Listen Up! IH - Episode 23
👆 That's how Rosie Sherry gets people to care deeply about the work she does.
She also founded the testing community - "Ministry of Testing" and ran it for almost a decade. MoT makes more than $1.2M in annual revenue and that too without any ads.
Back in June 2019, she appeared on the Indie Hackers podcast hosted by Courtland Allen to talk about all things community.
Rosie got her first testing job back in 2001.
As she gained more experience as a tester, finding better jobs became easier for her.
But not until she became pregnant with her first child. The tech industry back then wasn't very supportive of women starting families.
Rosie had to rely on freelance and contract gigs at the time, she even supported her husband in his tech business.
She started hosting local meetups in Brighton, for women in tech called - Girl Geek Dinners.
There was a point where she even co-founded a co-working space with a friend.
Rosie realized that she enjoyed creating environments where people can come together and have real conversations.
Then she looked at the testing industry and found it to be very dry and mechanical.
Any "community" stuff happening there was just marketing material from large corporations. There was no space for testers to have real conversations.
That's when she started Ministry of Testing.
It was just an online forum hosted on a tool called Ning.
She knew a few bloggers in the testing space, reached out to them, and started the community.
This is her advice on how to jump-start a community and get the initial members -
"Mostly talking to myself and a few other people and based on that it’s mostly about showing up every day or every week and consistently trying to do something interesting to catch people’s attention."
She didn't want to do ads to monetize the community, as incentives can be misaligned when there are sponsors involved.
Rosie also felt like the community needed a way to come together physically.
In 2012, Ministry of Testing hosted its first conference Test Bash Cambridge.
65 people turned up at the event and everyone paid for a ticket.
She made some money from it, not a lot, but good enough.
This is her reason for doing the conference -
"The whole idea of running the conference for me was that I was a tester and I knew that there was nothing else out there for testers. There was nowhere where testers would gather and speak openly about their industry. The only other events that were out there were completely corporate-focused, or they were full of sales vendors just shoving tools and marketing and I was like, “This is not us.” Testers deserve to have something better than what they had."
In 2015, Ministry of Testing started charging a membership fee.
Members could get access to premium content.
Most of the content was the talks from the conferences they were doing at the time.
At its peak, MoT was doing 9 conferences a year across multiple cities.
But doing so many conferences meant that their content library was fantastic, and the community kept growing stronger.
It became so strong that some members even got the name and logo of the community Tattooed on their bodies.
There's a thread on their discourse community with all the tattoo posts.
When asked "How do you make people care so much about something you've created", this is what Rosie says -
"It’s really, really simple. I’m kind to people and I think about people first. I think about how I can help them and how I can lift them up at every opportunity that I can. No matter what community you create, you can change people’s lives and that’s what I focused on."
Today Ministry of Testing does global conferences and its annual revenue is north of $1.2M.
Eventually, Rosie moved on from MoT to focus on other personal and professional projects.
On Roadmaps - If you start a community, by definition you are going to be reactive. You can set a roadmap for the community, but once a few people join in, they have a stake in the community as well.
So your approach has to be flexible to their opinions.
On Roles - Whatever community you start, soon enough you will stop doing that thing and will have to focus on community management skills instead.
Rosie started "Ministry of Testing" as a tester, but with time she has stopped actively being a tester and more of a community manager.
On Business Ideas - Community managers have great business ideas because they interact with their members on a daily basis, so they intuitively know their problems.
This is why Rosie Sherry doesn't do customer research -
"I don’t do customer research or anything like that because my community is my customer research. I know who they are. I know what triggers them. I know what pisses them off and based on that I end up making decisions that I believe are good for them."
She encourages people to build communities as a way to build a business, as it ensures that you are in there having conversations with your members every day.
But she herself cares a lot more about the experiences of the community members over generating revenue.
And that is the best way to run a community.
She believes this is the best way to build a humane business.
Rosie's advice for Indie Hackers is to stay behind the scenes and tame their ego -
"I love hiding behind the scenes, just looking at everything that happens and figuring out what to do with it. I think it would be amazing if more people did that and had less ego in how they approach things, focused in on what it is that people need and want."
Let's look at some Insights, Ideas, and Inspiration from Rosie's story -
Paying It Forward with Kindness to Build a $1.2MM Community - The podcast that inspired this post
Thank You for Reading🙏
Have thoughts? Join the conversation, I tweeted about this story earlier this week -
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Thanks to Seth King for editing this post.