Entrepreneur and author Natalie Franke recalled how she felt in April 2020 after COVID-19 changed the way people went about their daily lives. “When the pandemic hit, I realized very quickly that we were not going to be able to gather in person anymore,” recalled Franke. “Especially in a large community of business owners. I felt there was no way we could do a good job of having some group meetings in person, and others virtual. I thought we would just have to go virtual.”
Franke would have a conversation with her sister-in-law that not only changed the way she felt— but the trajectory of her life. “My sister-in-law and I were sitting on the back porch socially-distanced, and I said to her, ‘I don’t know how communities are going to survive if we can’t get together in person. What are we going to do? And my sister-in-law who has Cystic Fibrosis looked at me and said, ‘The Cystic Fibrosis community has never been able to be within six feet of one another. We can’t. If I get within six feet of another Cystic Fibrosis patient, we could swap bacteria and one of us could die. So, we’ve always had to build community from afar and always have had to lean on digital connection. Digital community can be transformative, and online connection can lead to what you’re looking for in person as well. These aren’t separate things Natalie. These things are integrated. These things, you know, can truly be innovation with digital communities and innovation without an invitation.’”
That conversation birthed Franke’s new book, Built to Belong: Discovering the Power of Community Over Competition. The work hones-in on the struggle of finding a sense of community in a world not only focused on competition, but a world glued to their phones. “I began to lean into conversations, especially with members of the chronic illness community who can’t attend in person meetups, particularly during seasons where, influenza is at high rates,” said Franke. “And they’ve been doing this for years. They’ve cultivated online communities that are thriving, that are impacting people’s lives, and providing support and information education. There’s a whole chapter in the book specifically about really transforming our perspective on what community can look like and challenging us to start using social media platforms differently. “Leveraging these platforms to move us away from comparison and scrolling and getting lost in content passively, and becoming active participants engaged in connection and actually forging relationships online.”
In her new work, Franke gleans from her own life experiences including her diagnosis with a benign brain tumor, undergoing neurosurgery, fighting against infertility, and discovering that ‘community’ is more than a buzzword. “I’ve been an entrepreneur for over a decade,” said Franke who resides in Annapolis. “I’ve run a bunch of different small businesses. My first and primary being a full-time wedding photographer in the Baltimore area for eight years. I realized, at a critical moment in my life, that entrepreneurship and life don’t have to be one giant competition. I discovered a lot of the societal values I was taught such as get the gold medal and win at all costs, along with the technological shifts pushing us towards a very digital world, had led me down a path of loneliness.
It had created for me, a world in which I felt very isolated. “I felt like life was a very competitive business. An era of dog-eat-dog world out there, where you don’t support anybody. I had built a six-figure salary, and everything was going great from a success perspective. But I was miserable. I realized that if I continued to follow the advice that I had been taught as to how to build my business, it was going to kill me.” In her new work, Franke shares her story of longing for connection in a competitive world and tackles how to strike the balance between camaraderie and competition to live a fulfilled and joyful life. “I realized there was also a narrative around fighting for others to succeed instead of just looking out for ourselves,” said Franke. “I thought, ‘what if we fight for our communities to win?’ That when we see another person rising higher or another woman achieving greatness, we stop looking at that as evidence that we’re falling behind. Instead, changing our mindset and seeing it as having fanned the flames of her success.”
The wife and mother is a nationally recognized entrepreneur, and co-founder of the Rising Tide Society, an alliance of over 70,000 small business owners. “I am truly hoping everyone who reads this book starts to identify how to navigate competition, comparison, and jealousy in their life,” said Franke. “I want them to walk away from this book, knowing that they can fight for others to succeed and still experience success themselves. When we help others win, we all win.” For more information or to order Franke’s book, visit: www.nataliefranke.com/book.