Blog | Jan 23, 2023

Jennis Founder’s take on building a community-first product

Reetta square WRITTEN BY Reetta Heiskanen

Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill, Founder of Jennis
Reading time 3 min

After the summer olympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill looked to challenge herself in a new way. Her years of experience as an elite athlete met her passion to help women better understand their hormonal health – at Jennis, the go-to app for cycle mapping.

Education around women’s health, or the lack of it, is a big challenge. Women are still struggling to understand their bodies and having to resort to one-size-fits-all, conventional health fixes. All the while, there are positive lifestyle interventions that can be synced with hormonal fluctuations for better results.

Ennis-Hill believes that this calls for strong community-first products that draw on the shared learnings and experiences of women, and educate and empower them in return. We caught up with Jessica to hear her take on building a community-first product:

1. “Identify your core audience and the problems they share”

According to Ennis-Hill, the first step to building a truly resonating community-first product is to know your core audience and understand their most pressing problems.

Jennis, for example, is part of the solution to reduce the massive gender data gap. Only 6% of sports and exercise studies are done using female participants. This means, we still know very little about women’s health and physiology. So, team Jennis decided to develop a platform to reach as many women as possible, between the ages of 35-45 whose bodies are going through hormonal changes, and help them understand their unique hormonal health better.

The more they listened, the more they learned – Ennis-Hill believes that women want to learn about their bodies on a much deeper level; they don’t want to resort to traditional options like contraceptive pills and they want to prepare for example going through the menopause.

2. “Find a way to harness the shared knowledge of the community”

“The community around your product is rich with unique insights and diverse perspectives into the challenge you’re trying to tackle”, Ennis-Hill says.

Community members that are most likely directly affected by these issues everyday, thus, have first-hand experience in what works well and the pain points. So, no matter which stage your company is at or how big or small your community is – you must be able to harness this shared knowledge, states Ennis-Hill.

Especially at the beginning, in-depth case studies are helpful to learn from your core users and how they engage with your product. Using more and more data gathered overtime, you will be able to fine-tune and build a science-backed product. What’s more, you can also feed these findings back into ongoing research to help educate the next generation following in your footsteps.

Finally, bear in mind that a wholesome community is made up not only of users and industry-specific partners but also different experts from different fields, Ennis-Hill says.

“We can draw on their numerous expertise and skills, and adapt these to learn how to move forward.”

3. “Don’t forget your core users as the community grows”

As the community starts to grow it’s easy to drift away from the core users – so, keep reminding yourself of where it all started.

“Make it a common practice to let users who've been there since the beginning to test and validate new features, before moving forward with the product. When it comes to hormonal health, every woman has a different (cycle) experience. Therefore, continuously checking back with those in our community enables us to build a personalized product that evolves over time. More importantly, it allows community members to share their experiences and feel that they are heard and valued.”

4. “Focus on engaging the community as much as building the product”

In the early days, it’s natural for most of the resources to go towards building the product – particularly the technology behind it. However, if you are not able to create a buzz and positive chatter around your product, all that effort could easily be in vain.

“Start by building strong lines of communication with your community. Onboard passionate people who’re able to create engaging content and find new ways to add value to the community. Break down divisions between Product Development and Community Engagement teams, and push them to build together a product that benefits and excites the community”, Ennis-Hill says.

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