Everybody wants to build communities in life and in business.
And most people naturally do.
But how many people can say they’ve built a community of 58,000 across 156 countries?
In today’s LinkedIn Live episode, I speak with one person who can:
Leona Burton, Joint CEO at Mums in Business Association & CEO at MIB INT, has built a thriving global community of working mums and women in business that fosters networking, growth, and support opportunities for women at all stages of their career.
In this episode, she shares the secrets to community-building success.
Why build another networking organization?
Leona: When I look at the networking community, specifically, I see incredible businesses like BSI.
But when you look at those companies, they’re very corporate-heavy.
There’s absolutely not nothing wrong with corporate. But that doesn’t give a true representation to the community that is business owners.
“We wanted to bridge the gap between seven-figure and kitchen-table business owners, and bring people all races, religions, ethnicities, and backgrounds to one room. We are stronger together.”
We are stronger as a community — rather than being consistently pitted against each other.
We have around 245 Facebook groups around the world.
In our main Facebook group, we have 58,000 women, and we have a following of over 350,000 across the world.
So, just in the mean group alone, we have over 156 countries, at last count, represented.
And our business operates in around 12 countries. We provide child-friendly networking events in those 12 countries around the world, which we’re so blessed to be able to do.
We are currently the fastest-growing female networking company in the world. But we’re not happy with that alone: we are wanting change.
Over the next two to five years, we have some massive plans around supporting underprivileged women — women who have been in abusive relationships, women who may find themselves in prisons, women who find themselves in hostels.
So, for me, it’s not just about supporting corporate — it’s about supporting grassroots.
Consistency, value & authenticity
Leona: We were really, really clear on the people who we wanted within the community.
And we were really, really clear from the beginning what was expected within the community — and not just expected from other people, but expected from us as community owners.
“We lead with authenticity and value from the beginning.”
It’s something that I see a lot of the time missed.
People set up communities with the intention to monetize and that’s where people go wrong.
You’ve got to remember people see through pretend value. They want the real substance.
They want you to show up authentically and consistently.
When I say I show up consistently, I am talking Christmas Day, birthdays — all of the days that traditionally people would take off. I have shown up.
Do I have boundaries? Yeah, absolutely.
But I’m also glad that I’m building something that is incredible — and that takes time. It takes commitment. It takes sacrifice.
I believe in our mission. I believe in the vision that we have. And therefore, I know that this is just the beginning.
Leading is listening
Leona: It’s been a huge journey and a learning curve trying to manage everybody’s expectations.
And leadership is complicated.
It’s not always easy. I try and do my best, but, you know, I’m learning as fast as I can.
“Leadership is all about listening.”
I think listening is really important as a leader, as a community leader, as somebody who is influential in your community.
For anybody wanting to build a community, listening is crucial.
It helps you tailor your content and understand what people want to buy.
I genuinely believe that people buy from people that they know, like, and trust — and all of those things are done through building a community of loyal followers.
Now, I totally understand relationships. I absolutely understand what my ideal client wants to say — and communicating with them is as important to me as it is for them.
If I don’t go live, I miss it as much as they do.
The relationships formed this way are unbreakable. And the loyalty between us as a community is incredibly strong.
How do you show up for your community?
Look, unless you are Beyoncé, you can’t just have a great message and expect the community to form by itself.
What I love about Leona’s approach is that she got her message across like all regular people have to — one comment, one Tweet, one person at a time — and still formed a community as massive as she has.
It’s because she focused on forming relationships as well as her message.
She did that through value, authenticity, and consistency.
That’s the difference between hoping people will come to you and building a community with intention.