How a membership dedicated to women traveling solo found a way to flourish during stay-at-home orders—to the tune of 2,900 members
Featured in this Story of Awesome: Wanderful
Launched October 2018
Wanderful is a paid membership site that connects solo women travelers across the globe.
The Spark: After finding some success with Facebook Groups, Beth started looking for a way to monetize her followers — and give back with a membership.
Beth’s Mighty Moment: “A lot of times, women are discouraged from doing things just for the sake of it. With Wanderful we’re saying, ‘This is your self-care. You’ve decided to take this time to focus on you. And you deserve that.”
When it comes to the subject of women and travel, most people either focus on the romanticism of exploring the world solo (think, “Eat, Pray, Love”) or the danger of going it alone.
But Beth Santos knew there was more to it than that.
In an effort to shed some light on the world of women traveling alone, Beth started sharing her own experiences on the Wanderful blog in 2009. Over the years, it blossomed into a community where women could find resources and share their own experiences abroad:
“It wasn’t just about me sharing my own story. It was about activating this live network of people from different places and saying, ‘I only know so much, and I’ve only lived in so many places. But if we can combine our powers, we can actually help each other out even more.’”
Beth’s online influence was just as impressive: By 2018, the Wanderful Facebook Group was more than 11,000 members strong. Still, she felt like something was missing:
“We had created and grown all of these things. We had all of these members in our Facebook Group sharing their stories. But we knew that we weren’t monetizing it correctly.”
Hoping to create an exclusive membership community, Beth looked into building a membership site on her own. Unfortunately, all signs pointed to it being a logistical nightmare. There were too many details to iron out and not enough time.
After a few false starts, she found Mighty Networks and something clicked. With a Mighty Network, Beth saw the opportunity to create an exclusive membership for her most motivated followers without worrying about the costs and hassle of building and maintaining a site on her own.
Prepared to seize the moment, Beth dove right in.
Building on a sense of exclusivity
While Beth wasn’t exactly starting from scratch, there were still a few hurdles to clear.
First, she had to find a way to differentiate between what she was offering in her Facebook Group versus what she would be offering in her Mighty Network. In the end, Beth decided to give her paying members bigger opportunities (and better perks):
“The primary benefits of our Mighty Network aren’t just the discussion. You can get that on Facebook. But it’s the events. The deals and discounts. The on-demand content library. And really, it’s that sense of exclusivity too.”
Next, Beth had to figure out who to target from her Facebook Group. She ended up identifying two groups of ideal members. The first was the Travelers, a group encompassing lifelong nomads in search of community, and women who were new to solo traveling. The second was Creators —bloggers, influencers, and small business owners whose work revolved around travel:
“We wanted to focus on both of those groups because it’s not just about helping women to get the resources they need to travel. It’s also talking about these systemic things in the travel industry.”
Her vision clear and her ideal members identified, Beth launched. To encourage people to join, she emailed her entire email database and offered them a lifetime free membership:
“We were like, ‘Come on in. You’re getting free membership for life and it’s an amazing deal.’ That allowed us to kind of have the machine already working when we invited paying members in.”
Next Beth shifted to offering membership during limited enrollment periods, with the goal of fostering a higher level of engagement and communication. It would also allow Beth and her team to give more attention to the newest members:
“Once enrollment closes, we have a new member welcome party. We’ll do a Zoom call so they can meet each other, and so we can give them a quick tutorial on the functionality of the membership.”
The membership was humming along but by early 2020, Beth and her team had another obstacle to clear. They were running a membership that centered around travel in a time where most people weren’t traveling because of the pandemic.
But as people were forced to stay close to home, Beth noticed that there was actually way more engagement in the membership community. As it turned out, her members were seeking out the community for connection and support during this challenging time:
“I actually get the question a lot of, ‘Well isn’t your community dead now that we’re all stuck at home?’ But that’s the difference between a regular travel platform and Wanderful. Our members are active, they’re engaged, travel is in their blood. So when they’re not traveling, they still want to be around people who share that passion.”
A sisterhood of digital nomads
Today, Wanderful is home to over 2,960 women travelers. And Beth is making the most out of the current pandemic by investing in her membership:
“With the pandemic, our focus as a business has shifted significantly. Before, our primary revenue generator was our in-person events. Now, our membership is the primary revenue generator. Our goal is to take the experience of travel and bring it right to people’s screens.”
To that end, Beth and her team have doubled down on their events offerings, making it central to the Wanderful membership. Whereas before they offered no digital events, there are now at least three virtual events per week for each membership tier, including office hours, virtual brunch clubs, virtual book clubs, and networking opportunities.
So far, shifting the focus to virtual events is working. And Beth has a theory as to why:
“Travel comes down to three components: Trying new things, being comfortable with being uncomfortable, and challenging your preconceptions. If you’re feeling fundamentally uncomfortable and you’re trying something new at home, that is WAY more of a travel experience than going thousands of miles away and not trying something new, not feeling uncomfortable, and not having anything challenged.”
In addition to events, here’s how the Wanderful membership tiers are structured:
There’s a membership for each of Beth’s ideal members.
The Traveler membership, priced at $79 per year, offers access to the Wanderful membership community. Members also get access to:
- Webinars and learning modules (recorded from past events)
- Community deals and discounts
- Free admission to chapter events
The Creator membership is designed with content creators and small business owners in mind. Priced at $149 per year, it offers access to:
- All the benefits of the Traveler membership
- Weekly private webinars
- Small group coaching
- Monthly masterminds
- Promotional opportunities
- Gig board
- Social engagement groups and promotion from Wanderful
Each local city chapter has a corresponding Group in the Wanderful membership community. There are also additional groups for more specialized experiences, like BIPOC Women of Wanderful.
Beth and her team also utilize the Topics feature to keep posts organized. Topics include:
- Official Announcements. Houses announcements from Beth and other Wanderful Hosts.
- Community Travel Inspiration. Creator members share recently published content here for other members—including Travelers—to read.
- Travel Talk. A dedicated space for member conversations about traveling solo.
- Community Deals and Discounts. This is where exclusive travel deals and discounts for Wanderful members live.
- The Content Library. All recorded virtual events are archived for future reference here.
To make sure that people who want to join Wanderful can, Beth also created a scholarship called the Buy One Give One Program. Every time someone purchases a membership for themselves, they also purchase a membership for someone who can’t afford it. Potential members in need are encouraged to fill out a basic application.
“We struggled with pricing a little because in the U.S., $79 a year for a membership is fine. But in our Kuala Lumpur chapter, it’s an exorbitant amount of money. So with the Buy One Give One Program, the message we want to send is very much, ‘If you can’t afford this, we still want you to be part of it.’”
Going global from the comfort of home
When it comes to the future, Beth and her team are working on building the Global Hosting Network, a database of people in each city that are open to hosting fellow members in their homes.
Beth is also looking forward to expanding her events offerings alongside Mighty Network’s new Events features:
“We’ve literally been counting down the days. My goal is to run our conferences virtually. I’m also looking forward to the added functionality for smaller events, like putting a cap on office hours.”
And while the Wanderful team has been able to make the most out of a stay-at-home situation, Beth hasn’t lost sight of her original mission: Not just to bring women who love travel together, but to encourage to give themselves permission to explore (and pay for) something they love:
“A lot of times, women are discouraged from doing things just for the sake of it. With Wanderful we’re saying, ‘This is your self-care. You’ve decided to take this time to focus on you. And you deserve that.’”
Interested in joining Wanderful? The next enrollment period will be open between October 1 and October 15.
3 Key Takeaways from Wanderful’s Story of Awesome
- There’s no time like the present to go digital. Even if your membership is tied to a tangible, in-person concept, there’s always a way to translate that into a digital experience.
- Find a way to make your members feel special. Almost anyone can join the Wanderful Facebook Group. But Beth’s Mighty Network offers a greater sense of exclusivity—one that aligns with the needs and wants of her most motivated members.
- People love events. Virtual events give your members a chance to connect with each other — and they are the easiest way to build and grow a community.