30 days since the launch of Littlebearabroad’s website. When I put it like that it seems like no time at all. But, wow, how much has happened!
“How do you make money?”
A lot of people ask me why I created Littlebearabroad and how am I making money out of it. Well, the later question is simple, I’m not making any money out it! Right now, all I’m focusing on is spreading the word, reaching out and making sure that I meet as many people as possible. In order to provide value for everyone in the same position that I was in a year ago. But, I need your help to reach the people who need this the most. If you like what we are trying to do please share this and spread the word about Littlebearabroad. It means so much to us and I can’t thank you enough for it.
The answer to the first question, why am I doing this? Well, it’s simple. When I arrived in Sweden, 7 months pregnant, totally clueless, unable to speak the language. I was utterly dependent on my partner for EVERYTHING and that was totally alien.
A little ditty: I came across a members-only expat support network based in Vasastan. It seemed civilised and welcoming. I attended one of their coffee mornings which was pleasant and informative and at the end of the session (a guest speaker about expat spouse ‘womans’ mental health) I asked about membership. There were a few awkward questions, a couple of side glances and then… they literally kicked me out and the door hit my ass whilst I was still down. They weren’t interested in a “me”. They wanted expats = “professional, top 5 FT, wifeys”. I felt truly alone at that moment. The irony of that entire experience is never lost on me and it will stick with me forever. So, I guess I should thank those who shall remain nameless.
So, I vowed that by the time my daughter was school age I would create a safe space for expat spouses (dads and mums) to feel at home and comfortable in their new surroundings. Somewhere they can seek help and advice without feeling ashamed of the questions they need to ask. Most importantly, a space that makes them feel apart of a community and not sitting on the fringes and alone.
The ‘Puff’ piece… then the hard work begins.
After waiting 9 months to write, curate and collate information and articles for the website we spent the entire summer writing brand guides, business plans and financial plans. By mid-August we had a skeletal website. Thanks to some writing I had been doing previously and the really successful events we had posted before summer The Local Sweden interviewed us for their “My Career in Sweden” series. It felt like it was all falling into place. On the 30th of August the website went live, it received a tremendous response. The following Monday, The Local released the article about Littlebearabroad and we were blown away by the response from all over the world, resoundingly positive!
And then….nothing. The stats dived, the social media accounts dipped and we were slowly sinking in our own content. Ugly comments surfaced about our ‘puff-piece’ marketing and our content being sloppy. The realisation that this is when the really hard work was going to start finally set in. How was I going to maintain fresh content, continue to create event opportunities, look for up and coming events in Stockholm, manage the Meetup group we had taken over in June, look out for ad revenue opportunities and most of all build a reputation as a thought leader in making expat parents feel at home in Sweden. It got really scary, really quickly and the pressure was totally overwhelming. I felt like a floppy-armed octopus, totally out of control. Gnawing self-doubt kicked in. Not just because of the workload but because I was putting my partner and my daughter at risk by choosing what some have called “unorthodox” career move. There were certainly no celebratory trumpets blaring now. I was sitting up ’til 1 or 2am writing content and creating branding examples, putting together social media strategies and figuring out how the hell to use iMovie. Not to mention getting to grips with balance sheets, financial forecasts and trying to put financial plans for potential investors in place.
In June, before the website launch, I had been asked by the previous organiser of our Meetup group to take over management of the group. I was delighted to do so, but only if I could make some changes. The group had grown rapidly and because it was so big Meetup required payment and membership dues for the maintenance of it. Of which, the previous organiser had paid out of their own pocket. So we introduced a slightly different subscription method to cover the costs with the promise of making the group slightly more dynamic and relevant.
You know what, people really don’t like change…I MEAN REALLY DON’T LIKE CHANGE. Of course, we suspected that this might happen, we kept our communication really open and gave as much notice as possible and staggered the membership dues between new members and existing members. We got some really vehement messages from our members. I took it SOO personally. I’m really not very good with criticism, I’ve never been good at criticism, which is stupid because it isn’t like I’m a perfectionist. I have no reason to take criticism personally. But, when you’re pouring your heart into something, especially something that you feel so passionately about, then someone accuses you of being a sell-out, money-grabbing ‘you-know-what’, you take it personally.
And the bad news just kept on coming:
The first new meetup we did after the launch of Littlebearabroad was our lättläst book group. We were so excited to have 14 rsvps and I had booked a table at /MotherSthlm. 1 person turned up…
The first Littlebearabroad event we held after the launch of the website was our Stadshuset barnvagnvisning… I had no rsvps until 2 days before the event. I almost cancelled it…
It was tough, dare I say heart-breaking. Then I met a group of ladies who turned it around for me and reminded me of why I was doing this. They reminded me of how I felt when I arrived in Sweden, totally lost and in complete culture shock. They reminded me of why Littlebearabroad is needed and who needs it. I regained my energy and realised where Littlebearabroad needs to be focused.
Surprised and delighted.
Earning the right to speak on behalf of a group of people is not something I had expected to happen. When the Local Sweden asked me to comment on the news that Sweden had been named best country for expats to raise a family I was delighted and surprised. Delighted for obvious reasons and surprised because, lets face it, anyone who isn’t a narcissist is just relieved to have successfully flown and landed by the seat of their pants. But, there is always someone lurking stage left to bring you down a peg or two. Whether it be a flippant remark or a full on assault of “You’ve only been here a year, you know nothing…” to keep you in your place. But, hey, if they (general interested parties ‘out there’) keep asking, I’ll keep telling because someone (‘out there’) finds what I’ve got to say valuable.
Now, things are on the up, we have more people attending events than before, especially the book group (phew). I’m being asked to contribute to more content sharing sites and I’m hoping Littlebearabroad will be linked to some really great brands in the future.
Sharing the love
So here we are, right back to day 30 of trying to figure out how the Interweb works. Learning about getting a message out there and guessing what people want to hear about. Most importantly mega big gratitude and ploppy tears to everyone who is supporting Littlebearabroad.com and sees its potential. In the words of the great Linda Ronstadt, “I don’t know much, but I know I love yooooouu.” Thank you for sticking with us and please keep doing what you are doing and share, tweet, Instagram, hashtag your love to us, too.