Why Briana Borten Built A Permanent Home For Her Content & Community (And You Should Too)
Does any of this sound familiar to you?
You have an idea for an online community or membership. There’s a group of people you’d like to teach and engage with on an easy-to-use online platform.
So, you set up a product and payment option on your website, create a special segment of your email list, and open up a private Facebook group. You announce your membership to your list and get a small but interested group who’d like to work with you.
Next, you add everyone who signed up to your special email segment, invite them to join your Facebook group, and get ready to start working with them. You set up your first group call on Zoom and send everyone the registration link via email.
So far so good…
You do your first few calls, record them, and send out the links to everyone in your group. Not everyone is able to make the calls live, but that’s OK. Since it’s a smaller group, your members are able to share links in the Facebook group and everything stays relatively organized.
Life is great! Your initial idea was a hit and you’re ready to open up the group to a larger audience. Maybe you had 10 people join initially, but the feedback was so good that you’re thinking 100 will join next time.
So, you ramp up for a bigger launch, create better sales pages, run ads on Facebook, and cross your fingers that more people will sign up for your membership this time around. And good news! They do. When you open the doors, 100 new members sign up for your community and the majority of your “pilot” members stick around. Now you’ve got some traction with a vibrant, growing community.
However, with this larger group you start to notice something different is happening this time around. Your members seem to be a bit lost. They’re confused about where and when things will happen.
🤔 “Does anyone know when the first group call starts?”
🙋 “Where can we find the links to the intro lessons?”
🤷♀️ “Wait, are the calls in EST or PST? Will they be recorded if I can’t make it live?”
Soon, your Facebook group is bombarded with support-related questions like these. And wouldn’t you know it, a few people have changed their mind since they signed up and asked for a refund (you did offer a 30-day money back guarantee, right?).
After you spent all that time manually adding each and every person onto your email list, inviting them to the Facebook group, and ensuring their PayPal payment went through, you’ve now got to go through all that work again and remove them.
🔎 “Wait… this email address is connected to this Facebook account, right? I better double check…”
You wouldn’t want to remove the wrong user! And shoot… this other person’s card just expired and your payment processor kicked them off your email list. Now you’ve got to track them down and ask them to update their card information.
Before you know it, you’ve got a good old-fashioned mess on your hands. All the wires from these different systems have gotten tangled up! This probably isn’t what you imagined building an engaged membership would look like. You’re there to teach, inspire, and guide them — not answer the same logistical questions over and over again.
If you can relate to this scenario, you’re not alone. This was the exact situation that Briana Borten and Heather Wells found themselves in back at the start of 2019.
You see, Briana is an author, teacher, and entrepreneur who wanted to branch out a bit and create an online community centered around her teachings about energy, healing, and spirituality. She essentially followed the exact approach we just outlined and did in fact end up with those sorts of tech headaches.
But don’t worry! There's a happy ending to this story.
In fact, here’s a little spoiler: currently Briana has an ever-expanding online business that runs incredibly smoothly, requires significantly less manual customer support, and most importantly saves her and her team a ton of time, energy and effort.
In this post, we’ll show you exactly how Briana was able to transform her tangled, duct-taped approach into a simple & elegant system.
Let’s dig in!
Meet Briana Borten of The Love Rising Collective
Briana Borten is CEO and co-founder of The Dragontree – a wellness organization with holistic spas in Portland, OR and Boulder, CO. They also offer their clients online courses, life coaching, natural body care products, and other resources for what she calls vibrant living.
Briana is a leader and teacher in a new, emerging category of spirituality and has been featured in a few places you might recognize: The Oprah Magazine, Forbes, MindBodyGreen, and Goop, to name a few.
Earlier this year, we sat down with Heather Wells – Briana’s Online Business & “Magic” Manager – to hear about the journey they undertook to build a new online community around Briana’s spiritual teaching.
Creating Something New
In 2017, Briana received the inspiration to create the first version of what would later become the Love Rising Collective – a sacred community for spiritual growth. While she had already started and grown numerous successful businesses, the idea of an online membership community was somewhat of a departure from what she’d done in the past. So, to test the waters, she invited a small group of people she knew and trusted to participate in a pilot program.
“The first cohort of Love Rising was by invitation only. Briana invited a few people that she knew. She has a lot of online courses so this first cohort were customers who were already interested in the personal development side of things,” says Heather.
“She started with this small group and everyone that participated was just blown away by it,” Heather adds. “They felt lighter, freer, and more peaceful. They felt more connected to themselves and to the universe. They felt things shifting. They felt blocks that they'd had for many years beginning to dissolve.”
“That first cohort was a three-month thing. Then it would be over so that Briana could have that time to decide, ‘am I going to continue this or not?’ At that point, everyone in the group was so amazed by it that she decided, ‘Okay, this is what we're going to do. We're going to keep doing this, we're going to build this up.’ From there, as they started to grow the program, we started doing things like creating sales pages and trying to get the message out there.”
Briana was very smart to test her idea for an online community this way. There is absolutely nothing wrong with starting small and ensuring people are actually interested in your idea. While membership sites are a fantastic alternative to something like a free Facebook group, they require significantly more time, energy, and effort to build from scratch. If you’re wondering about other ways you can test your idea for a membership site, check out this helpful article from our blog: 10 Ways To Test Your Idea Before Starting A Membership Site.
Opening The Doors & Growing The Community
After validating her idea for an online community, Briana decided to open up the group to a larger audience and invite more people in.
Heather continues, “Briana grew the Love Rising Collective from around 10 people to about 30 people in the second launch. Then in the third launch, she added around 80 more people. Of course, it's a monthly subscription – a membership – so there's always some filtering in and out of people. But we do launches because Briana considers it important to create that core group of people and get that energy stable.”
Heather is referring to the “open/closed” membership model where you open up the doors to join your membership during specific periods – maybe once or twice per year. This style of membership is different than one where people can join at any point in time. This is how Heather describes the current launch strategy for the Love Rising Collective:
“Now we do launches twice a year. I started working with Briana in early 2019. That's when we really started trying to grow the Love Rising Collective. I did the first launch in the beginning of 2019. I think we added another 70 or 80 people at that point. At that point, we still did not have any kind of home for this community. We were doing everything through email and a Facebook group.”
Up until this point, the Love Rising Collective was at a manageable size where doing things manually through a private Facebook group and email list was not overly cumbersome. But as you’ll discover later in this post, things started to get pretty tangled up for Briana and Heather as their community continued to grow.
In Desperate Need Of A Home
What did life look like for the Love Rising Collective before they built a permanent home for their content and community? Let’s check back in with Heather and hear how they did things before building their own membership platform.
“We did all our calls on Zoom, recorded them, sent our members links by email, and posted links in the Facebook group,” Heather describes. “There was no central repository for all the links for the calls. So, if you missed a call or you remembered a call that you had really enjoyed and gotten a lot out of and you wanted to go back, you literally had to go into your email and search and try to remember the date.”
Can you see how trying to keep over 200 people on the same page without a “homebase” would be tricky?
“The Facebook group was filling up with questions like, ‘Does anyone have a link for that call? I can't find it.’ We had no data around the calls. We had no place to store them all,” continues Heather. “Over time we decided that we could really use a home for all this content and our community. That was my big push this past year.”
“My goal for the latter half of 2019 in particular was to find a home for the membership. A place where we could store all of our calls, where we can add things, we can add data to the calls like keywords. Like if you're having trouble with relationships or releasing negative blocks or whatever it might be, for example. We wanted our members to be able to actually go in and find calls and integration sessions that could help them with the specific issues they were currently facing.”
Pretty soon, this two-person team was spending an excessive amount of time fielding support-related questions from their members. And, the time and energy they could have used to more deeply serve their community was being eaten up by an ever-growing list of tedious, routine, and manual tasks.
Setting Out In Search Of A Solution
They knew this wasn’t sustainable in the long run, but they weren’t exactly sure what their next move should be. Still, Heather set out in search of a solution.
“We had some advice from other people to check out a hosted membership solution. We looked into that, but it was going to be very expensive to have it custom built. We wanted to have the ability to add courses later where you could log in and see what courses are available, purchase them right there. We knew a couple of other entrepreneurs who had sites like that and they had spent an insane amount of money to have it done. It's crazy expensive. And we were not in a position to do that at the time.”
Heather continues, “So, I literally just did a Google search and found MemberDev. I was probably like three or four pages deep in the Google results. So yeah, I found MemberDev and I literally just filled out the online form, started talking to Ali (Jafarian, CEO of MemberDev), and before you know it, three months later, here we are.”
Heather and Briana then worked closely with the expert membership site developers over at MemberDev to build a powerful membership website that could house their content and community. It didn’t happen overnight, but the work they put in to building this homebase for the Love Rising Collective definitely paid off. They now have a beautiful, elegant, and most importantly easy-to-use membership site for their community.
If you'd like to hear Ali's advice about how to design and build a membership site that is set up to succeed, check out this podcast interview we did with him: Everything You Need To Know Before Starting A Membership Site.
A Permanent Home For The Love Rising Collective
So how did things turn out?
Here’s a quick tour of what their membership website looks like today:
Member Login Page
Life After The Ribbon Cutting
By now you’re probably wondering how things have changed since Briana and Heather built a permanent home for the Love Rising Collective. Are they happy with their decision to build a membership site of their own?
Let’s check back in with Heather and hear what she has to say:
“It's been amazing! In conjunction with setting up the site we thought, ‘Well, we have all these other capabilities, maybe we can figure out some way to sort of create a sort of success path for our members,” Heather exclaims. “Something I learned from an online training we did is that you need something where your members can keep going on their own and keep moving forward. We give our members lots of encouragement like, ‘Hey you are growing! You are changing! You are accomplishing something.’ And before, we didn't really have that.”
Heather elaborates, “Now, we have five different levels with multiple modules per level. We take our members from just beginning meditation all the way up to spiritual awakening. This has been amazing because I feel like it's really kept our members engaged and helped keep our retention up, which is wonderful. That had always been a struggle for us as well. People would get behind on the calls, get overwhelmed, and then just drop out. And so now we have all of this other material that can kind of guide them even when we're not on a call together.”
The End Of Tedious, Time-Consuming Processes
Making the switch from a set of disconnected systems to a centralized platform has also seriously decreased the time, energy, and effort required to complete the day-to-day tasks in the business. While we can’t quite say that their membership is running on “auto-pilot,” Heather is now spared from the painstaking process of having to do everything manually.
“For me, personally, the MemberMouse part has been incredible,” Heather adds. “Before, when someone wanted to leave the group, post on the group, had trouble with their payment information, all of that, that was all on me to do manually.”
You heard her right… manually! The members of the Love Rising Collective had no way to manage their accounts on their own.
Here, Heather describes the clunky process she previously had to go through whenever one of their members wanted to do something as simple as cancel their membership:
“Before, if someone cancelled, I literally had to go in, cancel their membership, take them off the email list, and take them out of the Facebook group. And I had to do it all by memory. There were no tasks or anything like that. As the group began to grow, I was spending an inordinate amount of time tracking people. Even just trying to keep track of who was on our list. Like if I forgot one step, now we were unsynced and I had no idea whether that person was supposed to be in or out of the group.”
“We're a two-person shop. It's Briana and it's me. Having things like this where it's automated, easy, and trackable has just made my life so much easier. It's been wonderful.” -Heather Wells
In Hindsight… Looking Back At Life Before MemberMouse
Heather continues, “Before MemberMouse, we processed our payments through a subscription billing app for Shopify. It was so bad that when one of our members missed one payment – if they tried to charge the card and the charge failed once – boom, they were kicked out. We would all get an email saying, ‘Hey, their payment failed and now they're canceled’. And I was like, ‘What? What did you do? Don't do that!’ There was no chance for us to follow up, to get people on board, to help them work through it. In order to get them back in, our members literally had to sign up all over again. It was terrible.”
And the tech problems didn’t stop there…
“From there, we moved over to WooCommerce, which was slightly better but still very manual,” Heather explains. “We had no connections between Ontraport – our CRM – and WooCommerce. It was all just very manual. Like I said, if I missed one step, suddenly we were completely unsynced and I had no idea where this person belonged or what action needed to be taken for them.”
“MemberMouse has been amazing in that way. We've set up zaps now to alert Ontraport if someone cancels their membership – which our members can do themselves by the way – and that’s amazing. Now when a member cancels, it automatically takes them off the email list and it sends me a notification to remove them from the Facebook group. The whole process is just so much smoother. It's so great.”
“Yes, there are still some manual steps,” Heather emphasizes. “There's always going to be when you have a Facebook group I think. I don't know if there's systems out there that do that too but just having that email notification so that I don't have to look like, ‘Oh, this person just canceled I better go do it right now.’ Because otherwise I'm going to forget. Right?”
Freed Up Time & Energy To Grow The Business
What have Briana and Heather been able to do with all of the time and energy their saving now that they have smooth, automated systems in place for their membership? For starters, they’ve created an entirely new online course for their existing customers and community members! This one thing alone has created an entirely new revenue stream for their business.
“Since switching to MemberMouse, we’ve added a new course to our offering. We have Love Rising in there and then recently Briana created a self-discipline course called Harness Your Power. We added another membership level for the people who bought the course but aren’t in Love Rising,” Heather states.
Now, cross promotion is much easier for Briana and Heather because they can market their additional products directly to people who have already made an initial purchase from them. Heather explains how this works for them:
“We've also had people from Love Rising buy the course because they see it in the member dashboard and can just go in and just buy it. We get multiple sales per month just from people seeing it and how easy it is for them to access. It's amazing.”
Heather and Briana make use of one of MemberMouse’s most powerful features for increasing the profitability of your online business:
“We have the new online course set up with MemberMouse’s 1-click purchase links. We move our courses to the top of that list so that when a Love Rising member logs in, they see their Love Rising levels but they also, of course, new courses at the top with a purchase now button.”
“That's why we love it because we're like a two-person shop. It's Briana and it's me and that's it for Love Rising and all of her BrianaBorten.com stuff. Having things like this where it's automated, where it's easy, where it's trackable, being able to see how many Love Rising members have purchased the course. It just makes my life so much easier. It's been wonderful.”
The Specific Features That Make A Difference
When you don’t have a central home for your content and community, it can be hard to get even the simplest things done. This was certainly the case for Briana and Heather before they created their own membership site.
“I love how easy it is for me to find what I'm looking for,” says Heather. “In the past it was really difficult for me to even tell Brianna like how many members we had at any given time. You would think that would be easy! Let me tell you, it's not that easy when you're in three different systems.”
“All of our members have a membership here on our platform. Now it’s so easy to pull data when I need it and not feel like, ‘Well, give me a couple hours to go through and sort the spreadsheet and check to see if all are actually active.’ That used to be so much work. It was a ridiculous amount of work for what I was trying to get. And so just the ease of the organization. I love being able to pause people. There's so much in here that I love. Being able to resend people's welcome emails. I do that all the time. Our people are not super tech friendly.”
Heather elaborates, “Even just being able to log in as a member – because once or twice somebody has been telling me something and I'm like, ‘I do not see this at all. What are you talking about?’ Being able to log in as them and see what they're seeing is amazing. I love that. There are so many features that we love. There's nothing I don't love about it.”
“Now that we've settled into it, I would love to get in there and do some more customization. Right now, I have an alert set up right now that tells me when someone buys Harness Your Power – Briana’s discipline course. Because we're trying to track and see how our marketing for that is doing because we're not putting a ton of effort into it right now. So, we just want to see how it's going. I know that there's even much more that we can do and so I'm excited to get into that part of it.”
Whew! Briana and Heather have sure been on a journey over this past year. We're so glad they made it to the other side.
So that just about wraps things up for this article! We'd like to extend our sincere gratitude to Briana and Heather for sharing so freely from their story. It's our hope that you're walking away with some new insights you can bring into your own business. There are so many fantastic lessons and takeaways in the journey they undertook to build their very own membership site.
We think one of the main things their journey illustrates is that at the beginning, it can be tricky to predict the sort of problems and challenges you'll face later on. It's difficult to know the exact tools and process you'll need until your well on your way. While using things like a private Facebook group and email list worked early on for them, all of these separate tools ended up creating problems for them down the line.
If you'd like to read more inspirational stories from other people in the MemberMouse community, be sure to check out more of our Customer Success Stories and tune in to our podcast, where we interview our customers, interesting entrepreneurs, experts, and best-selling authors.
If you have anything you'd like to say or questions about this post, be sure to leave a comment below and join our discussion.
Over the past 6 years, Matt Brown has worked closely with some of the world's most successful membership and online course entrepreneurs. He's seen first hand what works – and what doesn't – when it comes to starting, building, and growing online businesses. On top of that, Matt was responsible for screening all the guests we've had on the Subscription Entrepreneur podcast. This allowed him to hear the best membership marketing and growth strategies from top authors and experts. Now, he shares everything he learns with you here on the MemberMouse blog. Subscribe today so you can discover cutting-edge strategies that can help you grow your membership, subscription, and online course business.