My Life as a Twentysomething Founder With Emily Merrell, CEO and Chief Networker, Six Degrees Society

Yitzi Weiner
Jul 2, 2018 · 6 min read
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While wearing a million different hats it’s important to still be a pleasure to work with. In moments of miscommunications, proper screw ups on my part, or dropping the ball. I always strive to be a pleasure to work with. Which means being, kind, polite and mindful of other people’s time and energy.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Emily Merrell, the CEO of Six Degrees Society. Six Degrees Society is a women’s focused networking organization inspired by the need to create a non-judgmental, safe space where individuals aren’t defined by their looks, work experience or economic status, but rather by who they are. Founded by a New York City based fashion marketer in 2014, Emily sought to offer women the opportunity to connect on personal and professional levels while taking the guesswork out of networking. Six Degrees Society offers membership to its monthly events organized by chapters across the United States including New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, New Orleans, San Francisco, Atlanta, Miami, and Washington DC. For more information and membership inquiries, visit sixdegreessociety.com.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory” of how you become a founder?

ix Degrees Society is a women’s focused networking organization that takes the guesswork out of who you meet while networking. 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 to my personal growth. What I realized that I dreaded the most was 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.

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 now have chapters spanning New York, San Francisco, DC, Los Angeles, Chicago and Boston!

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

The special sauce of our company is the handpicked, curated matches. Rather than walking into an event blind and unsure of who you’d be meeting or who is in the room with you. Each individual submits a bio written in the third person describing holistically who they are. After studying the bios, I handpick who each attendee meets for 15 minutes each. A few hours before the event, guests receive the bios, photos, job titles, companies and emails of all the event attendees in addition to their matches. As an attendee, you’re walking in with a cheat sheet, able to chat with people handpicked just for you plus get the contact info of all the other attendees!

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Are you working on any exciting projects now?

We just launched our app and are so excited to streamline the booking process for our users. The app now integrates membership and event booking rather than stringing things across multiple platforms.

In other exciting news, I’m offering one-on-one coaching to help women entrepreneurs know their worth and network the best they can.

Do you have a favorite book that made a deep impact on your life? Can you share a story?

The book Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success by Adam Grant emphasized what I believe to be already true. That people that give more than they take will be more successful. Everything that I’ve given be it help, advice, an introduction has had the opportunity to come back full circle to help me out. The perfect example is creating my business. I had created my business as a hobby to help others connect authentically. Fast forward 4 years and it was the individuals I had created it for who pushed me to recognize this “hobby” as a business and built me a website, newsletter and beyond.

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What are your “5 Lessons I Learned as a Twentysomething Founder” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

Lesson 1: Test Your Product While Still in Corporate. Before I had quit my corporate job I was hosting an event once a month exclusively in NYC and hadn’t played around with various monetization opportunities. In my mind, if I was hosting 3 events per month in 3 different cities I’d be making the money I needed to survive monthly. I wish I had played around with various

Lesson 2: Find a Lawyer and Accountant That You Trust

At the start of my business I was asking every lawyer and every accountant what I needed to know to start my business. What I didn’t know, was how important it was to have individuals to call your own.

Lesson 3: Outsource Sooner

In January 2017, I spent 3 weeks working on reconciling my QuickBooks not sure if I’d done it correctly. It was later that year that I decided to invest in a bookkeeper to make my life much easier. With limited resources it’s still important to notice where you can outsource.

Lesson 4: Think Like A CEO

A wise friend once told me about the importance of thinking like a CEO and evaluating each task with “would a CEO do this?” Hiring a virtual was the smartest thing I did for business. I created systems and a toolbox to educated my virtual assistant and handoff the tasks that I could no longer handle.

Lesson 5: Be A Pleasure to Work With

While wearing a million different hats it’s important to still be a pleasure to work with. In moments of miscommunications, proper screw ups on my part, or dropping the ball. I always strive to be a pleasure to work with. Which means being, kind, polite and mindful of other people’s time and energy.

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Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. :-)

I recently had the pleasure of seeing Brit Morin speak in SF and was struck by the energy, sense of humor and passion that shined through during the talk. She’s someone that seems so solid in her foundation of who she is as a person and knowing what she wants. However, what really captivated me was her success and pivots she made throughout her career and what she set aside to pursue a dream. I’d want to meet her because what she has created with Brit & Co. seems to be the online version of my business. Yet as she’s scaled her business I’d be curious on her take with VC capital and if that’s a route she’d walk down again.

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film…

Yitzi Weiner

Written by

A “Positive” Influencer, Founder & Editor of Authority Magazine, CEO of Thought Leader Incubator

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film, Sports and Tech. Authority Mag is devoted primarily to sharing interesting feature interviews of people who are authorities in their industry. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

Yitzi Weiner

Written by

A “Positive” Influencer, Founder & Editor of Authority Magazine, CEO of Thought Leader Incubator

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film, Sports and Tech. Authority Mag is devoted primarily to sharing interesting feature interviews of people who are authorities in their industry. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

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