How to Build a Kick Butt Community

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If you've ever considered building an online or offline community, a group program, or a MasterMind, this episode is for you!

In this episode, I interview Shannon Siriano, founder of Rebelle Con and the Rebelle Community about what it takes to really build community. We talk events, teams, and so much more.

To learn more about Rebelle head to https://www.rebellecon.com/.

The next RebelleCon is happening October in Richmond, Virginia October 17-19th! And it’s SOLD OUT!!

But, you can get a chance to win a ticket! Click here to learn how to enter the giveaway for a chance at a RebelleCon ticket!

Episode Transcript

Nikki Nash:
I know that my audience has been super interested in building community and I just love for you to tell us how rebel con came to be. We'd love to just hear about your experience building it as well.

Shannon Siriano:
Sure. So I had started a business and then I had a little mini nervous breakdown and then I sold that business and I was doing business coaching and consulting while I was coaching. An acquaintance of mine approached me and said, you know, I really admire you. We do similar work. I'd love to work on a project with you. Let's think about something that we could create together. And so we started the brainstorming process where like, could we do a workshop? Could we do a speaker series? What could we do? And then finally we landed on, we're going to host a conference, which is kind of a crazy like journey from like a let's hang out together to like, let's put on a conference together. But that's just kind of the people that I roll with. It's a lot of big thinkers. But really the motivation behind it was we had always wanted to work together. And then from that conversation it was who else have we always wanted to work with? And so we needed a project big enough that we could basically woo all of the interesting people in our community that we've always wanted to work with. So the whole thing started in more about what's the community that I want to build for myself versus what's the product or the event or the thing that we're putting into the world. And I think that's why our events and what we do is so community focus because that's where it started.

Nikki Nash:
That's amazing. And if you guys have not attended a rebel con event, I strongly recommend it. I've been to two and one of the things I can say is that it really feels like a true sense of like sisterhood and community and everybody is go getters and has each other's backs. And so that's just so amazing to see.

Shannon Siriano:
See yeah I'm very proud of that. I think some of the feedback that we get, cause we always do surveys after the event. Like the message that I keep like reading over and over is that people truly feel like everyone else who attends the events, even though they're, you know, few hundred people, they feel like they, everyone generally wants each other to succeed. And I feel like that's not always the case when you're talking about a business or entrepreneurial event. It's sometimes feels very competitive but definitely we foster that support for one another and it's just something that I'm really proud of them.

Nikki Nash:
That's amazing. What's your secret? How did you, what's the collaborative community?

Shannon Siriano:
I would say definitely being collaborative from the beginning definitely helps. You know, I pride myself on the fact that I am a leader and I'm not afraid to like stand at the front and take charge of things. But at the same time I just really like to work with amazing creative people. So that truly is the foundation. You know, they say like in a company, right. And like comes from the top. Like for us, like it comes from the team, like the team is very collaborative and really values the input of one another and then that is felt through our ambassadors. And then that trickles down to the attendees, even if you've never been to an event. So I think, you know, building community has to be the goal from the beginning. And I think a lot of people get confused the difference between community and audience and we really lean on the community side versus a building the audience side. There is space for both and there's value in both, but you have to pick which one you're gonna focus on.

Nikki Nash:
Yeah. Can you tell me a little bit about how you see the community versus audience?

Shannon Siriano:
Sure. So community for us means our goal is to facilitate relationships among the people that come to our events. So instead of how I think of an audience that like we're here to entertain or we're here to educate, that's not really what we're doing. So I think the nice thing about community is the more people that join, the better the experience becomes for the attendees. Because that means there's more people for them to connect with, more perspectives for them to hear from and there's just a different kind of benefit based on like how the community grows. Whereas an audience, your experience is kind of the same whether there's 10 people there or 20 people there, except like you might not have as good of a seat. Like I said, there's value to both. I'm happy to be in the audience of many people that I'm inspired by and want to learn from, but we're in the business of exchange of ideas versus a, we're teaching you to do something.

Nikki Nash:
That's amazing. Earlier you mentioned that it really comes from the top and you know, how did you build out that team to help facilitate that sense of community and collaboration and all of that jazz?

Shannon Siriano:
Well, in the beginning it was a lot of favors, but you know, I think the idea was always bigger than me and my co founder. Right? So when we were initially putting together the team, it was literally us sitting at my dining room table, writing down a list of all of the people we've always wanted to work with. So like, who's our favorite like copywriter, who's our favorite graphic designer? Like who are people that we know that put on other cool events in the city? Like how do we connect with those people? And so we invited, I think it was like the first three people from our personal network and it was literally like taking them to coffee. And the two of us pitching the idea of this thing that we want to do and why we think they're the person to help us and what we hope that they can bring to the table if they're interested in working with us.

And then once we had those people, it was more of a like, okay, like here's the holes that we know that we need to fill. Does anyone in this group now know people could be those next spots? And it was literally me pitching each person individually. Like this is why I think you're amazing. This is what we need help with. This is what we're planning to do. Like will you help us? And it came together and some of those people that are where the very initial people that we pitched are still involved now and we're working on our fifth event. So that makes me very proud that we like brainwashing and then they can't leave. But then also, you know, just people that have attended our events then approaches and say, how do we get more involved? And we've been able to like roll team members on and off because it isn't a time commitment. And also it's nice to have fresh perspectives and fresh ideas from people that haven't been in the weeds of planning the events.

Nikki Nash:
One of the things that I loved about what you said is that you pitched your idea to people and asked for favors. And I think so many people, when they start thinking about team, they immediately go, Oh my goodness, I can't have team. I can't have support because I have no money. So how did you position rebel con or what did you kind of modeled the dupilumab? Yeah. What was that offered? Yeah,

Shannon Siriano:
no, it really had to be because we didn't literally didn't have any money. The whole first event, all of the expenses I put on my credit card and like crossed my fingers and like prayed that I would make them back, which you don't know. And events can often take a long time to become profitable. So it was definitely a gamble on my part. So the way that we pitch to those original team members was essentially we would love for you to write us a proposal of what it would cost if we were going to pay for your services and know that we can't afford your full rate obviously, but we want to see what that is and let's figure out a way can we offset some of that with a sponsorship position. So you now become a sponsor of the event at a level that would be your rate.

And then if there's just like no way you could do it without getting cash, like what's the smallest amount of cash essentially that we could pay you? So we can make it both. So it's cash and trade essentially. And we had really generous people that wanted to work with us. So they said, look, normally I would charge you $3,000 for this contribution if you were just someone that I don't know, but how about this? Give me a $2,000 sponsorship and if you make a profit, pay me that other thousand dollars if you don't make any money, forget about that and consider that my gift to the cause. That's awesome. Yup. And what we've been able to do as we grow is essentially start than paying more and more people. So every event that we have, we make a little bit bigger profit and we're able to either hire someone on a retainer or compensate them for some of the work that they did for the event.

But I will say the money piece is something that I've struggled with personally, that I obviously want to pay everyone their full rate for everything that they do, but our events just aren't at that yet. I feel very confident that they will be and will be able to continue to like increase the amount that we're paying everyone that's involved. But so many of our team members have said to me, look, the community that I gained from this and the opportunity that I get to work with people outside of my industry and people I would never connect with is more valuable to me than if you were just a client and they feel very invested in the brand that they actually are a part of it and part of bigger than you know a thing that's bigger than them. So I feel really good that I continue to have conversations with the person and be like, is this still a valuable experience for you? If not, what do we need to change? Do you need a break? Do you not want to work on the next event? Do you want a different role in the next event? Like what can I do to make sure that you are getting something out of your experience versus me just getting your awesome help that I could never afford to work on my projects.

Nikki Nash:
Tell me about that first event and what was that experience like for you?

Shannon Siriano:
Terrifying. And I cried every day.


it was so hard. Well, the reason why I was so hard was I had a three month old baby when we started and we had a three month timeline from like, Hey, we're going to put on a conference to like the date that the conference was happening was three months. So we had like no brand, no website, we didn't know how to put on a conference. We had like three people that said they'd help us, but we needed like five more. It was crazy, but it was also really good to have that short of a deadline because we just had to do the most efficient thing to like get the thing to happen. And I think I learned so much from that experience. I really think it was the best way for us to do it because if we would have had a much longer timeline, I think we could have gotten hung up on a lot of other details that just weren't that important.

We obviously didn't raise as much sponsorship dollars as I would've hoped to because it was a short timeline, but like I learned how to pitch so quickly and I learned from that like initial email to know if like these are going to be a potential person or not so that I didn't waste my time. Like pitching a ton of people that I knew weren't really gonna get them on board and they're just being played to take my meeting. Um, we had to get super clear on just essentially everything like who we were going to pitch to speak venue. Like all those decisions had to be made without a ton of like, Oh well should we do this or should we do that? Which I think slows the process, doesn't necessarily make the event better. Um, and just takes up a lot of everybody's time and everyone that works on our events are really busy.

So we just, we like from the start like figured out how to do things super efficiently and super lean. But like coming to like the day of the event was really incredible because the event that we on like exceeded even my own expectations and I was really so proud of the content and the sense of community from literally day one that at first I was like, I'm never doing this again. And then after like a couple of weeks of like getting really nice emails from people, I was like, all right, I guess let's do it. And now it's like a whole thing now it's my job.

Nikki Nash:
Oh, love it. How quickly did you do the next event and what were some of the big things that you learned from the first one that supported you with the second one?

Shannon Siriano:
After the first one I was like, I'm never doing that again. Like I almost died. I cried all the time because I took everything super personal and I was just emotional anyway. So I was like, never again. But then like I said, I got such great feedback and then I got like the pictures back and I was like, all right, like it was actually pretty great. So we decided to do another one in the summer. So the first one was in November and then we did one in June. But honestly I made a lot of mistakes on the second event that we didn't necessarily make on the first event. One because I think I had too much time to overthink it. And two, I just was trying to test out a different format too quickly versus like just make the format that we know work to like tweak it a little bit to make it even better.

So I learned no more reinventing the wheel. If you have something that works, just do little changes to improve it versus trying to create something new. Good, good entrepreneurial lesson there. Um, so for the second one we called it a pop up and we condensed it into just one day and we tried to pack everything into that day. Like speakers, workshops, breakouts, like all in one small container so that we could charge a little bit less for the event knowing that it's in the summer and that was a mistake we should have. Let it be the full event and put together all the content because it really wasn't less work to condense it into one day. It actually was more work because there's so much more logistical coordination that had to happen. So I learned just keep the format the way that it worked. The other thing is because we charged less money, that didn't mean that we sold more tickets because we were limited by the space that we were hosting the event in. So we ended up making less money. Actually, I think I lost a little bit of money on the second event. I think it was like $60 so I paid $60 to have this event basically. And so I was like, all right, less than Larry. And like making it smaller, making it less expensive doesn't attract more people if your space is limited. So go back to the big format. They got such great feedback and just tweak and slowly grow versus trying to change it up for every event. No, there's

Nikki Nash:
Such amazing advice! Especially, “Hey, if you have a model that works, don't reinvent the wheel.”

Shannon Siriano:
When you're creative person that has lots of ideas, it's really hard to just be like, no, this is working. Let's just add a snack break. Not exciting. Right? Like, but that's probably what's gonna make it better. So just do that. Beautiful.

Nikki Nash:
You've also had some really amazing speakers come through rebel con. Can you talk a bit about how you really thought about this isn't just pitching to, you know, team and getting support that way. It's bringing in the talent and the speakers and the trainers and things like that.

Shannon Siriano:
Right. I know I feel like I'm just like a hype girl, which I'm actually like, I'm pretty happy about that job. Like I love just talking to people about how awesome this is and how much I love it and how awesome they are and why I want them to be part of it. But yeah, I mean speakers is so interesting. I mean, the secrets to success with speakers is you just have to stop people in like a polite and courteous way. But some of like our big speakers, I just have to email them or their people like a million times and not in a like stalkery like, Hey, you didn't get back to me kind of way in a like, Hey you're amazing and this is why I think we would love to have you. And then another one I'm like, Hey I just read this awesome article about you and just confirmed again why we really would love to have your perspective and follow up, follow up, follow up, follow up.

Because I think so often people will send one email and then they don't hear anything back and they think that's our objection. But like most of the time that just means you're buried in somebody's inbox. Especially if they're like a busy person that does a lot of stuff. Like it's very easy to just not be top of mind, especially if you're like newer on the scene. So that's like the tip that I like to give about like how did I get a great speaker and also say, you know, I was really fortunate that my brother is famous and he agreed to speak at the very first event as a gift to me and because he knows me because I'm his big sister and he has to do what I tell him, but that helped us like with credibility when we had none, like when it was really just a vision and we had never had an event before and we didn't have a website or anything like a video or anything that anybody could see.

We had a brand essentially that was saying, Hey, yes, I'm participating. That made it definitely easier to then pitch other people and I'm not saying like you need a celebrity to do that. I'm just saying that was my experience. But if you can find a great partner that does have brand credibility, whether it's a sponsor or a speaker or a host, I think that really helps in the beginning because when you're a brand that no one has ever heard of, it's hard to pitch even if you personally have a great relationships, which I do. So I think that was one. And then the other thing is I'm just like, when I meet somebody amazing, I just make sure I stay connected with them because you just never know Nikki Nash when you need someone to come and facilitate something, like, you know, like we met at that event and immediately I was like, I have to get you to Richmond, Virginia. So you know, staying connected with people that you meet is so valuable. You don't know what you're going to need them for or what you're gonna wanna work on them with. But like building those relationships I do think is essential to calling in those favors when you need them.

Nikki Nash:
I couldn't agree more. And I think sometimes people get caught up and Oh my goodness, I'm building this business, this business, this business and my audience or my customers that I think relationships can get lost. And so I think that is such great advice. And if you have any other thoughts or advice for people that are really just looking to connect and build relationships, I think that would be incredibly helpful for this audience and community. Just because, you know, we live in a different world now where you can stop people online and you can like million

Shannon Siriano:
times and all of that jazz. I mean, don't be like crazy, but you can be, you can follow up, right? Like it's not being crazy if it's thoughtful follow up and it's thoughtful followup coming from a genuine place. No, I agree. I mean relationships are really at the core for me. And um, I heard this woman that I know here, she is a really successful accountant actually. She's like a partner in her firm, the only female partner in this big, like international accounting firm. And she mentors a lot of students and like young professionals. And we were at a happy hour or something and she was saying that she really stresses, you know, our mentees connect and build relationships with the people that are where you are right now. Because in 10, 15 years, those are going to be the executives, you know, the business owners, the leaders that you're going to want to know.

And if you get to know them now, it's going to be that much easier to stay connected with them when they're really busy and don't have time for people that they don't know. And I feel like God, that's such good advice. And I wished that I would've started, you know, doing that earlier because right. Like it's sometimes it is easier to start building relationships with people that are kind of at the same level as you, but as you grow and may grow, like those relationships can become even more valuable. So start now, like just connecting with people around you because like I said, and I say call and favors, but really like it's an exchange, you know, I want to help other people and exchange. They want to help me because we have that foundation of a relationship started already.

Nikki Nash:
That's beautiful and really smart advice. It's, Hey, it's similar to get to know the people before they're famous. You know, before there there's somebody big, it's build that relationship now. Really get to know them, really understand who they are and connect with folks because you, you really don't know who somebody could be tomorrow.

Shannon Siriano:
Right.


I just wanted to know if you had any additional advice for somebody that let's say wants to throw a, we'll start with an event, like they want to throw an event. What would you say are like, here are the things that you need to know. Here's the steps that I would absolutely take, that sort of thing.

Well this is actually a timely question because we are right now in the process of expanding the rebel community. So the rebel community, which is different from the conference is a local group of people that have events all the time. So I don't like to call it a networking group because that's really not what we're doing. But that's probably the most similar example. So it's a local group of people that put on programming, whether it's speaker events or workshops that align with the themes of what we talk about at the conference. So we have one that's really active enrichment and we're launching our first one in Pennsylvania. So I've been working with the chapter founder there to talk through like how do you start, like how do you put on these events? Like how do you get people to come? And I've been advising her to do it the same way that I've done it, which is just connect with people first.


So she's literally has like a list of all the people she ever wanted to like invite to a party and she's just kind of going through that list to talk to them one on one, whether it's like a full on coffee date or just a phone chat. Just share about what she's doing and why she wants them to be involved. So I always say like build your ideal invite list first and start reaching out. Because at the end of the day I think of people put too much emphasis on like planning the perfect party, right? Like you have to have the right food and the right venue and the right, you know, lighting and Instagram-able spaces. And not to say that none of that is part of creating a good experience for people, but the most important parts are who shows up. So I'd rather have 10 absolutely incredible people come to my party and the food be kind of crappy and like no ice for the drinks.

Then have a hundred people come to the most beautiful event, but nobody talks to each other and no connections are made and everyone's just there taking pictures of themselves. Now that's just me and that's the kind of event that I want to put on. But I know that those are the kinds of events that I want to go to. I mean, they eat perfect example. That event that we met at, I felt like we really got an opportunity to like talk to each other and know each other and that's why we have a relationship. If we would have just both been attendees of that large conference that we went to, we never would have met. Like we never would've made the same kind of connection. So figure out who you want in the room before you try to worry about what floral wall is going to be. The place that people are going to take their pictures in front of

Nikki Nash:
That is so smart and so true. Because as you were speaking, I was thinking, wow, if we just went to some of these big conferences, I literally would not have you in my life. You would not be on this podcast. I would have never spoken out of rebel con. And so I really think that picturing who you want to be in the room first is a beautiful first step.

Shannon Siriano:
I used to work in hospitality and I worked in this huge um, like restaurant bar entertainment venue and they taught me this theory, which was, they said seed the room, which is basically, if you can get like 20 in this space is a huge space, 20 like really outgoing, like fun, energetic people in the room. The room will get full like it just will. So if you can start it with a really core great group of people that are genuinely excited to be there and show up like other people will come.

Nikki Nash:
That's awesome. I love your advice, Shannon. It's just really brilliant and I think for so many people it's, there's that concern of if you throw a conference, Oh my goodness, will they show up? Well, I have people. And so I think that's smart, you know, get those 20 energetic outgoing people focus on that first, then everything else will work itself out. I hope so. Yeah. That's my strategy. It's been working so far, so I liked it so far. Can you talk a little bit about signups and enrollment? Two events. I spoke to somebody the other day who wants to throw an event and they said, okay, I don't know. Do people like buy tickets? Right. When you announce it through, I think by like at the end, should I be looking for a consistently throughout? Can you share a little bit about what your experience has been?

Shannon Siriano:
Again, it's the worst, right? It's like so stressful when you're just hitting refresh like anymore anymore. Does anybody coming for us? Because we've kind of like started now, whenever we have an event we'll announce the tickets for the next event. So we'll get usually like a little influx during that announcement. And then it usually goes pretty quiet and we might see like some dribbles of people signing up. Then we usually do offer an early bird price. So then when we announced when the early bird pricing is ending, we'll see like another flux and then it'll usually like kind of as we get closer and closer to the event, like kind of like drip in. But I say that. And then the last event that we did in the spring, we sold out five weeks out from the conference, which I was just, everyone on my team was like blown away like, and we never thought we thought we would sell out, but like we thought we'd sell it like the day before, not five weeks before.

So we hadn't even started doing any of our like last push promotion or ticket sales. But what happened was we kinda like weren't paying attention to it. And then we like checked one day and there was like 50 tickets left and we're like, Oh my God. Like how did that happen? And we put out on social media like, well no, we announced it to our community first. Like we had an event and I was like, you guys, you haven't gotten into get, there's only 50 left, like get it today. And so then they went and a bunch of people bought it and so then we had 30 laps. So then we put it out there. And it was funny because it kind of created this like scrambly buzz effect and like a couple of people were posting on Facebook like, Oh my God, rebel cannoli has 30 tickets left.

And then it was like the next day they were gone. So that was really exciting because we never sold that many tickets and like a one day thing. So like we're all on Slack. Like Oh my God, I may God. Which was really fun. And then somebody bought like 10 tickets and we were like all totally freaked out. It was really fun. I hope that never goes away too. Like that excitement of like when somebody buys a ticket, cause I feel like obviously the first time you hosted an event it's like you're stalking it and it's like, Oh my God, am I going to even have an event? Is anybody coming? But then once you get going, like I am pretty confident that our events will sell out. But I hope I don't lose the excitement of when it happens with like when people buy tickets.

Nikki Nash
Yeah. It's just like, yeah, right. Oh no I saw all of those social media posts where it's like we ran 10 tickets left tickets. Oh God. That was like Whoa, this is so fun.

Shannon Siriano:
Oh and it's fun on the back end. Cause like I said, my team, like we get so into it, so like we're like sending crazy gifts back and forth and like we have a group chat and we have slacks. Like we're supposed to like keep business in Slack and like have our fun stuff in the group chat. But it was like all mixed up there. And we have like one girl who's like very rule follower and she would like someone who would pose like a funny GIF in the group chat. She was like put this in Slack. Oh it was fun.

Nikki Nash:
Cool. Oh what we're are, what are the positions that you think people really should think about if they're looking to build community and build events and things like that?

Shannon Siriano:
Yeah. Well I just get people to do things that I'm not good at. Right? So I think you assess your skills, be honest with yourself. Like what are you good at and what are you not good at? And then find people that are just good at this stuff you're not good at. I know I'm good at pitching, so I get the speakers, I build a team and I get the sponsors cause I'm good at the pitch and the followup and the follow through. So that's my role. I am really bad at like the details and like project managing and like contracts and like all of the like paperwork type of stuff. Um, and we're super lucky that we have someone who just loves doing that. And so, well we actually have like an admin manager who does all of our meeting events, all of our contracts, all of the paperwork and data and we have an operations person who is there to like monitor and document our systems so that we can be even more efficient going forward.

So those are two things that I know, me personally I really needed on my team because I'm not at, my brain just doesn't do that. Like I can make myself do it, but it's so energy depleting that I'd really rather not. For me, I mean from the beginning the, our graphic designer who is now our creative director, it just makes a whole world of difference when you're trying to pitch an idea to have a really clean, beautiful website and like materials online because it, like I said in the beginning, nobody knew what we were doing because we'd never done it before. So when they can land there and see no, like the quality of this looks like something I could trust and I would give money to. That's really helpful. And then the day of like we have a whole beautiful team that really works on the design and the execution of the event.

And so we have a like a planning and event designer. We have a volunteer manager, we have a logistics manager. I just, I told you earlier, we just hired a production manager, which I'm so excited about. So like front of the house, back of the house and then just like our logistics managers basically just in charge of like when something goes wrong, she's there and can point the person that needs to fix it. Like our last event and is a little behind the scenes for you and Nikki, you probably didn't even know this. The event venue had a flood like halfway through our event and so they had to shut the power off of the back of the building. And one of our volunteers was in the elevator when they shut the power off. So you need someone that can like go scream at people until your person is out of the elevator. So if you're planning an event, make sure you have a person like that.

Nikki Nash:
I had no idea. And I was there the whole day and didn’t even notice.

Shannon Siriano:
Yeah, I didn't know either. Which then again speaks to the strength of this team. Like I am emceeing the event and making sure, you know, the way that the production is flowing is working. I didn't know either until the next day and they were like, why would you need to know that? What were you gonna do about it? And I was like, very good point.

Nikki Nash:
Yeah, that's an, you know, you have a great team when they're like, we're going to problems without you because yes, it's worrying you about it. Yeah. It's a, everything's going to be okay. I know

Shannon Siriano:
everyone was fine. He got out, he was fine.

if you're going to put on events, just know crazy shit's gonna happen. Like it's absolutely impossible for it not to be. Even our most smooth of events, like somebody's flight gets canceled. Like there's always something. So just know that that's part of it. And like I've been behind the scenes of like way fancier and way better produced events than mine. It happens that those two, like there is no way than an event anywhere in the world gets put on that there's not some kind of snafu on the back end. You just have really good people there that know how to manage it.

Nikki Nash:
True. Oh my goodness. That is brilliant. It reminds me of weddings. You kind of think like, no wedding is going go off without something happening. So just pretend that you're event is that were like, something's gonna go wrong. It's going to be okay. Um, and just hire people that are going to make sure that it gets resolved. Yup. Absolutely. Well, a couple of final questions before we conclude, but I know that you, especially at the last summit, there were just so many amazing sponsors and it felt like it was very curated and I'm not sure if that was actually true or if it just felt that way. That like these are really amazing entrepreneurs that have amazing products that just feel like you want it down to like the food and the snacks too, like every element of it. And I'd love to just hear your philosophy on sponsorship and building those relationships and making sure you have the right partners and all that jazz.

Shannon Siriano:
Mmm, yeah, his sponsorships are tough, like at way more challenging than I ever thought when I started doing this. And I appreciate that. It seemed very curated. I think to a degree it is. And that like, we don't really have conversations with people that we wouldn't want to buy things from. You know, I mean like, don't get me wrong, I tell my team all the time, I will take anybody's money. Like I don't care. Like I will take your money, I will find a way to incorporate you into this program. And it feels thoughtful, but I say that it's probably a joke. I probably wouldn't take anybody's money, but I dunno. I think we've been really lucky. Again, it goes back to relationships. Like we've built such great relationships. I mean, the food's a great example. We built such great relationships with the food community here that people call us and want to sponsor.

I run, I got actually just got an email yesterday from this amazing woman, I'm sorry, a dessert studio. She calls it and she's been in business for like 25 years and she's getting ready to launch a Indian street food. Like pop up business is so cool. And she is like, I've just, every person I've talked to said I need to talk to you and that I should get involved in this event. So having great relationships and treating your sponsors really well, that they are actually referring other people to give you money or give you product. Like that's what you want. Right. But even like the corporate partners that we have, again, you know, we find people that align with the mission and the vision. Like we've had a couple of companies, actually the, the, the company itself doesn't necessarily do, but there's like a rogue department or like rogue leadership inside the company that does.

And so they like kinda like sneak in, which is fine too. I don't know if that answers your question. I think finding the right sponsors is important, but knowing how to manage the sponsor relationship is more important. Like if you know how to manage the expectations of a partner and you deliver what you say you're going deliver, that will not only create a better experience for the partner, but create a better experience for the audience too. Because I don't want people that are just going to be there to pitch that. Just see our audiences like people that are going to buy their stuff. They also have to be invested in the relationship and building a relationship if they want the partnership to be successful.

Nikki Nash:
That's beautifully said and really just kind of managing those expectations of ah, your sponsors where it's not just, Hey, here's an audience that you can pitch to. This is an opportunity for you to build a relationship with this community and let's talk about how that could work for you.

Shannon Siriano:
Yeah, and coaching them on that if they don't know how to, because I will say it happens often with like women business owners that are kind of like a generation before us. They're used to networking like men that you like come in a room and you hand out your business cards and the more business cards you hand out, hopefully the more leads you get back. But that's not how our community or really the new generation, whether you're a gen X or millennial, that's not how we build relationships with brands or products. So helping them understand like, Hey, this is how you're going to be successful in connecting with our audience. If you're open to that, then you are the right partner for us.

Nikki Nash:
Can you share a little bit more about what success looks like for sponsors and what they really should be thinking about or looking for in that relationship?

Shannon Siriano:
Well, it's different for everyone, right? And I think that's important to know too. Like yes, we have a standard like sponsorship packet that we use as a guide, but every one of our partners really does have a different motivation and a different version of split success looks like for them. So we have to understand what that is if we want to deliver on it. For example, we have one partner that's a really huge company. They're like fortune 500 company in a very boring male dominated industry. So they have a really small group of women in leadership positions in their company and they want to have more, so they are a partner of ours. They send, not their like executive levels but their like management and like meters to our events because they want them to be inspired by entrepreneurial people. They want them to be more connected with people in the community and they want to send an example to the community that they are invested in supporting those leaders.

So for them the goal is different when they come back to the office, they want their people to be energized and inspired and they want to see how they're able to connect with our community outside of just the event. So it's a very different goal than from say we have a, an attorney who specializes in small business that is a sponsor of ours where she really is looking to build relationships with potential future clients. But she really understands that for clients work with her, they need to be at a certain stage in business and they need to have specific goals and by the time those people realize they have that, they may be already having an attorney. So she needs to get to those people before they're at that place again to build that relationship. So when they do get to the point that they need an attorney at her level, they already know her.

Nikki Nash:
That's beautiful and really smart and strategic to even look for sponsors that are saying, Hey, we want to build a relationship with the community, but kind of bright before you see it to the point where they would need us because otherwise they'll be likely going with somebody else. So it's really looking, as people in this audience are looking for sponsors, it's not just who can benefit from knowing this audience today, it's who really wants to put in the time and effort to build those relationships over the next, whether it's months, years, of course.

Shannon Siriano:
Absolutely.

Nikki Nash:
Beautiful. Well, I know we're wrapping up here on time, but I'd just love to know if you have any final advice for the next generation of entrepreneurs that are really looking to build that sense of community and do it not just online but also offline.

Shannon Siriano:
It's funny, I don't really like to give advice because I don't consider myself an expert at all, but I do like to share my experience, right. And say like, this is what has worked for me. If you can be inspired by that. However, there's definitely been a theme for our conversations today that I didn't really know was going to happen. So we've started talking, but obviously relationships are at the core of this and I think those take time, and I know if I was just starting and I knew no one in this community, I would not be nearly as successful as I am now because I have put in the time and energy to build relationships. So I think especially if you're just starting like no, that yes, you can start a business and be successful, but the more relationships that you have, the faster that will be able to grow in the future.

Nikki Nash:
Beautiful. And you're right. I didn't realize there was a theme actually until you just said that. I'm like we have been speaking a lot about relationship as a theme was I love Maine but I wasn't planning on that one either. So it works. Yay. Now we haven't title. Oh beautiful. Well thank you so, so much for being on the show today and again for folks who have not been to a rebel con, I can't stress enough how amazing this community is. I know you are expanding to doing events in Pennsylvania, but the core events that I have been to have been in Richmond, Virginia and it doesn't matter where in the world you are. Like find yourself to Richmond, Virginia because it's a community where I considered moving to Richmond, Virginia. I'm like, these women are amazing.

Shannon Siriano:
Um, to us I will host you. That would be amazing.

Nikki Nash
You're not the only one. I am being recruited committee. I love it. Of course.

Shannon Siriano:
I feel though that like really speaks to me too, Nikki, even though you're not here, you're so connected with the people that you've met when you were here and I was honored that you would participate in those two events. So I feel very lucky.

Nikki Nash
Oh likewise. And thank you so, so much for just being an amazing person. I, I think that it's interesting today there's this movement about collaboration over competition and sometimes I still feel like it can feel like words as opposed to real action. And I think you're somebody that really embodies like, no, like let's collaborate. Let's make things bigger and better and really support each other. And that really shows through everything you've done with rebel con. Well, I'm honored. Thank you. All right guys. Cool. Wow. I just blanked. Not gonna lie. It was the perfect time. Kind of like, Oh my goodness. But thank you guys for listening and stay tuned for the next episode who is so pumped to go out and build their community to build their own event, to build their own team, to really have that sense of camaraderie and love and excitement with a group of people who is on board.

PODCASTNikki Nash