I'm Ali - a photographer who built her business from the ground up and wants to help others do the same.







Built to Belong: A Book Review

March 14, 2023

First, let me preface this with an acknowledgement that writing a book is a freaking GIANT accomplishment, one that any author should be proud of. My review of the content of the book does not reflect my opinion of any book author’s personality, motivation, or ability. Okay, with that being said, let’s dive into the book review for Built to Belong by Natalie Franke.

The Praises

Let’s start with the positives from Built to Belong:

  1. Natalie’s heart for community is clear. She wants everyone to belong, that is for sure.
  2. She touches on mental health and how being an entrepreneur can negatively impact that due to isolation. Truthfully, there are many more hours staring at a screen than I thought, so I can attest to the fact that it can sometimes get lonely. She doesn’t shy away from this topic because it’s hard to talk about; instead, she faces is head on and shows how she harnessed those feelings to create an incredible community.
  3. An entire chapter is devoted to vulnerability. I think she walks the walk in terms of showing her audience she is willing to be vulnerable and, thus, they have the space to do the same.

The Critique

As many of you know, I am a book highlighter. I believe that books are meant to be marked in, thought about, mulled over. I found it hard to mark this book up, and I have been trying to figure out why. The conclusion I have come to is that it didn’t have a clear intent. It was part science- and fact-based, part memoir-based, and part motivationally-based.

When I pick up a book, I want its motives to be clear, but I wasn’t sure exactly what I was getting from Built to Belong. At the end of the book, I didn’t feel satisfied. I wasn’t fully fired up to go build a community; I didn’t feel like I had a newfound understanding of Natalie; and I didn’t feel like I had something I could implement within my business. So it just felt…unfulfilling?

One chapter speaks about needing to have a solid mission and values when beginning a community. I get that and 100% agree, but it just felt like I was reading a generic blog. Not something that was directly tied to Rising Tide. And maybe that was purposeful, I’m not sure…but that’s the thing–I want to be sure.

My biggest thing is that I love actionable steps whenever I am reading a business book (which I thought this was!), and while there were some actionable steps…at one point hosting a game night as an in-person community event. It just didn’t feel productive.

The Disconnect

I have been part of many Rising Tide/Tuesdays Together groups. As a prior military spouse, whenever we moved to a new duty station, those groups were the first ones I looked up on Facebook. They were/are such great communities to be part of. I’m going to sidetrack myself with a quick story time:

We moved to Quantico in September 2018 right before our daughter was born in October of that year. It took a little bit for me to recover, but once the new year hit, I was ready to put myself out there to start creating a network in northern Virginia, our home for the next three years. So I looked up the local TuesdaysTogether groups and found one in Manassas, Virginia. I remember walking in with my three-month-old baby because I had no childcare. No one skipped a freaking beat. They welcomed me in with open arms. The chapter leader walked up, introduced herself to me, asked me what I did, how long I’d been in business, and immediately introduced me to another member of the group that she thought I had something in common with. Wow, what an incredible experience. And that was just the beginning of it! I still keep in touch with entrepreneurs who I met in that group.

So the disconnect for me is here:

Natalie built this amazing community all across the nation. But that person with that drive, that spark, that knowledge…didn’t shine through in her words. I didn’t feel like I was reading the thoughts of someone that has been so impactful in so many lives.


While Built to Belong is a very quick read, if I knew then what I know now, I would not have picked up this book. With that being said, I hear Natalie is coming out with a second book, and I will be purchasing it to read it as well. I still find her story and her self-made career an inspiration and am rooting her on always. Seeing her grow as an entrepreneur and an author is a super cool process and one that I admire.

If you liked this book review, feel free to check out a couple others:

Profit First by Mike Michalowicz

Traction by Gino Wickman

So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport

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