Lessons from growing an expat community
Summer is the ultimate expat who lived extensive periods in Africa, France and the UK. He now lives for a little over six years in Amsterdam and is founder of the biggest expat Meetup group of Amsterdam, Laughing at Potatoes and his newest initiative is Saucially, a cool new way of sharing diners with people you’ve never met before. We’ve interviewed Summer to get to know more about growing a lively community and Saucially.
Who are you and how did you start with Laughing at potatoes?
I moved to Amsterdam from the UK to work as a consultant for a multinational. At first a short term assignment, but I got stuck here now - love it too much. With the group, I was at the right places at the right times and I have quickly made a solid group of loyal, supportive and super nice people who were with me all the way. (No one can build a strong and interactive community on their own, you will need a lot of goodwill and people have to trust your motivations to grow.) If you lack that love for people, you will struggle to maintain the group. I have been lucky, but it was a labour of love too.
Building a community, what we’re your biggest learnings?
There are a couple of things that might sound crazy but help:
1. Put together events you will like to go to yourself so if no one shows up you can still have fun.
2. If you are looking forward to go to your own events, it will reflect in the way you present it. People respond to that. “He seems excited, let’s go see what it is about, sounds like fun”
3. Have a proper roadmap on how much time you need to announce the events as well as how much promotion you are going to do in terms of timeline from event creation to actual event date.
4. Don’t be obsessive about it, constant emailing people comes across desperate.
As an event organiser DO NEVER appear desperate
What is the magic begind Laughing Potatoes, why do people keep coming back to your meetups?
Originally it was probably the welcoming group of regulars: a small tight bunch of very welcoming and kind people. These days with the size of the group, there are a variety of reasons. Loads of them.
Your new project is Saucially.com and is about bringing people together at a table and share the love for food together. Could you share with us how you came up with this idea?
When we reached 300 people at Laughing at Potatoes events it became more of a challenge trying to connect and talk to everyone. I also happened to go to dinner with the members I am close to within the group and I decided to give it a go. The first few through Meetup went fine but then we hit a brick-wall when people sign up but do not show up. If you book a table for 40 on the strength of sign up on meetup but only 11 people show up, you have a problem. Meetup makes it very cumbersome to charge people on the site.
Eventually I decided that I have the crowd and the means to get Saucially working. We have been up for 9 months now and we have sold out 95% of our events. We are now working with the funniest man in Amsterdam (Greg Shapiro) he should be doing some of our dining events soon.