Is it possible to start a membership and quit your 9-5 job? This is exactly what my guest Amanda DiNovo, the blogger behind Manda Panda Projects, recently did.
Amanda shares how she built her crafting membership and a subscription business, and how she did both organically.
Amanda talks about how she started her blog and business as a crafter, and how she came across our party ideas site Catch My Party, when she was first starting out.
Now, because of her success, Amanda is leaving her full-time job to focus solely on her blog and online businesses.
In this episode, we discuss:
- How Amanda attracts an audience using Facebook Lives
- How she created challenges to engage her audience
- How Amanda builds community and why that makes people stay
- How Amanda saw a need in her crafting audience and started selling a paper napkin subscription business
- And so much more!
If this episode inspires you, and you want to set up your own membership, you can do it in 10 minutes with MiloTreeCart to collect recurring payments, and a private Facebook group for community.
It’s easier than you think!
Table of Contents
- MiloTree Pop-Up App
- Manda Panda Projects
- Personality Quiz: What Digital Product Should I Create?
- Catch My Party
- Become a Blogger Genius Facebook Group
- All Blogger Genius Podcast Episodes
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Welcome to the Blogger Genius Podcast brought to you by MiloTree. Here’s your host, Jillian Leslie.
Jillian Leslie 0:11
Hello, my friends. Welcome back to the Blogger Genius podcast. I’m your host, Jillian Leslie. I’m a blogger, serial entrepreneur, I build businesses with my husband, David. We started in 2009 with Catch My Party, which is still going strong, you could check it out.
Jillian Leslie 0:27
Then we built our MiloTree pop-up app to help you guys grow your social media followers and email subscribers. And now we’ve launched MiloTreeCart, the easiest way for you to sell digital products to your audience.
Jillian Leslie 0:44
So, we are back from Las Vegas for Thanksgiving. As you can hear, I am nursing a little cold. We did our Black Friday special, it was wonderful. I’m super excited for all of you who purchased. In fact, I just got these messages Christie wrote, “I made almost $400 with my workshop. And now I’m going to put up the replay and keep selling.”
Jillian Leslie 1:06
And Betsy wrote, “Oh my God, Jillian, this product is so easy. 20 minutes start to finish. I’m so excited.” Well, I get so excited hearing from you and hearing about your successes. If you are a blogger, listening to this, I recommend you check out MiloTreeCart so you can start selling what you know to your people.
Jillian Leslie 1:31
We sell a lifetime deal pay us once, never again, for $3.49. And there is zero risk because we offer you a 30-day no questions asked money back guarantee. And I have to admit, nobody has asked for their money back yet. But I’m happy to do that because I only want you to pay for it if you love it.
Jillian Leslie 1:54
Also, we are there to walk you through the entire process. And we give you a library of materials to help you come up with ideas for products, create your products, and sell your products. Think about us as just members of your team rooting you on and helping you succeed. Go check it out milotreecart.com. If you have any questions, I’d love to hear from you.
Jillian Leslie 2:23
For today’s episode I have Amanda DiNovo on the podcast. She is the blogger behind Manda Panda project. She is a crafter, what we are talking about is how she built both her membership and her subscription business. And she did it in the way that I think is so powerful, which is organically and down and dirty.
Jillian Leslie 2:46
If you have the thought in the back of your mind, I want to start a membership. Definitely listen to this episode, steal Amanda’s strategy, and you can use MiloTreeCart to get your membership up in 10 minutes.
Jillian Leslie 3:01
But without further delay, here is my interview with Amanda DiNovo.
Start a Membership and Quit Your 9-5
Jillian Leslie 3:09
Amanda, welcome to the Blogger Genius podcast.
Amanda DiNovo 3:12
Thank you so much. I’m so excited to be here.
Jillian Leslie 3:15
So, we met because I was doing an Instagram Live talking about MiloTreeCart. I think it was like the day before I was doing my paid workshop and you popped into my live. And I was saying does anybody have a membership? And you said, “I do.” And I said, “Ooh,” you said it’s a crafting membership. I thought that was cool.
Jillian Leslie 3:38
And then I said, “Here email me because I’d love to interview you on my podcast.” So, here you are.
Amanda DiNovo 3:44
Here I am.
Jillian Leslie 3:45
So, Amanda, you are a crafter. I’d love to know how you got started with your blog and your business as a crafter?
Amanda DiNovo 3:48
This is like a really full circle moment for me because I actually started an Etsy store in 2019. I have twin boys and I used to do all their parties like hand making all their decorations for these big parties. And everyone was like, “You should really start an Etsy store. Oh my gosh, I can’t believe you made this.”
Amanda DiNovo 4:15
And so, bored at my corporate job. I’m like I’m going to start an Etsy store. And that’s how I came across you from Catch My Party because I said yes, I can do party planning. And it really started there. I didn’t dive into everything online business in my Etsy store like morphed into a blog. I’m like, okay, I can put my stuff up on a blog. So, I started a blog.
Selling Handmade Party Supplies on Etsy
Jillian Leslie 4:15
What were you selling and are you still selling in your Etsy shop?
Amanda DiNovo 4:30
I was selling handmade party decorations.
Jillian Leslie 4:43
Amanda DiNovo 4:45
Like banners, cake toppers. Photo booths, little gift favor bags, they were all personalized for whatever their theme was.
Jillian Leslie 4:55
And these were printables like I would go print these myself or you would ship them to me?
Amanda DiNovo 4:59
Jillian Leslie 5:00
So, you’re printing them decorating them and shipping them to me?
Amanda DiNovo 5:04
Yes. I quickly learned that was not scalable. I actually started to hate. I was making the same things over and over. I was like, “Oh my goodness.” So, that’s when I discovered blogging. I was like, I could make different things.
Jillian Leslie 5:16
Let me pause you there for a second. I just was interviewing somebody else about Etsy shop. No, actually two other people about their Etsy shops. And they said the same thing, which is when you have to make something over and over again you can get burnt out.
Amanda DiNovo 5:33
Yes. Absolutely. I didn’t want to do it anymore. Like if I saw another YouTube banner I was like, and I wanted to make more things. I didn’t want to get an order and then be like, well, you have to make this. It was no longer inspired to do it, I no longer felt motivated, it became a task.
Jillian Leslie 5:53
Is it also, like in most eCommerce businesses, you have certain items that are selling the most? Let’s say you’re selling 20 items, you’re not making 20 items over and over again, it’s like maybe your top two items are getting the most purchases.
Jillian Leslie 6:11
So, you’re making certain specific things over and over again, whereas people aren’t necessarily buying 18 other items. They’re typically buying those top two items.
Amanda DiNovo 6:21
Yes. 100%. That was it. Like my YouTube theme was the most. I just found that theme and everything on Etsy was all printables. And I would handmake. And there are people who don’t want to print on their own. They want somebody to make it for them.
Amanda DiNovo 6:34
And I was one of the only people on Etsy that was making them so that theme was so popular. And that was pretty much the majority of my Etsy shop.
Jillian Leslie 6:42
So, people wanted to throw YouTube parties or YouTube themed parties?
Amanda DiNovo 6:46
Jillian Leslie 6:46
That’s funny. So, those were the items and then you’re like, “I’m so sick of this.”
Amanda DiNovo 6:50
All my big salary. Yes.
Jillian Leslie 6:52
So, you started and you said 2018.
Amanda DiNovo 6:56
Jillian Leslie 6:56
- And then at what point did you go, “I’m getting burnt out on YouTube.”
Amanda DiNovo 7:02
I was burnt out probably after six months. I was looking at how to grow my Etsy store. And I immediately jumped in and started spreading my wings, into blogging. By January of 2020, I started my actual website, and I started the Etsy store in August of 2019. So, like four months, however many months, that is, I started my website.
Amanda DiNovo 7:26
And then in March of 2020, I enrolled in Elite Blog Academy, because I hated my corporate job. I still do it my last day is tomorrow, but I didn’t want to do that forever. And this was like, I found something so, I was desperate to make it work and find a way to love it and serve other people while making money at the same time.
Starting a Crafting Blog
Jillian Leslie 7:48
Okay, let’s talk about that. So, then you start your blog, and your blog is crafting. What is your blog?
Amanda DiNovo 7:55
My blog is craft projects. So, I do tutorials on there, list of supply list, I do a little intro and then I basically take pictures and do the steps. And now I link to a Facebook live because usually those are the same projects. And that’s short and sweet. And people make my projects.
Jillian Leslie 8:13
And how often are you doing a new project?
Amanda DiNovo 8:18
Since I started going live on Facebook and my group and everything. I have like 300 projects in my backlog to get on my blog.
Jillian Leslie 8:28
Let’s talk about this. So, you go live on your Facebook page or in your Facebook group? Explain.
Going Live on Facebook Doing Crafting Tutorials
Amanda DiNovo 8:37
I go live on my Facebook page to get new people to discover me. Because I’ve found that Facebook pushes the lives out more than any post or anything I’m going to do. Even pre-recorded videos.
Jillian Leslie 8:49
Are you monetizing those because Facebook pay you?
Amanda DiNovo 8:53
Jillian Leslie 8:55
And is that lucrative?
Amanda DiNovo 8:58
It can be. My page is still very small. I only have 14,000 followers, which is really small. So, I could see once it gets bigger it could be.
Jillian Leslie 9:07
Let’s go back. So, you are going live on your business page to get people to find you.
Amanda DiNovo 9:15
Jillian Leslie 9:17
And you’re doing this how many times a week?
Amanda DiNovo 9:21
Between two and seven. It just depends.
Jillian Leslie 9:24
Amanda DiNovo 9:24
No matter how I’m doing it. I go live every day.
Jillian Leslie 9:29
Really? How long are you going live each time?
Amanda DiNovo 9:33
About 20 minutes to sometimes it could be like an hour and a half. I try not to make the live that long but I do the project from start to finish.
Jillian Leslie 9:44
You also have a group and you go live in your group?
Amanda DiNovo 9:48
Jillian Leslie 9:51
Is this your private group that we’ll get to or is this another private group?
Amanda DiNovo 9:56
My private group.
Monetizing on Facebook with Live Video
Jillian Leslie 9:58
And then you’re sending people. So, the goal of your Facebook page and going live on Facebook is one, you get to monetize it from Facebook. Facebook pays you for these videos. Do they like short videos? Do they like long videos? Can you see which Facebook pays you more for?
Amanda DiNovo 10:16
Definitely, live videos. About an hour is like my sweet spot. The pre-recorded videos, I noticed I’ll find people who don’t come on the lives it’s like a different type of person they like the pre-recorded ones. So, I like to do about one a week of those just to try to get out to different people who maybe don’t have time to watch an hour long live.
Jillian Leslie 10:36
Got it. Do you edit those?
Amanda DiNovo 10:38
Jillian Leslie 10:40
Okay, these are like videos you’re editing to put up on Facebook?
Amanda DiNovo 10:44
Yes. They’re like YouTube eye candy I call it.
Jillian Leslie 10:47
Can I ask you how much on average does Facebook pay you for a video?
Amanda DiNovo 10:52
A live can make anywhere from, it’s so random. And I don’t have it figured out. Some will make $10. And then I’ve had one video that made $250. I can imagine pages that have hundreds of thousands of followers are making thousands of dollars on their videos easily.
Jillian Leslie 11:12
Does this inspire you? You feel like I need to grow this.
Amanda DiNovo 11:16
I look at the ad revenue that Facebook gives you as like the pocket change. Because I’m going to grow my page to find more people to get them to love my crafts and get them in my private group. That’s my goal. I’m not going live on Facebook for the ad revenue extra.
Jillian Leslie 11:34
So, this is lead gen. Lead Generation.
Amanda DiNovo 11:34
Yes, lead gen.
Jillian Leslie 11:39
You are then going live a bunch of times on Facebook to get people to discover you to go to your blog.
Amanda DiNovo 11:48
That’s one of them.
Jillian Leslie 11:49
For your blog are you making money via ads? Is it all again to get people into your group because we’re going to talk about your membership.
Amanda DiNovo 11:59
My blog is like my home base. I own that, and it’s how everything kind of started, right after my Etsy store. And I take a lot of pride and joy in my blog. And I put a lot of effort into it. And I want to get people there.
Sending People from Facebook to Her Blog
Amanda DiNovo 12:09
So yes, I absolutely want to get them from my Facebook page to my blog. But usually, they’re not going there to get in my group. They’re going straight from Facebook to my group.
Jillian Leslie 12:19
Do you still have an active Etsy shop?
Amanda DiNovo 12:23
Yes, but it does not have anything handmade in it. It just has, I call it swag. So, it has like crafty T-shirt and an apron and I still have napkins in there. I’m not hand making anymore, just kind of like, complements my business.
Jillian Leslie 12:40
You make your blog, and you start putting crafts there. And at this time, you’re starting to go live on Facebook as well. I’m trying to figure out like the chronology of your journey.
Amanda DiNovo 12:51
So, after I took Elite Blog Academy, I really for a long time tried to fit into the traditional business bubble of like I need to make an online course no one wants a course on how to organize their crafts stuff, they just don’t.
Amanda DiNovo 13:06
And that’s when I discovered Facebook Lives and crafting and I saw people had mostly like subscription groups, but there was like a physical aspect where they would ship the kit to them. And I was like, “I wonder if I could do a group.”
Amanda DiNovo 13:14
So, you have this idea. I’m going to do a group. At what point in your journey do you think I could get paid for it?
Amanda DiNovo 13:17
I started my blog in 2020. I was trying to figure out what to do for about a year. About the beginning of 2021 I started thinking about it.
Jillian Leslie 13:34
If you were to say that you are a crafter but you specialize in this kind of craft versus this. What is it?
Creating a Paid Membership Teaching Budget Crafts
Amanda DiNovo 13:44
I specialize in doing budget crafts, like Dollar Tree crafts, like making things that you find at the store for way cheaper. And what I think makes me unique because people tell me that is that I don’t fit into the traditional farmhouse like Decor Style.
Amanda DiNovo 13:58
I am like color rainbow obsessed with sunflowers and like people know me as that that the girl that’s like super bright and cheery and energetic. And that’s kind of where I fall into.
Jillian Leslie 14:06
Do you say I’m going to start a membership? And then what? You go, “Okay, I’m going to start a membership crafting membership.”
Amanda DiNovo 14:13
Yes, I knew I did not want to ship things to people. I just didn’t think that I would have the bandwidth to do that. And I’m like, I don’t even have a Glowforge to make kits. I’m like, “How am I going to do this?” I had that in my head thing. I’m like, no one is going to pay me to go live with me because I already do that.
Amanda DiNovo 14:29
And so, I started listening to him and was asking him, they’re always asking me what time are you going live? Do you have a supply list for that? And I’m like, I don’t have time to give people this stuff. So, I was like, what if I started a group and I was scared to do as a membership.
Starting a One Month Challenge
Amanda DiNovo 14:44
So, in October of last year, I started it like a one month. I call it the October Craft Stravaganza like come craft with me for a month we’ll do four different crafts. In my head. I knew that I wanted to turn it into a membership, but I want to see if anybody would even sign up or do it first before I plan and did all this stuff for it.
Amanda DiNovo 15:02
I started talking about it. Before I announced I said, “I’m planning something really, really fun for you guys, you’re going to love it.” I’m telling you, I just like really, really got the excitement of it, because I was really excited. And I pumped it up a lot. And then I launched it to them.
Amanda DiNovo 15:17
But basically, my Facebook page every time I will go live, I think I probably talked about it. Probably all of September because it was in October. And every time I will go live, I would talk about it. I kept posting about it.
Amanda DiNovo 15:32
I think I might have raun Facebook ads. But I still don’t know what I’m doing with Facebook ads. I just do it because I figure why not try it maybe one day, I’ll get it. So, I think I might have run a few Facebook ads. I sent emails to my email list.
Jillian Leslie 15:46
How were you growing your email list through going live on Facebook?
Amanda DiNovo 15:51
I have an opt-in on my blog, an email craft challenge like complete a craft in five days. It’s a pop-up that comes up on my blog. I try to promote it on my Facebook page a lot too. I feel like most of the people on my page are on my email list because the way I launch my group is through there. So, it gets them on my email list.
Jillian Leslie 16:11
Got it. You now say I’m going to do this October crafting extravaganza. And you get 22 people, explain what this was.
Amanda DiNovo 16:27
I set it up the same way I wanted to do the membership. So, we did four crafts. We did like Fall; one Christmas; one Halloween. And then one every day, we did one Zoom, which we did like a bone making workshop on Zoom. And then I had one guest crafter come in. And we did like a guest crafter
Jillian Leslie 16:43
So, it can show up six times, four times on Facebook and a private Facebook group. One zoom and then you get to see everybody’s faces and stuff.
Amanda DiNovo 16:55
Yes, we did zoom. So, they could talk to me, I could talk to them. They could ask me questions, while they’re making their bows, I could give them help like live feedback.
Amanda DiNovo 17:04
I was with somebody as a guest crafter, and she taught me how to do something that I don’t specialize in.
Jillian Leslie 17:10
Nice, then it ends or it’s coming to an end. And what do you think?
Turning the Challenge Into a Full Membership
Amanda DiNovo 17:15
I’m thinking, I want to turn this into a real membership. So, I offered it to them at a dead cheap price, it was $10. I wanted to make it a no brainer, because I wanted to lock them in so that I could really get it started and then have something to build off of.
Amanda DiNovo 17:33
If I did it too expensive and no one joined, then I feel like I was back at square one. Like what do I do now? And I think I’m not going to say like, not every single person, but most of the people did join.
Jillian Leslie 17:48
And then you said, I’m going to do it in a private Facebook group. How did you set it up as a membership?
Amanda DiNovo 17:58
Everything was on Facebook, I just did the payment through ConvertKit, like I said, when they bought it on ConvertKit, it would send them the welcome email. The welcome email would give them the link to join the Facebook group, the password for the Facebook group, and then some other information, and then they would click the link to join.
Amanda DiNovo 18:18
And then in the Facebook group, I had questions set up, what email did you use to pay for the group? And what is the password? And then I would have them?
Jillian Leslie 18:28
Great. I think what is so nice about what you created is you did it down and dirty. And I am a big fan. With MiloTreeCart our payment platform, very much like ConvertKit, you could start a membership, same idea. You can connect. Actually, you are ConvertKit too. I have to send that thank you email.
Using a Private Facebook Group for a Membership
Jillian Leslie 18:50
And same idea I say if you’re starting a membership, do it in a Facebook group. Now people get all freaked out because Facebook is like boo and privacy and whatever. But people know Facebook, so you’re not fighting people to get you.
Jillian Leslie 19:05
And we’re just saying, “Oh, I should move it to a membership platform.” And I go, “Yeah, I see both sides.” On one hand, you can get them all in this nice shiny little space. On the flip side, you then have to get them to download an app to go see you over there to have a new login or password. And that can be very tricky.
Jillian Leslie 19:28
I was talking to somebody else who has a very big successful group and she said that she felt embarrassed because she was still doing it in a private Facebook group. But the switching costs were too high and then to get people to go over to a new platform felt too risky. And everybody kind of knows Facebook.
Amanda DiNovo 19:49
I don’t think I would ever let go of it. Tech is an issue. My audience is like a little bit older women not all but I think tech they’re not the best at it. Honestly, I love them to death my people, but it will be very difficult to get them over there, it would be a challenge.
Amanda DiNovo 20:07
And I think I would always keep it in my Facebook group, until I couldn’t. But I would like to have a portal because I’m afraid that I don’t want to lose all my stuff, I have a lot of projects in there. And if I did lose my Facebook page, I would lose all those videos.
Amanda DiNovo 20:20
So, I need something on the side, I should only speak downloading. Download them anywhere right now, I don’t have anywhere otherwise that’s dangerous.
Jillian Leslie 20:30
You roll it out as a membership, most of the 22 people come with you. And then what you say, “I’m going to continue.” Explain how the whole thing works, and then explain how you were able to grow it.
Amanda DiNovo 20:44
So, I have however many people I can’t remember the exact number honestly, like 20 people that follow me over. And then I introduced it to the people who weren’t in the private group with me. And it was $15 for them. So, I promoted it for most of the next month. So, most of November, and I got most of people in there.
Amanda DiNovo 21:02
And I already had a lot of testimonials. So, I gave them the testimonials I used. I was really going to up the price to $20 in the new year. So, I was like this is your chance it’s just started. It’s a first you guys are going to help me build it because I didn’t really know exactly what it was going to be yet.
Amanda DiNovo 21:17
If you are going to help me build it, you’ll get feedback, and then I’m going to officially launch it in the new year. And at that time, it’ll be going up to $20. So, if you even think you want to join, come join now. And I think I got it up to about 30 people or so, 35 people.
Amanda DiNovo 21:19
And then in the new year, I officially launched it. But I still didn’t do like what I’m doing now, I did it bigger in the sense that I talked about it a lot more I had it a little bit more planned out.
Jillian Leslie 21:44
And now you’re charging $20 in the new year on it.
Amanda DiNovo 21:46
Jillian Leslie 21:47
What do people get, because they’re not getting a box of crafts, they’re not getting craft supplies.
The Importance of Building Community in Your Membership
Amanda DiNovo 21:53
They’re getting a private group, it’s really intimate in there, they have all access to me. I don’t think it’s so much about what they’re getting as the crafts as the community that we’ve built in there. It’s like, we’re literally like family, there’s people who’ve been in times of need, and they reached out to them, they have made really good friends with each other and myself in there.
Amanda DiNovo 22:16
And I think that, 80% of it is just the community and what they’re getting, it’s not the same as my regular Facebook page. It’s just more close knit. And then of course more tactical aspect they’re getting the four crafts with me a supply list, any questions that they have with me, they get the Zooms.
Amanda DiNovo 22:35
We’re going to be doing things like we just started it’s called Crafty Secret Sister. And it’s like a gift exchange. But it goes all year long and you have one person and you’re responsible for their birthday. So, you give them a birthday gift, you might give them a Christmas gift, you wish them a happy birthday in the group and let them be recognized.
Amanda DiNovo 22:51
We will be having a Christmas party virtually doing an ornament exchange. So, all that goes on in my private group that the people on my main page don’t get access to.
I want to take a short break because I am talking all about digital products. And you might be thinking, Yeah, but I don’t have an idea for a digital product. I don’t even know what to create. Cool, get my digital product personality quiz, because it will help you.
Go to milotree.com/quiz fill it out and figure out what your personality tells you to create, then use our worksheet that we’ve attached for you to start to ideate you can come up with a digital product in no time. And then go test it go to milotree.com/quiz.
Jillian Leslie 23:41
And now back to the show.
Jillian Leslie 23:46
How many people now are in your membership?
Amanda DiNovo 23:50
109, right now.
Jillian Leslie 23:51
Wow. And they’re all women?
Amanda DiNovo 23:54
Jillian Leslie 23:55
Any men. No, men.
Amanda DiNovo 23:56
No, men. I think I have 2 men followers on my regular page. That’s it.
Jillian Leslie 24:00
Oh, oh funny. Now you give them a craft list with affiliate links by the way?
Amanda DiNovo 24:06
Yes, with affiliate links. I always encourage them to use what they have though, because crafting can become very expensive. And I always try to give them alternatives if they don’t have things. I never make it something that they’re required to purchase these things to make the craft, but I give them links if they need to, of course.
Jillian Leslie 24:24
And when you go live on Facebook, they can’t really see each other. They’re just typing in comments.
Amanda DiNovo 24:34
Yes, just typing in comments.
Jillian Leslie 24:35
So, where do they really connect? Is it in the monthly Zoom calls where they get to see each other or do you feel like they are able to connect in the Facebook group?
Amanda DiNovo 24:44
They connect in the comments. There are times on a Facebook Live when they comment it comes up separate and I’ll read a comment and what are you guys talking about? I don’t know. And I realized they’re having a whole conversation amongst themselves. They’re not even talking to me. Yes. They definitely connect in the comments.
Jillian Leslie 25:00
And you’re going through the steps and are they crafting along with you? Are they saying, “Wait a minute, where do I put this piece? I can’t figure it out?
Amanda DiNovo 25:09
Everybody does it different. There are some people who craft along with me. And yes, they will. That’s something out, I don’t do on my page, I won’t slow down and stop what I’m doing and wait for people to catch up. But I will stop or wait for them to catch up. I’ll help them through whatever.
Amanda DiNovo 25:22
Some of them watch the whole thing first, and then craft afterwards. And then some of them kind of start with me. And then when they get behind, they sit back and watch. So, everyone does it different.
Jillian Leslie 25:32
And how long do you go live for the crafts?
Amanda DiNovo 25:35
In my group, usually at least an hour, between an hour and two hours. Two hours is the longest live I’ve done in there. I don’t like to be live that long. I feel like it’s too long to sit and craft.
Jillian Leslie 25:47
And then what is different about the Zoom call versus the Facebook Lives?
Amanda DiNovo 25:53
On the Facebook Lives, we do like an actual project from start to finish and you have something to display, afterwards. On the Zooms. Of course, we get to meet face to face, we chat for the first 15 minutes and at the end for 15 minutes we just kind of hang out, we bring our beverage coffee wine whatever you want to bring.
Amanda DiNovo 26:10
And then we work on a specific skill or technique so we’ll do like bow making one time or we’ll do something called faux rust finish, like how to make something look rusty or how to make some things with like a how to.
Amanda DiNovo 26:22
And it’s like experimenting and testing it out and showing me, “Does this look right? Oh, maybe a little more black.” So, it’s more like working on a technique.
Jillian Leslie 26:32
When you started this, were we in the midst of the pandemic? I can’t tell time anymore. Were we home or not home?
Amanda DiNovo 26:40
It was the end of 2021. So no, I often feel like if I had started a little bit earlier man, I would have really could have grown a lot quicker but I should have coulda woulda, you know.
Starting a Membership to Connect with a Community
Jillian Leslie 26:49
That was my question. When we were home, I started a membership, because I was lonely or I felt disconnected. And I didn’t want to talk about the pandemic anymore. I wanted to show up with people and talk about blogging, and business building. And not be political like not get into it.
Jillian Leslie 27:10
It was too depressing or too upsetting that we also freaked out. I didn’t want to talk about that I wanted to be much more like here now and something that we could all bond over. But that was building our businesses that seems so positive to me.
Amanda DiNovo 27:30
Yes. Because you can focus on your choice to what you want to focus on. Do you want to focus on the bad things you want to focus on growing and take advantage of the time at home?
Jillian Leslie 27:38
What I think is interesting that you’ve shared is that people you think they’re not even coming for the crafts they’re coming for the community.
Amanda DiNovo 27:49
I think they’re coming for the crafts and staying for the community.
Jillian Leslie 27:51
Oh, there you go. I like that, coming for the craft.
Amanda DiNovo 27:54
They don’t realize until they get in there. I think my retention is pretty high. I don’t have the exact rate I need to figure it out. But I know they’re like, oh my god, they feel like they’d be lost without the group kind of.
Jillian Leslie 28:05
And what’s interesting about that, is that it’s not about your back library. Do people go back and watch older videos or are they really here for the here and now?
Amanda DiNovo 28:17
Sometime when they first get in the group, I’ll notice comments on all the old videos. But I think that’s like a binge thing. And they’re excited, but mostly the here and the now.
Go Start a Membership with MiloTreeCart for Recurring Payments
Jillian Leslie 28:27
Again, for people listening to this who are thinking, “Oh, I’d like to start.” This is what I’m hoping our conversation does. I’m hoping it inspires people to go try this and set it up in a weekend. Go get MiloTreeCart it is an easy way to get people.
Jillian Leslie 28:44
Set up your sales page, and then go make it on the fly in a private Facebook group or someplace really easy. And you don’t have to have a back library.
Amanda DiNovo 28:54
They love building it. They love having that say in what it’s going to be. They feel like they’re growing it with you.
Jillian Leslie 29:01
They get to say, hey, I’d really like to do some felt crafting or I’d really like to do something where we make wreaths or do they get a say in how you decide?
Amanda DiNovo 29:14
When I launched the group. And I do my big launch, we play bingo. And some of the bingo squares are send me one craft idea. Send me one Zoom idea. At least once a month I’ll pull from ideas that they have sent me that they want to do.
Jillian Leslie 29:26
So, they feel seen and heard.
Amanda DiNovo 29:29
Jillian Leslie 29:30
Now, how are you growing it over time? Can I join anytime or do you do this open and closed cart?
Using an Open Closed Cart for Your Membership
Amanda DiNovo 29:39
I’ve been doing open and closed cart. I have never tried keeping it open or maybe just like every month letting people in so I think I’m going to try that. But I’ve been doing a big launch every three months. Something we do in my group. I didn’t even mention this is that we do weekly challenges.
Amanda DiNovo 29:56
The group was really fun too. I think that’s something else that’s different. It’s not just crafting, we have a lot of fun in there, we submit their crafts. And then everyone who submits the craft for that week gets on a wheel and they win points. And the points are to buy swag from my Etsy shop.
Amanda DiNovo 30:11
And so, I was trying to think, how can I get people to see how fun the group is. I can tell them what’s in it all day long, but they don’t really get the feel of how fun is. So, I decided we would do a huge version of a challenge on my page for everybody to do. And then at the end of that challenge, I would invite them into my private group.
Amanda DiNovo 30:30
So, I do a huge challenge. I call it the Craft Completion Challenge. And a lot of the struggles my audience has is that they can’t seem to just get any crafts done. They get started and they have like 15 unfinished ones, or they don’t have the competence to really go through it and finish. And so, I give them a supply list.
Amanda DiNovo 30:47
I really, really involved. I go live talking about the supply lists, saying exactly what they need. If they have any questions about it, they need help finding items. We do it over two days instead of one day because I don’t want anybody to get overwhelmed.
Amanda DiNovo 31:00
I would craft with them together. In a private Facebook group, like a free private Facebook group. I did that new, I used to do it on all my regular page, but it got too messy. And then we have a huge challenge with tons of prizes. I go live announcing the winners. There are is prizes all throughout.
Jillian Leslie 31:18
Do you have to finish the craft? Are you motivated? Finish the craft and show it. Be like, “Look, here it is.”
Amanda DiNovo 31:24
You post it in the group for everyone to see. But then there’s an actual designated post to submit it, that’s where I pull the names for the wheel, because the grand prize is actually a three-month membership in my group.
Jillian Leslie 31:37
Got it. And how many people do you get to do this?
Amanda DiNovo 31:41
So, it’s gone from like 100 to 300 to 400 people signed up. And then we went from like 50 to 100. And then 150 actually completing the project and submitting it. And then I do a parade at the end, I put all their projects into a slideshow so they can see them all completed next to each other. And invite them in.
Jillian Leslie 32:04
And then how many will convert?
Amanda DiNovo 32:08
I have all these numbers up but they are on my computer. But the first time, I had a 50% conversion rate, I had 65 people submit photos, and I had 34 people join my group. But it went down from there. That was like, “Oh my God, it’s gone.” Out of 120 submissions, there was about 42 people who joined the group afterwards.
Giving People a Taste of the Group Through a Challenge
Jillian Leslie 32:34
And what we’re trying to do is give people a taste of what it’s like in the grip. So, they get the fun and they get the excitement and they get your passion and they get prizes and it’s motivating.
Amanda DiNovo 32:44
They’ve gotten started like oh my God, I forgot how much a lot of people are getting back into crafting and I forgot how much I loved this. And then their confidence gets up. I feel like I can do it.
Jillian Leslie 32:55
I was recording with another woman talking about memberships. Tell me if you agree with this, as the leader of the group, you’re like a camp counselor.
Amanda DiNovo 33:08
Jillian Leslie 33:09
Like you’re a teacher, but it’s not as teachery as it is come be in this supportive group, let’s all sing together. And I’ll lead you in the song and teach you the hand motions.
Jillian Leslie 33:23
And if you’re the person who is at the edge of the circle and not fully engaged, I might walk over to you and lead you back into the group. And we’re all going to sing the song together. Is that accurate?
Amanda DiNovo 33:35
It really is because you’re just like, mentoring and guiding everybody and you’re there to do it with them, not just show them. So, I think that’s a great analogy.
Jillian Leslie 33:45
So, out there. If you’re listening to the podcast, and you think of yourself as a camp counselor, that’s something you really like to do. Think about what Amanda is building because you’re building that community, that spirit of like connectedness with you guiding people.
Jillian Leslie 34:04
So, let’s talk about what else you are building because you also have another membership and you have all these ideas.
Starting a Paper Napkin Subscription Product for Crafters
Amanda DiNovo 34:16
One of the things that we do a lot is craft with napkins, like decoupage. And as a crafter you have to buy packs of napkins and you use one or maybe two, you have so many napkins leftover. And I always find really cute napkins and one of the questions I get the most is, “Where to get your napkins. Can I have them?”
Amanda DiNovo 34:33
I use them as gift aways a lot of times because that’s what everybody wants. And instead of just putting on my Etsy store, I was like, huh, I wonder if I start a subscription. And it’s really beneficial to them as well. Even more so than me it’s very affordable, but they don’t have to buy packs.
Amanda DiNovo 34:51
They get one of each they get 18 napkins, and then they save money in the long run. So, I launched that in August. I got feedback first; would anybody be interested by a simple Facebook poll? Would anybody be interested in this?
Amanda DiNovo 35:05
I got tons of interest; I asked if they would want to do just the napkins and keep it super affordable. Or if they would rather have like a crafting component. I didn’t want to do too much because I have my group. But do them maybe once a month, where I’ll show you how to use one of the napkins and it’ll be a little bit more costly.
Amanda DiNovo 35:22
And everybody said more affordable. We just want the napkins I was like, yes. And so, I did it as an invitation only. Because I wanted to be exclusive and of course get people to sign up. But I also wanted to have some sort of idea. I really didn’t know if I needed 20 napkins or 200. And I just wanted to get some sort of idea.
Amanda DiNovo 35:43
Everybody you have to be on this waitlist in order to get invited. I’m not going to announce it to my main page. I got I think like 300 people on the waitlist for it. And I only sent the emails to them. And there were some leftovers, I did end up having able to offer it to my Facebook my regular page.
Amanda DiNovo 35:43
I just sent emails out, “Do you want this? It’s a starting thing. It’s going to be $23. Shipping is included. You get 18 napkins?”
Jillian Leslie 35:52
Are you going to stores or online and buying napkins? And then you are combining 18 different packs of napkins, picking one from each pack and putting them together and shipping them?
Amanda DiNovo 36:25
Yes, me and my twin boys packed out. I had 71 people sign up the first time and we packed all 71 together and shipped them out like factory style.
Jillian Leslie 36:35
Wow. And you where were you buying these napkins?
Amanda DiNovo 36:39
Marshalls, Home Goods, TJ Maxx, sometimes I’ll get them on Amazon, I found a few websites that I might be getting them on in the future like European Excellency is one. I don’t have enough people to go like wholesale yet. But that’s ultimately once I can buy wholesale, my options are going to be way more.
Jillian Leslie 36:57
This is so cool. So, you’re using napkins in your crafting and you go, “Hey, I have this idea.” Because you end up with this problem. You have too many napkins at the end of the day. And so, what are you going to do with them and you thought maybe other people are having this problem.
Jillian Leslie 37:13
And you wouldn’t have come up with this if you weren’t actively using your napkins in your crafting. Are you now more actively using napkins in crafts because that way you can create a demand for your product?
Amanda DiNovo 37:26
Yes, I’ve only done this once and they shipped and I’m actually in the middle of a launch right now. And I don’t really launch it. I don’t really call it a launch. But it’s open right now. And they’ll be shipping the first week in November.
Amanda DiNovo 37:37
So, I had 18 Napkins. I was definitely very intentional about crafting with those 18 napkins. People have a hard time finding them too. “Where did you get those? Home Goods has nothing.” I am really good at finding the napkins, I guess.
Jillian Leslie 37:53
Was this a monthly subscription or was this a one off?
Amanda DiNovo 37:56
Quarterly, so every three months. They shipped me for each major season. Last time it was like Fall and Halloween. And some regular napkins this time it’s going to be like Christmas I throw in a few Valentines because the next shipment will be late.
Jillian Leslie 38:09
I have to say I went to your website after we connected and I saw the napkins subscription. And I did not understand what it was. What do you mean, she’s selling napkins? I was like, is this for parties? What is this? That’s not a crafter.
Amanda DiNovo 38:25
It’s really hard to understand.
Jillian Leslie 38:27
But again, it’s such a specific thing and an idea that you thought about and you tested and people raise their hand and said I will buy that from you.
Amanda DiNovo 38:32
Yes, and it’s saving them a ton. Of course, it’s a business and I want to make money and everything. But I love that it’s actually really really helping them out too because they get 18 different napkins for $23. If they wanted to buy 18 packs be way more than $23. So, it’s really a win win this one.
Build Off of What’s Working
Jillian Leslie 38:53
And that you’re building off of what’s already working. I say this all the time, my broken record, the way you build your product empire, I call it a digital product empire, although this is a physical product on top is look for things that they’re working and find the next thing that would be working building off of what’s working.
Jillian Leslie 39:18
And it might not work, but then try something else.
Amanda DiNovo 39:23
Yes, your audience really does tell you and sometimes you have to look for it. They’re not going to say oh, I want this. But anytime they’re asking you something, I have a rule like if I hear a question like three times, I think how can I do something with this question? Like what can I do with it?
Amanda DiNovo 39:39
It might not always be a paid product, but in general there’s probably more people out there who are wondering that same thing and it could be a key to something.
Quitting Your 9-5 to Work Full Time on Your Online Business
Jillian Leslie 39:48
Let’s talk about now that you’ve quit your job and tomorrow is your last day. Where are you most excited in your business? What ideas are you having in the shower that you go, “I should do that.”
Amanda DiNovo 40:02
That’s so funny that you say that because I just had an idea in the shower this morning that I wanted to do. I want to do some more one-off workshops to try to catch the people that maybe don’t want to do a subscription. They don’t have the time or the money, maybe.
Amanda DiNovo 40:17
And I just decided, Christmas is coming up people struggle with bows, I’ve done a bow workshop in my private group, but I want to do a workshop on my main page. I just thought about it this morning, I’m going to do that. And then I have a whole list now of other workshops that I might potentially want to do. More one-off.
Jillian Leslie 40:31
Here’s the thing, record it, and then you can resell it as a mini course. Once it’s live, you’ve got it now. You’ve got this asset. And my hunch is, let’s say you do it in November, go. Wait three weeks, sell it again, as a recording.
Amanda DiNovo 40:55
Oh, yes, that’s genius.
Jillian Leslie 40:57
And you could also then transcribe it and make an eBook or who knows. So, think about how you could build off of that. Maybe you sell I don’t know some ribbons like how you’re selling napkins.
Amanda DiNovo 41:13
Oh, yeah. It’s a great idea. I wouldn’t even think to really resell something like that, to be honest. Because it will be live. I would do it live. So, maybe I would not do it live then maybe I would do a pre-recorded I’d have to work through that.
Jillian Leslie 41:27
Yes, you could try both. So, you’re thinking about a bow workshop for Christmas. Anything else that you’re thinking about?
Amanda DiNovo 41:37
My website was built using the University of Google to try to figure out how to do it. I really want to get it looking a little more professional. You probably noticed that’s not that great and it does the job. I want to get a lot prettier. And I have tons of projects backlog that I want to get up on the blog. I would love to qualify for Mediavine early next year.
Amanda DiNovo 41:57
My goal is by June of next year to qualify for Mediavine. I want to move off of Etsy because all the traffic, I’m sending it. It’s not coming from Etsy it’s just my kind of stuff. I want to get into a Shopify store. My list is so long of things I’m excited to do it really is.
Amanda DiNovo 42:15
I want to start getting more guests crafters in my group, because that’s something they really enjoyed. Build it up, build this napkin membership. I have a lot too much. I think I’m going to have all this time once I quit. But I know I’m going to be just as busy.
Jillian Leslie 42:29
And how does it feel to be starting to quit your job because you can now afford to with your online business?
Amanda DiNovo 42:36
It’s petrifying. People always say, “What’s the one thing you’re scared to do?” And I’m like, “I’m not scared of anything. What do I do next?” I’m like, wait, the one thing I’m scared to do is to quit my job. So, that means that’s the thing I’m supposed to do. Then I just decided to do it.
Amanda DiNovo 42:50
I’m barely there financially. But I know that with 40 more hours a week, I could do so much more. And I just have the faith, I just trust that it’s going to work.
Jillian Leslie 43:00
Up to this point how have you been managing your time with twins? How old are your twins?
Amanda DiNovo 43:06
Jillian Leslie 43:06
Eleven, given that you’re going live all the time and doing blog posts and being there for your group and shipping napkins when do you work?
Amanda DiNovo 43:15
I wake up 4am every day. I wake up at 4 o’clock and I work from 4am to 9am on my business every single day, even on the weekends I wake up at 4:00 sometimes I’ll wake up at like 6:00 and then I work all day. And then after work, I’ll go live. I’ll do like responding to Facebook comments, things that don’t take that much brainpower.
Amanda DiNovo 43:34
And then I go to bed very early, like 9pm. And then I do it all over again. And I work most weekends.
Jillian Leslie 43:39
Wow. Wow. And do you feel like it’s a grind?
Amanda DiNovo 43:43
I don’t know if it’s because I know the end is here. But these past few weeks I feel like I cannot do it anymore. Or I’m exhausted. I think just because I can see the end that’s why. I’m like, “No.” It’s been a grind but I say to my kids all the time I’m sacrificing now so that we can enjoy it later.
Amanda DiNovo 44:04
The alternate option is to just stay at this corporate job that I hate that makes no money.
Jillian Leslie 44:09
Wow. Wow. I’m so inspired by this conversation. Amanda, if people want to reach out to you learn more about what you’re doing. Where should they go?
Amanda DiNovo 44:20
Manda Panda projects on everything. I’m on TikTok trying to do it there. My website mandapandaproducts.com And Facebook is definitely where I hang out the most and Manda Panda projects.
Jillian Leslie 44:30
I love it. Well Amanda, I have to say I’m so glad we met on Instagram. And thank you so much for coming on the show.
Amanda DiNovo 44:37
Thank you so much Jillian, you have a fabulous day.
Jillian Leslie 44:40
I hope you guys liked this episode. The reason I was excited to have Amanda on the show was because I wanted you guys to see how easy it is to set up a membership. In fact, all you need is MiloTreeCart for recurring payments from your members and a private Facebook group.
Jillian Leslie 45:00
So, if you’ve been noodling on an idea of a membership but had no idea how to set it up or thought it would be complicated or expensive, it really isn’t. And if you are that type of person who is the camp counselor, this might be a great way to explode your business as it’s doing for Amanda, giving her the freedom to leave her job and build the life she wants.
Jillian Leslie 45:26
If setting up a membership is something you would like to do, we have so many resources at MiloTreeCart and we are here to help you as well. So, please reach out to me firstname.lastname@example.org This is why we built MiloTreeCart to make it so easy to sell to your people.
Jillian Leslie 45:46
And I will see you here again next week.
Other related Blogger Genius Podcast episodes you’ll enjoy:
- How to Build a Seven-Figure Membership with Tamara Bennett
- The Truth About Courses Vs. Memberships with Alisa Meredith
- How to Grow a Successful Membership by Loving Your Members with Amy Sadler
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