July 24, 2023
By now you may (or may not) have heard the exciting news! Rising Tide Society is branching off from HoneyBook as its own entirely independent 501c3 nonprofit organization.
This is such a powerful and inspiring new chapter, as Rising Tide Society transitions its leadership to a committed and visionary group of business owners. Before we celebrate what this development means for the future, however, first we need to look back on the story of Rising Tide Society because its come so far over the past eight years.
Credit: Madison Short Photography
Today, Rising Tide Society boasts more than 200 chapters and thousands of active members from all corners of the world from Knoxville, Tennessee and Lubbock, Texas, to Tokyo, Japan and Wiesbaden, Germany.
But where we are today is far beyond what we originally thought possible years ago, and the glimmer of an idea for what has become Rising Tide Society was born right here, in Annapolis, Maryland.
When Davey Jones, Krista Jones, Hugh Hayes, and I first started Rising Tide Society years ago, we had a modest vision. However, the idea of community over competition has become more of a norm, that wasn’t always the case.
Years ago, when I was a wedding photographer, I was tired of working within a community that pit us against each other that used to be the status quo.
I felt so alone at the time, and I was noticing that no amount of success was fixing it. In fact, I was starting to notice the more success you find as a business owner, the harder it is to find people to connect with, because some may view you as a threat.
Credit: Tessa Rae Photography
What’s so interesting (in a good way) is how many conversations I’ve had in recent years with people who will say things like, Well, of course people support each other! Of course you support other women in business! Why wouldn’t you? A rising tide raises all ships, right?
Oh my gosh, it warms my heart to hear such a change in tune.
Because no, this wasnâ€™t always the case.
Again, this idea of community over competition has become so commonplace and ingrained in the independent business community that some may not realize how painful and untrue it was for so long. When we first started floating that community-celebrating mantra, there were those who didn’t like it, convinced that such an idea could never stick.
We didn’t have anyone to connect with about the challenges of entrepreneurship, so we laid the groundwork for such a community to exist.
Back then, our big hairy audacious goal was simple:
What if we can get like¦ 20 people together every month in Annapolis to talk about business?
Given what Rising Tide Society has become, that may seem small, but it was a big reach goal for us at the time. We didn’t know if anyone would be interested.
But we went for it anyway the vision for what could be was worth it.
Credit: Ashley Kristen Photography
Each month, a few of us creatives would get together at a local cafe in Annapolis to support each other in a way we hadn’t been able to find elsewhere before. We’d talk about business, share ideas, and get feedback on challenges we were facing.
At the time, just in that small, nascent state, it was inspiring. I don’t think any of us could have imagined that anyone else would want to host a meeting like that, let alone that it would become the organization we know today, with structure and true leadership.
We were lonely creative business owners and entrepreneurs who wanted to foster a sense of community and true togetherness for others who might feel the same way.
We had no idea what was to come.
Credit: Enuel Viera Photography
Needless to say, thanks to all of you truly, you, the members and leaders, are the true heroes of Rising Tide Society here we far surpassed our dream of a modest 30-person meetup once a month in Annapolis.
But that kind of rapid growth came with its own challenges.
On the one hand, we were breathtakingly inspired each and every day to see what Rising Tide Society was becoming. Also, the way so many of you were championing the idea of community over competition, enabling it to take root within our culture was beyond anything we could have possibly imagined.
On the other hand, we were volunteering as founders of the organization, and we were struggling to support and build Rising Tide Society the way it deserved while also managing our own independent businesses.
Then HoneyBook took notice of what we were doing, at just the right time.
And the HoneyBook cofounders believed, with additional support, Rising Tide Society could and would make a massive impact in the independent business community. HoneyBook sought to build up the very community they also champion and empower every single day through technology, education, and advocacy.
Looking back, we were able to do so much to strengthen the foundation of what Rising Tide Society is (and will be) through the acquisition by HoneyBook.
HoneyBook offered an avenue toward sustainability, so we could focus entirely on building the Rising Tide community as our full-time jobs. It enabled us to focus on establishing the foundation of our leadership structures, vetting candidates to lead chapters, and more.
Credit: Lauren Carnes Photography
The stability offered by HoneyBook enabled us to establish this level of critical infrastructure. It is how we’ve been able to transform a movement into a true community that thrives, with leaders who have the best interest of members at heart, so we can move forward together, as one.
This is particularly true once the pandemic hit. The Rising Tide Society was founded based on the momentum and spark of magic that happened within our in-person meetups. Without HoneyBook and the dedicated support of team members like Kait Masters and Wendy Zook, COVID-19 would have potentially killed everything we had worked so hard to build.
Instead, we were able to experiment with different types of events (like virtual and hybrid gatherings), fight fiercely for the health of independent businesses, and explore new avenues of expansion to bring resources to the community, as we looked ahead to what a post-pandemic future might look like.
Thanks to HoneyBook, we also expanded the scope of our membership from only creatives to independent business owners of all kinds.
To me, that’s so incredibly special.
Rising Tide began as a group for creatives, because that’s what we were… creatives. However, when you invite others in with different backgrounds, everyone grows and learns together. Purposeful inclusion of diverse perspectives is how we all grow and thrive together.
This opening of the door to other types of business owners is what I see as a fundamental turning point for Rising Tide Society of what it is today and why it will continue to flourish in future.
After nearly eight years as part of HoneyBook, the Rising Tide Society is now a self-organized community-led entity. This is truly a remarkable moment. In partnership with HoneyBook, the Rising Tide Society has secured non-profit status and has appointed a board of business leaders from within the community to guide its future development.
I am truly honored to be joining the inaugural board and whole-heartedly support the new leadership of Rising Tide. This group of independent business owners cares so deeply for continuing our core mission.
All of our board members, leaders, and volunteers have raised their hands time and time again to support this community. They are heroes in my eyes.
Additionally, what truly warms my heart is how much support HoneyBook is showing the new era of Rising Tide Society leadership:
The people you see above (and all those behind the scenes!) are the true visionaries of what’s to come.
They are bringing fresh ideas to the table, and they are breathing new life into the original vision that began years ago at a small cafe in Annapolis.
And they are doing so in a truly independent way. I’m so grateful to all of the leaders, committee members, and newly appointed board members for the hard work they’ve put in behind the scenes, over the past several months, to bring us to this incredible moment today.
Because this new generation of Rising Tide leadership realized something important. They raised their hands and said that if you want to create a community that is truly by independent business owners, for independent business owners, it must also be just that: independent.
Yes, we can, should, and will continue to partner with like-minded brands and companies, it is absolutely essential to do so from a place of true independence. As a self-run, self-managed organization, the alignment and pure intention that keeps the community first, always, remains intact.
I hope you’re as excited as I am about what’s next for Rising Tide Society. If you are wondering how you can get involved as we look ahead to the future, here’s what you need to do:
And from the bottom of my heart, thank you so much to all of you who have championed Rising Tide (either as active members or even on the sidelines). I am so grateful to all of you and to HoneyBook for growing this organization into something that has eclipsed everything I thought it could become.
You are living proof that community will always win over competition, and I cannot wait to see what comes next.
© 2023 Natalie Franke