Friday, November 21, 2008

Building a Business Around an Online Community

I attended a Town Hall Meeting for Yahoo Groups this week and was so impressed with one of the stories I heard I had to immediately start writing about it. There is a woman that calls herself FlyLady who has over half a million -- yes 500,000+ -- members in her Yahoo group. Now that's pretty astounding. Yahoo was impressed too, and they even sponsored an event just for her members to celebrate that milestone, which they videotaped and showed to us. With a name like FlyLady I was thinking maybe her group was about hip hop dancing or something like that. Well, not even close. On the screen we saw a cuddly middle-aged housewife with the sweetest southern accent and an infectious smile thanking her audience and telling her story. Marla Cilley, as it turns out, built her huge following by helping women get rid of clutter. I kind of figured the topic was of some interest, given there are so many home organizing shows on cable TV (which I'm addicted to, BTW). But a club with 500,000-plus declutterers? Wow.

Her site (which actually could use a little de-cluttering itself, but maybe that's just me), is chock full of suggestions, advice and routines to help you live a more orderly life. I found one about instituting an evening ritual before you go to sleep, which sounds perfect for me. Usually at bedtime I'm struggling with my inner brat who refuses to go to sleep, which means I end up staying up too late and then tossing and turning until I finally, reluctantly succumb to the Dream Gods. The next morning of course I'm dragging my butt. Marla's bedtime routine has a series of steps that prepare you to wind down for the evening. She recommends straightening out the house, checking your appointments for tomorrow, setting out the breakfast things, taking a warm bath, reflecting on your accomplishments, and so on. But if you don't have time for all that, she has a short version: clean the dishes, lay out your clothes for tomorrow and brush your teeth. I can do that!

If you join the FlyLady Group you'll receive a barrage of emails daily, guiding you through your day. Housecleaning, decluttering, menu planning - she'll put you on a detailed schedule from morning to night but she makes it sound more like a fun game than actual chores. It's like having a personal assistant reminding you to take care of all the little things. My first thought was, when do I have time to read all those emails? Marla recommends spending 2 minutes scanning them and then deleting them periodically.

You'll find a ton of free information on the FlyLady site, but there's also plenty of stuff for sale - her CD's, books and decluttering products - all of which are pretty inexpensive. I guess when you have half a million members it all adds up. Plus she also does speaking engagements so I would venture to say this is probably a pretty lucrative business for her.

This successful entrepreneuress found her life's calling - decluttering - by giving and helping others - I like that business model!

Well, I have to go now. There's some dishes to be done, some clothes to be laid out, and some teeth to be brushed...over and out!

If you like this post please stumble it, or digg it, or make it de.lic.ious!

No comments: