If everyone is really only separated by six degrees, how come every time you try to network, you manage to meet only people with whom you have nothing in common? Wouldn’t it be great if you could go to a networking event and meet women who you actually wanted to network with and who completely got where you were coming from and what you were experiencing? Emily Merrell was sure there had to be a better way, and so, she founded the awesome Six Degrees Society:
Tell us a little about Six Degrees Society. How does it work?
Six Degrees Society is a women’s focused networking organization that takes the guesswork out of who you meet while networking. What that means is that everyone you meet while networking is handpicked just for you based on a bio submitted prior to the event. Each match is 15 minutes in length, so enough time to get a sense of that person and not feel trapped in a conversation.
What was your inspiration for starting Six Degrees?
There were a few things that led to the creation of Six Degrees Society.
First off, I felt very stuck in my corporate position and wasn’t quite sure where and how I could cultivate new skills without going back to school, or taking a step back in my career.
Secondly, I dreaded networking but found it essential in my personal growth. What I realized that I dreaded the most were awkward introductions, going alone, leaving conversations and talking only about work.
Last but not least, I wanted to belong to something greater than myself where everyone and everything was pre-approved. Meaning that I could find a roommate through the group, be vulnerable about job searching or find new friends without it feeling transactional and still being my authentic self.
How did you spread the word?
The word of SDS initially spread through friends and then through friends of friends and ultimately social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram played a pivotal part in others finding out about our organization.
How do you make the matches or decide who gets to go to what?
The match process is my favorite part of my job! I make matches based on personal, professional or future life connections. I’ll determine a good match based on industry, job/business leads, common hobbies, college majors, being from the same town, or just a sense of humor on how they write about themselves.
Events are a la carte and open to everyone! We even have our monthly manbassador event where men get the chance to experience curated networking.
Was it hard to convince others that you had a good idea?
Oddly it was the others that had to convince me that I had a good idea. The beauty of Six Degrees Society was that it was created almost by accident. I had the idea to host one event hoping to introduce friends and friends of friends to one another in an efficient manner, but I thought I’d only do it once. It wasn’t until my first event was over that people started asking me when my next event was. For two years we hosted one event in NYC each month.
In 2016 it became a legitimate business and we’ve hosted over 70 events in 8 cities!
How are you doing? How has the response been?
The response and interest has been overwhelming. I’m constantly stunned and humbled by the stories of connections that are made and carried on beyond the initial introduction.
We’ve proudly expanded to 8 cities this year and hosted over 1,500 people at our events.
What’s on the horizon for Six Degrees? Do you think you will become a national brand?
My vision is to one day scale internationally. London, Toronto and Buenos Aires are key markets I’m hoping to expand to by 2018.
We have a lot of exciting shake ups happening at the end of 2016. We are switching to a new revenue model (stay tuned), rebranding from a networking organization to a social club and working on an app!
What has the most challenging part been so far?
Knowing where to start! There are times that everything seems like a priority when in fact it’s better to just begin than to overthink it.
I’m also very fortunate to have a strong part-time team around me but am ready for a full-time counterpart to help me scale.
Plus there never seem to be enough hours in the day!
What’s your message for aspiring entrepreneurs? What do you wish you knew?
Don’t be fearful to ask for help! The smartest thing I did was launch my business with a business coach in tow. She challenges and pushes me in a direction I otherwise wouldn’t have thought capable.
I wish I had known more coding and graphic design knowledge pre-starting a business. Every key move you want to make comes down to hiring a developer and or graphic designer. It would be much more efficient had I these skills on my own.
Thoughts on leadership? What do you think makes you a great leader?
I think to be a good leader you need to be open to constant feedback while ultimately not letting it influence your decision making capabilities. Everyone will have an opinion about your business and what you should or shouldn’t do but at the end of the day it’s your choice on how to act.
Secondly, leadership trickles down. I love to empower the women that work for me. They are just as important in the success of this brand and if anything ever happened to me I’d want it to move forward without me at the helm so it’s important to keep them invested in the brand as much as possible.