Imagine you didn’t have to face every business challenge alone. Imagine there was a group of entrepreneurs that cheered you on along the way. No, you’re not dreaming. It’s a real movement and it’s called the Rising Tide Society, a community where creative entrepreneurs empower each other. We wanted to learn more, so who better to talk to about this than Natalie Franke, photographer, educator, community builder, and one of the founders of the Rising Tide Society.

Natalie Franke portrait by Daria V.
Natalie Franke, illustration by Daria V.

Natalie’s dream was to build a community of entrepreneurs that lift each other up and support each other and she brought it to life. We chatted with her about her journey and how to forge a path as an entrepreneur—plus her top tips on daily routines, dealing with setbacks and finding inspiration.

How did you find yourself doing what you’re doing now?

I started photographing weddings the summer after my senior year in high school as a way to pay for college. With each event, I fell more and more in love with the creative economy and the wedding industry.

By the time I graduated, I was determined to build a business and take a path less traveled. Friends were getting full time jobs and all I wanted was the challenge of building something that I could call my own… even if that meant risking failure.

Within two years of leaving school, I had built a six figure photography business and was beginning to understand the toll that entrepreneurship takes on business owners. Working alone, hustling every day, and living in the space between isolation and overwhelm—I had ultimately reached a breaking point.

Meet the Rising Tide Society #CommunityOverCompetition

On an early spring night in 2015, over a glass of wine and a dinner conversation with industry friends—we started to question whether there was a better way to run a small business. We placed our insecurities on the table and the Rising Tide Society was born.

That summer, we launched twelve coffee-style meetings that quickly grew to one hundred, to two hundred, to over four hundred meetings that now span the world. Our vision was to break down barriers by getting people in person to build meaningful relationships… our hope was to ensure that no entrepreneur ever had to build a business alone.

rising tide meetup Atlanta
Photo of the Rising Tide TuesdaysTogether Meetup in Atlanta by Jon-Michael Sullivan Photography

Creating the Rising Tide Society changed the trajectory of my entire life. Several months after launch we partnered and ultimately were acquired by HoneyBook, which enabled me to go full time into community building. This new career opened my eyes to tech and the future of work—a rapidly growing creative and freelance economy in need of resources and support.

My job every day is to help the creative economy to rise together doing what they love.

You have created such a powerful and supportive community with the Rising Tide Society. What can you attribute this success to?

The success of the Rising Tide Society rests on the shoulders of our incredible local leaders and passionate members. They are the heart and soul of everything that we do. They are the ones pushing the community over competition movement forward.

There are only two of us working on Rising Tide full time (a crazy fact that isn’t widely known) and the majority of our efforts are led by phenomenal volunteers. We couldn’t do any of this without them.

Did you have any setbacks after starting the Rising Tide Society? How did you deal with them?

Our biggest setback or challenge is something that many other business owners can relate to… rapid growth and underestimating the resources needed to support our endeavor.

Natalie Franke
Via Natalie Franke. Photo by Jess of Cheers Babe Photo.

When we first launched the Rising Tide Society, we never could have imagined how rapidly the movement would spread around the world. Growth became our greatest obstacle and scaling proved to be a struggle. I was still operating a full time photography business at the time with nearly forty events that year and my co-founders ran a successful business of their own. We never thought Rising Tide would become our job and we didn’t have a plan towards monetization or sustainability.

Rather than charge for meetups and resources, we started by seeking out sponsors at different companies that serve the creative industry. It was our first step towards monetization and it was quite a wild ride.

Fast forward a few months later and I’m on a plane bound for San Francisco where we were greeted by the team at HoneyBook. A like-minded group of innovators, it became clear from the very beginning that we wanted to build a lasting partnership.

Joining forces with HoneyBook gave us the resources we needed to meet the demands of our community. I was able to go full time into community management and have access to one of the best product & design teams in the world.

Who are the people that had a lasting positive impact on you?

Natalie Franke website
Natalie Franke’s website

In my personal life, I’ve had incredible mentors like my former boss, Laura Nestler, who builds community for Duolingo and pioneers projects at the intersection of language learning and world change. I work with numerous visionaries on a daily basis—from Co-Founder and Chief of Creative & Vision at HoneyBook, Naama Alon, who creates products and features that are changing the future of work for the creative economy to Maria Green Povarchik, who has organized and empowered tens of thousands of women in Israel to reach their dreams.

I’m also heavily influenced and inspired by thought leaders like Brené Brown, Seth Godin, Shonda Rhimes, Gary Vaynerchuk, Simon Sinek, and Dan Ariely. I’m a huge content consumer—I love to read, listen to podcasts, watch YouTube videos. I am hungry for knowledge and seek wisdom in the words of others. It consistently pushes me forward.

In your experience, what should the daily routine of a successful creative entrepreneur look like?

I believe that many creatives work differently. I’ve studied the science behind concepts like productivity, efficiency, and ego depletion. (I’m a neuroscience nerd after all!)

While I agree with many of the theories around rising early, prioritizing your most mentally taxing tasks early in the day, and block scheduling to increase productivity—I also believe that there is no single routine that works for every creative entrepreneur.

I wake up between 5:30 and 6AM every morning, however I have wildly successful friends that do their best work late at night into the early hours of the morning. I also know parent-preneurs that leverage nap times and midnight hours to accomplish what it takes many others days to execute.

My experience is to determine what works best for you and lean into that. If you have the freedom to create your own schedule, build a routine that optimizes for your unique strengths and accounts for your weaknesses.

motivation checklist with Natalie Franke
Infographic by Eva Graphics

What do you do when you are feeling unmotivated or uninspired?

When I’m feeling down, I create. I doodle on my iPad, write in my journal, or pick up my camera. It doesn’t have to be good because that’s not the point. I create even if it’s complete crap. The act of creating resets my mind.

It enables me to stop focussing on my to-do list or worrying about what is going to happen tomorrow and commit fully to being in the moment.

One of the things that struck us most when getting to know you is how enthusiastic and positive you are about life. Do you have any tips on how to develop a positive mindset?

Mindset has everything to do with perspective. If you’re stressed about the small stuff, if you’re operating out of fear, comparison, or insecurity—you’re setting yourself up for a negative mindset.

Natalie Franke and family
via Natalie Franke

I believe in cultivating a mindset of optimism and abundance. This type of mindset encourages community and collaboration to rise above competition and creates an environment that invites unity. It means that you can celebrate the accomplishments of others without feeling diminished. It means that we truly can coexist and thrive together.

The best way to cultivate this outlook is to implement it into your thoughts—how you affirm yourself, speak about your business, encourage others, and empower those around you. Your thoughts will impact your actions and ultimately those behaviors become patterns that influence your success in life. Start by changing how you think and I truly believe the rest will follow.

Which areas are you still working on becoming better at, as a community founder and a creative individual?

I’m constantly working to improve and grow in my personal and professional life. Whether it’s been learning to manage a team to delegating tasks to working cross functionally within a tech company—there are opportunities to grow on every corner.

As an introvert, I’m also constantly working to improve my ability to preserve my energy in a career centered around spending time with others. It sounds like a simple thing, but it’s critical that I craft a schedule that enables me to recharge and refuel in order to do my best work everyday. If I don’t take care of myself, I can’t effectively lead others. It’s as simple as that.

What’s your advice for people who are trying to find their own path?

Don’t compare your journey to anyone else’s! Somewhere in between “I’m going to chase my dream!” and “I make a living doing this thing that I love” lies a season of twists and turns that I like to call the messy middle.

Natalie Franke on Instagram
Natalie Franke on Instagram

It’s a period of uncertainty, experimentation, and frequent micro-failure. It’s a long season that challenges your resilience and teaches you everything you need to know about building a business. Let’s call it the awkward adolescence of entrepreneurship—there is nothing else quite like it.

We frequently celebrate the brave beginnings and admire the final result, but rarely do we ever talk about the season in the middle—and I believe that’s where the real magic happens.

So for people still looking for their own path—keep moving forward. Learn from your failures and be resilient if you want to succeed.

I know you have some exciting projects in the works! Tell us about what you’ve been up to lately and what we can look forward to!

We just launched one of our biggest community initiatives to date—20 ON THE RISE. This initiative is a celebration of individuals who are making waves and raising the tide, rocking their respective industries through hard work and creativity. This isn’t a popularity contest nor is it a ‘most liked’ list. 20 On The Rise is a curated list of 20 rising stars in 5 categories nominated by you and selected based on: empowerment, impact, purpose, and passion.

On a personal level, I’m also working on a proposal for my first book and hoping to begin writing in 2019. I’m also expecting a baby in the spring so there is a lot of exciting change on the horizon! There are a lot of things to look forward to.

Thanks for sitting down with us and sharing your insights! We love what you do and we can’t wait to see where your journey takes you next.

Want more entrepreneurial inspiration? You came to the right place! For more creative tips, trends and resources, keep reading.