If you hate traditional networking, you're in good company. But if you attend a Six Degrees Society event, you're in even better company, and you'll probably change your mind about the whole networking thing. Meet Emily Merrell. She's the mastermind behind then intentional networking company, Six Degrees Society, and today she's dishing on how her company came to be, her plans for the future, what motivates her, and advice she would give to young professional women. Enjoy!
Instagram: @emerrell09 and @six_degrees_society
Location: New York City
Occupation: Founder/CEO of Six Degrees Society
University: Denison University
Secretly Obsessed With: (not so secretly) Frida Khalo
On My Nightstand: Peonies Candle from Henri Bendel, Journal, and business cards (have to be prepared at all times!)
Last Thing You Read: Give and Take by Adam Grant
How did you get started?
Like all great businesses, my started completely by accident. I noticed that there was a lack of communication and support amongst women and wanted to change that. I hosted one event back in early 2014 as a social experiment and at the end of the night everyone was asking me when I was hosting the next event. I started rolling out monthly events around topics that interested me and by December 2015 I was ready to jump into this as a business full-time.
What key elements played into your success?
Key people were/are the elements that played into my success. For starters, I've had the most supportive mother who didn't bat an eyelash when I told her I was quitting my job to pursue this as a business. Plus she's been my #1 cheerleader since the beginning and has attended all of my NYC events. She even helped me with check in and photos at my very first event. Secondly, my friendships.
My friends didn't think I was a nutter for leaving my job and have been so insanely supportive as I figure out how to run a business. But the most important element to my success has been the IRL relationships I've developed with people. I try to be as honest and transparent when working with businesses and it's paid off. In exchange I've attracted extraordinary people to Six Degrees Society who continue to attract more wonderful people.
What was the inspiration for Six Degrees Society?
The Tory Burch Foundation and Lavelle Olexa. At the Tory Burch Foundation they hosted monthly events where they'd pair 10 women entrepreneurs with mentors for a short amount of time. I loved the idea of "matching" people and re-worked the format to apply it to all women and not limit it to just entrepreneurs. I was also a part of a wonderful "Salon" run by Lavelle Olexa. I was inspired by her master networking and connecting skills and when she moved from NYC I was eager to create my own version.
What struggles did you face getting to this point?
Convincing friends and acquaintances that tell me how much they "hate" networking or don't need to attend because they have enough friends or aren't job seeking that my events are different. Networking has traditionally had a negative connotation associated with it and people fail to recognize the value of meeting new people without something transactional happening in return.
Who was the biggest influence in your professional life?
My boss at both Ralph Lauren and Tory Burch, Laird Gough. She took a chance on hiring me at Ralph Lauren. I was just back from Argentina and had been a bit of hippie and she was instrumental in implementing the structure and organizational skills I still use today. In addition, she always showed immense kindness to everyone and taught me the importance of recognizing everyone no matter their role or position.
Where do you see Six Degrees Society in five years?
I want to build a network of like-minded women that spans globally. I see Six Degrees Society having an international presence and expanding to some of my favorite cities like London, Madrid and Buenos Aires.
When do you feel most successful?
In the midst of an event amongst the buzz of people telling their stories and fostering connections. It gives me so much joy and reminds me again why I'm doing what I'm doing.
What advice would you give to girls looking to enter your industry/space?
Try it out before jumping. You want to make sure your product/service has a place in the world before you take such a leap. Work on it as a side hustle before it becomes your full-time life. Also, do your homework. I have to admit, I learned most of starting a business on the fly but arm yourself with a great accountant, lawyer and business coach straight out of the gate.
What’s the best piece of advice you received?
Don't spread yourself too thin. I'm the queen of overcommitting and when I first jumped into doing this full-time I was instantly met with anxiety about money coming into the bank. I considered freelance work or consulting but my very wise business coach and friend, Alison Gilbert, reminded me to stay focused on my vision and building my business before I said "yes" to every side opportunity that came my way.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Our expansion and team. We are currently in 7 cities (NYC, Chicago, LA, New Orleans, San Francisco, Miami and Atlanta) and each city launch has happened super organically with the local ambassadors reaching out to me. Plus I have a kick- a** team in NYC who dedicate their free time to helping at events, marketing, and keeping me organized. I'm so proud that collectively we've created such an extraordinary network of like-minded individuals.