CopyTribe — my copywriting training program — came very close to closing its doors before they’d even opened
Michal Eisikowitz is the founder of CopyTribe, a comprehensive copywriting and business incubator that has trained over 250 copywriters and designers. She’s also the owner of a copywriting agency that specializes in website copy for B2B tech companies.
Six years ago, if someone told you they were a copywriter, you’d probably look at them blankly and say, “Does that have something to do with lawyers?” Today, with dozens of frum women working as agency copywriters or running profitable freelance businesses, that has changed drastically.
But in those early days, CopyTribe — my copywriting training program — came very close to closing its doors before they’d even opened.
The idea for CopyTribe came when, in 2018, I was invited by Tamar Ansh to speak for the JWWS Annual Writer’s Seminar. My talk, called “The 10 Commandments of Copywriting,” got such warm feedback that I realized I was on to something.
At that point, there were many frum women who dabbled in copywriting without any methodical training. I felt for them, because I’d done the same thing: developed copywriting skills in a hodge-podge, trial-and-error way throughout ten years of working at various companies and agencies.
It was a scattered, mistake-ridden way to learn, and I realized that there was a need for a systematic program that could take you from not knowing anything about copywriting to becoming a trained copywriter who had the foundational skills needed to land a first job.
I teamed up with Nikki Elbaz, a crazy talented, professionally trained frum copywriter I knew, to create an online copywriting training program. At that point, the majority of the frum world still thought Zoom was a setting on a camera, and wasn’t familiar with the concept of online courses.
It’s scary to put a new concept out into the world. It’s scary to not know if anyone will bite, if anyone wants this, if anyone will even show up. But we knew we had something valuable to offer. We knew that copywriting was a career that would open many doors for frum women, and we knew we had what it took to give it over.
So we jumped in. We started CopyTribe 1.0 and figured that if we got even ten people, it would be a huge win.
Too Close to Home
We went all out on the course launch: landing pages, sales pages, sales emails. We also went all out with the messaging.
In copywriting, when presenting an offer, you want to show that what you’re offering solves a problem your audience is experiencing. We knew that many women were excellent writers who worked long hours at various writing jobs — but still struggled to cover the bills at the end of the month. Copywriting could enable them to create their own business, or work at higher-paying jobs, using their writing talent, and help support their families in a way they couldn’t do before.
And so we brought out the “pain points” — the problem these women were facing — vividly and graphically. We wrote things like, “If you’re tired of wondering how you’re gonna pay for Shimmy’s braces, maybe it’s time to try something else,” or, “If you’d like to be able to put frozen broccoli in your cart without thinking five times, a copywriting career may be just the thing you’ve been looking for.” The examples were relatable and close-to-home; they brought to life the challenges of a perpetually money-pinched life.
But to many people, it felt like we were twisting a knife into their reality.
Some were furious — and they let us know about it, in no uncertain terms. We received a number of angry emails. “Who do you think you are?” one letter-writer asked. “If this is the kind of person you are, I never want to learn from you,” said another. “Any good you achieve will be drowned out by the harm you’re doing,” proclaimed a third.
It felt like a punch in the gut.
Just when we’d found the courage to roll out something exciting and transformative, we were hit with scathing put-downs. While it wasn’t a barrage in any way — it was five, maybe six people in total — those harsh emails were demoralizing.
Each time I opened my inbox during launch week, it was with a sense of dread. What awaited me today? One person even went so far as to defame us publicly, which really stung. It hurt to be on the receiving end of so much anger.
I walked around during those first few days with a horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach. When I went to bed at night, I couldn’t sleep.
The worst part was that I understood where these people were coming from. There was a lot of truth to what they were saying, and I regretted how we’d gone about the marketing. Good marketing elicits an emotional response — and if you really believe your offer can change someone’s life, agitating pain points is important. It’s what helps people make decisions.
But there also has to be empathy and compassion. And if we caused people acute pain, then clearly we’d gone too far.
It was a difficult and confusing time. For a few days, Nikki and I thought about backing out, retreating, going back to that peaceful, critic-proof existence where no one knows who you are. I looked at all the people who sat anonymously behind screens and wondered why I’d ever put myself out there in the first place.
What have I done? I agonized. Have I ruined my reputation forever? I haven’t even started, and I’ve already messed up so badly. I’d been so excited about what we were offering and I’d put it out with so much good intention. In an instant, though, my enthusiasm was shut down, the balloon of excitement all but popped. Maybe this whole thing was one big mistake.
But there was no backtracking now. We already had a few students signed up for the course and I felt a sense of achrayus to make good on the offer. I’ve never been a quitter, and deep down I knew that we shouldn’t give up when we had something big to share. So we kept going.
We took the feedback to heart, toned down the messaging… and plowed ahead, believing in our product and in the impact it could make. With the help of supportive people around me (shout-out to Nikki Elbaz and some beloved family members), I was able to appreciate the fact that for every piece of negative feedback, there were 500 people who thought what we were doing was great — but just didn’t let us know about it. Negative people are a lot more vocal than positive people.
With that perspective in mind, we ended up enrolling three times our sales goal, with over 30 women joining the first cohort.
Today, five years later, with 250-plus CopyTribe grads trained, I still feel shame when I look back at that moment. Reading those initial launch emails is one massive cringe session.
But the other emotion that fills me as I look back on that pivotal moment is gratitude. I’m so grateful we had the resilience to keep at it, to overcome the hardship and keep going. With every piece of positive feedback from students, with each email and text and Slack message they send telling me how their lives have turned around with a career they love and a parnassah that gives them and their families more peace of mind, I know it was all worth it.
What I’d tell my younger self:
Anytime you do anything big in this world, in any area, you’re going to be criticized. Negative feedback is not an “if” — it’s a “when.” If you try to avoid criticism at all costs, you won’t be able to impact the people who need you most.
Instead of scrambling around and trying to avoid negative feedback your entire life, know that it’s coming. Embrace the criticism, pick out the pieces in your work that require change, and make those changes without letting them cripple you.
If you’re hearing the same criticism shared by a few people, there’s a good chance you should do something about it. But don’t throw in the towel: there are too many people who need your product or service. Make sure that what you put out there aligns with your values, then go for it, knowing that negative feedback is there to help you refine and grow.
Perfection isn’t something you’ll ever reach — and that’s okay. What’s more, you’re never going to satisfy everyone — you just need to delight your tribe, the people who connect with your offer, style, and values.
As long as you’re showing up, giving value, and serving your students or clients, it’s okay to have some people who disagree with you. It doesn’t mean that what you’ve built is no good — it just means there may be room to tweak.
With every year of growth, wisdom, and experience, I refine my program, I refine the messaging. There’s no such thing as “nailing it” and offending no one. But along my journey, I’ve learned how to welcome, embrace, and learn from feedback. Instead of feeling attacked and defensive, I take criticism as the exact thing it is — golden information to help me grow, expand, and create more impact.
My biggest internal struggle as an entrepreneur
Constantly recalibrating my ambition and business goals with critical spiritual and family goals.
The most rewarding part of running my own business
Feeling that the sky is the limit. Knowing that I can use my G-d-given strengths to help people (and other businesses) while b’ezras Hashem generating an income that creates more freedom and peace of mind.
One lesson I’ve learned through entrepreneurship that applies to everyone
More than talent, more than wit — nothing is more important than grit. Every successful entrepreneur I know has shown remarkable resilience: they make mistakes, they fail, they try again. They don’t take no for an answer.
One thing most people don’t know about me
I am an expert barker. At seven years old, I snagged the role of Toto in a production of The Wizard of Oz. We had barking tryouts (literally), and the director determined that I had the best bark. (Shout-out to my alma mater Camp Hedvah)
How to Categorize and Deal with Negative Feedback:
When it comes to negative feedback, it’s important to distinguish between “spiteful criticism” and constructive criticism.
Spiteful criticism is shared with no practical purpose. It comes from people who are generally insecure or jealous. These people will often rant and rave; instead of sending instructive suggestions, they attack you personally, often in a mocking and snide tone. There’s nothing you can take from their words to make things better or change — they’re “unloading” on you with no practical takeaway.
What to do?
Block them or try to cut them out as much as possible. Hearing their negativity will only make you feel helpless and drag you down.
Constructive criticism is something you can act on. Even if it’s not worded in the nicest way, it contains an insight that can be used to better your product or service.
What to do?
Take time to periodically review feedback with someone who’s less emotionally involved in your business. Together, pick out the valuable pieces of feedback and make the relevant changes.
People are always asking how they can stand out. “There are so many people doing something similar to me,” they say. “How will people choose me?”
And I always say to them: Own your message. The one that’s unique, the one that feels a bit different from what everyone else is saying. The new concept you want to try, but are afraid will make you look “weird.” The new program you want to launch, but are afraid because it’s new and not what people are used to. Own that message. Own that service. That’s your fire, that’s your heart.
It’s scary to own that message, to own what makes you unique, because it potentially invites negative feedback. People may question you, or doubt you.
But that’s also what makes you stand out.
Being able to handle the negative feedback, to use it constructively but not let it drown you, becomes key to leaving your unique stamp. If your fear of negative feedback is too strong, you’ll dance around your true message until you sound the same as everyone else. You may avoid the negative feedback, but you also cut yourself off from all that you can be and do.
Often, negative feedback makes us feel threatened and we go into a fight-or-flight response, either retreating or getting defensive. What we need in order to combat this flight-or-flight response is to develop a feeling of safety inside. When you have a feeling of internal safety, feedback won’t knock you off your path.
How do you develop that feeling of safety? Before you put something new out into the world, imagine receiving negative feedback — and realize that you’ll still be okay. Ask yourself, “What’s the worst that can happen if criticism comes in?” You’ll come to understand that criticism only feels bad… but for the most part, once the sting subsides, the feedback is valuable.
By anticipating the negative feedback and realizing that you’ll be okay even if — and when — the criticism comes in, you’ll be able to own your message, speak from your heart, and use feedback as course corrections instead of allowing it to mute your message.
Fay Dworetsky is a mindset coach who helps women work from the inside-out to open up to so much more possibility, expansion, and abundance — both in their businesses and in their lives.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 796)
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