Building a Community
It takes a village; an expression I've always struggled with.
My name is Lianne Kim and I am the Founder of Mamas & Co. I want to share with you a bit about myself and how I got here.
As the youngest of 3 kids, and an overachiever in academics, I often thrived independently. In school, I'm not proud to admit I often felt group work held me back, and I preferred just getting things done on my own. In university, I was never the smartest in the room or the best at any activity. I enjoyed being challenged by others but still I often felt the call of group leader. However I started viewing collaboration in a different way. I started seeing what others brought to the table as much more valuable, and how different points of view created for a more rich and diverse end product.
Once I had children of my own, swimming in my own vulnerabilities and imperfections, I started not only accepting help from others, but asking for it. I reached out to family and friends to watch my kids so I could have much needed me-time, or time with my partner. I turned to other moms and online communities such as East Toronto Young Mothers for support and knowledge through challenging parenting times. I think I, like many people I know, started seeing the benefits of the hive mind and relying on it more heavily. Collaboration was no longer something I had to endure, it was something I sought out. I find I am more accepting of advice, guidance and support now than ever before. Perhaps it's a product of aging, but I feel like it's more a product of wisdom. We don't know what we don't know. There is a lot more I want to know, and I'd rather learn from the people in my life than from some random book on Amazon.
When I started Mamas & co., I didn't know what I was getting myself into. I asked around to see if there were other women like me who were raising a business and a family at the same time. It turned out there were. I kept meeting fabulous, thriving mamas all over town, at the playground or the dance class waiting room... All of these incredible women who had kids, but felt this intense pull to create something bigger than just an income. I totally jived with these women. It wasn't just that we shared a common interest, it's that these women were smart, passionate, driven, curious, and wanted to share what they knew with others. I wanted to hang out with them!
We first met as a group of 7 on a Wednesday night in November 2014. I had met only a few of these women before in person. At first we were a bit shy, standoffish, but by the end of the evening, just like a good first date, sparks were flying, ideas taking shape, plans being made. We talked openly about what we wanted our group to be, and what we wanted it NOT to be. I knew I was onto something when in the coming weeks our membership doubled, then tripled then quadrupled within mere weeks. Women were finding us online and wanted to be a part of this!
Since that inaugural meet-up our online community has grown to over 120 members and our Meet-ups are at 40+. We formed an Advisory Council that help keep us on track, and have an official registration process to become a member. We are brainstorming new Meet-up topics, and new event types, and we are launching a website. Our plan is that the website will not only be able to facilitate membership and event registration, but also be another means of members connecting and sharing what they know. It will become the home base for our community and allow members to connect in brand new ways, this blog being one of them. While I enjoy creating, writing, sharing what I know, I know our community will benefit from the many intelligent, witty voices in this group. So I invite you all to find ways of contributing to this amazing community.
While I now see it does take a village, our village is not yet complete. We are still building the infrastructure, inviting new villagers, assigning new duties - This project is going to ebb and flow and change course and there is always room for suggestion, involvement, improvement. Giving birth to a community is a lot like giving birth to a child or to a business. It's a long road and the hardest part is what happens after the birth. But I'm confident we have the right village in place. And to you, my fellow villagers, with all of you on board, I promise that while we may not always get every step right, this will not be boring and it may just end up being pretty amazing.
Lianne Kim is the founder of Mamas & Co. and a proud mother of 2. (Photo credit: Emily Doukogiannis)