this belief. So we’re thinking things like the BaseCamp books or other books, or other blogs or other Twitter followers or including Tyler’s micro texts books. Like these were the things that let people know. ‘Oh, like there were beacons like I believe this way. If you believe this to come join us, and we’ll help build this; it’s more of a movement than it is a place that you’re like, yes, I want to get my top 10 marketing tips’ or you know, my questions answers. So that’s how I get by and don’t be surprised if it continues to change and grow over time. long answer, but I hope that’s helpful.

Ward Sandler: No, definitely it’s helpful. And it just sounds like to boil it down, it’s finding the beliefs of the community to get to that community market fit. It’s how can you find the core, the center that’s driving these people together and it’s not easy, and it’s one of those things that sounds simple, but it’s just not easy to do, but if you can find it, that’s the key to everything, right? Because everything you do will be positioned around that belief, everything you do, choose to do or not do is weighed against this, does this fit with the belief of this community? Right? So I assume that’s kind of the core of what you’re trying to get to, right?

Najva Sol: Yeah. So it is, it is everything. It is about the core. I just want to say that yes, broadly, every community is brought together by like some shared beliefs, but I think communities can be brought together on a lot of different axes. It can be by a shared solution. It can be by a shared path, it can be by a shared activity, like communities of interest, communities of beliefs. I’m not the best at the sort of map of different core options for communities. There’s a bunch of different community resources out there for mapping the different kinds of options for community cores. If as you just pu it, like what is it the core of your community? Is it a belief? Is it an interest? Is it a value or that kind of thing? And so knowing that digging into and figuring out what that is, takes a while, but once you have it, you can always; it’s your North star. It guides you into like, am I building whatever we do next? Is it in service of the reason that people are here, the reason that brought them in? So once you have your fit, you have like, it clears up the path for you and it makes your decisions easier. At least for a while, until it changes.

Ward Sandler: Yeah, that makes sense. Thanks for taking the time to talk with us. We really appreciate it, Najva. Would you like to share any resources or recommendations for folks that are trying to learn more about Founder Summit?

Najva Sol: Yeah, I mean, you can just go to our site. It is in the process of being updated, so FounderSummit.co

Feel free to check out our Mastermind Sprint. We’re aiming to run those a few times a year, so there’s a nice tab. That’ll give you the full rundown, but they’re sort of mentor-led peer groups for bootstrappers or sort of column companies. And you can also follow us on Twitter, @FounderSummit.

Ward Sandler: Thank you, Najva.