Interview with Emily Merrell Six Degrees Society Founder

Share more about your background and what inspired you to start Six Degrees Society?

As a lifelong people collector, I felt in-person connections were on the decline. I wanted to get people out of their homes, away from their computers and in front of like-minded individuals that would help them grow personally and professionally! Six Degrees Society started as a side hustle while working in the Fashion Industry and evolved into a full-blown passion. Monthly events surrounding career, entrepreneurship, and wellness evolved as the organization evolved. We grew to ten markets across the country, meeting women in all industries. The beauty of the organization is that we handpick who you meet while networking. All of the attendees receive the bios of every attendee pre-event, as well as the names of the individuals handpicked just for them! Thanks to a global pandemic, we’ve transitioned our IRL events to virtual and are able to host events daily versus weekly.

Can you share more about your business, Six Degrees Society for those not familiar with it?

We’re a women’s focused networking organization that focuses on making human connections easier. At each event, we handpick who you meet while networking plus provide visibility to all of the other individuals in the room! I’m proud to have built a community of kind and ambitious humans. I’m super proud to hear the success stories that come out of each connection. From friendships to business connections to work out buddies – so much has happened thanks to connections. We’re different from other organizations in that it welcomes women of all backgrounds. We have businesswomen, entrepreneurs, side-hustlers, moms, and yet when they show up, they can be whatever version of themselves they want to be at the events. We also recently launched a 5-month virtual mastermind to help individuals grow their businesses with the help of others.

Like me, you spent quite a lot of time in NYC working in retail at retailers including Tory Burch, Intermix, and Club Monaco. How do you think being an entrepreneur compares to the grind of a 9- 5 (let’s be honest 8am – 8pm corporate retail career)?

I am forever grateful for my experience in retail and the connections I cultivated. Leaving corporate I felt immense gratitude for making my own schedule, for being able to choose where and when I work and to not limit or live my life for 2 weeks of vacation. I feel MUCH more alive and grateful for the clients I work with, the revenue that comes in and every decision I make. While the grind of the retail was more predictable and it’s stressful working for myself I am proud to say I’ve never worked harder or felt more pride in the work I’ve done. The stress is self-imposed and my desire to be great is even more important to me than any manager I’ve ever had.

What is your academic background? Did you study in the field you’re currently working in or are you self-taught?

I was a Spanish and Communications Double Major at a super small liberal arts college called Denison University in Granville, Ohio. I always had a knack for helping problem solve for others and create partnerships. However, leaving college I had NO idea what I wanted to do with my life.  I’m grateful for the opportunity to craft a perfect job for myself that encompasses my love of connecting people and problem-solving.

Who has been the most important mentor in your career thus far?

I’ve had so many but one that really helped me take the leap was Tracy Dungo, founder of UnoDosTrae. She was the friend that pushed me to the ledge and told me what was on the other side but allowed me the grace to choose to jump. She is always cheerleading me on and saw the potential of my business before I saw it and has supported me every step of the way.

What was one of the biggest mistakes you have made in your career?

One of my biggest mistakes in my career was letting my fear of failure drive my career risks and growth. I was so fearful of rejection that I never took a sales job because I didn’t want to earn just commission/was fearful of living without a salary. I never pursued a job in tech because I didn’t want to be rejected. It wasn’t until I started my business where I gained the confidence to ask for money, to charge my worth and to straighten my backbone and reframe the feeling of rejection to learning moments. While I don’t like to look at my career choice as a mistake, I definitely can find the learning opportunities through it.

What do you believe are your top 3 most successful habits as an entrepreneur?

Resilience, consistency and a vision. In a business and in life there will always be curveballs sent your way. As an entrepreneur, you need to constantly be re-iterating and going back to the playbook to tweak what works and what doesn’t work.

Similar to resiliency, consistency is super important in ensuring to show up. Even when it feels like no one is paying attention, consistency in messaging and cadence is king.

Lastly, the most successful habit is vision. It’s being able to see your idea come to life before it is built. It’s believing that what you have is possible for one else and to keep progressing even during the scary and hard times.

What are 3 business tools you can’t live or work without?

I would be lost without my calendar, I literally live my life based on what’s coming up next. Trello, Slack, and Calendly are the three most important tools that keep me organized and on track for the day.

If you could have a glass of wine with our other FABULOUS female founder, who would it be?

I would love to have a glass of wine with Rachel Rodgers, founder of We Should All Be Millionaires. I’d love to ask her about balancing a female of 4, managing a team and scaling her business to 7 figures +.

Where do you see yourself  in 5 years? 10 years? What about your business?

In the next 5-10 years, I see myself starting a family with my husband, buying a house and focusing more energy on those priorities. As for my business, I’m hoping to create a self-sustaining empire focused exclusively on networking, community and connections that will be able to run smoothly while I start my motherhood journey.

With Six Degrees Society I plan on having in real-life experiences, summits, retreats, coaching components and so much more. We’re currently just at the tip of the iceberg.

What is something people don’t know about you that you are comfortable sharing?

Everyone assumes that I LOVE being around people 24/7. While I love people and hearing their stories I need time for me and need 24 hours a week to just recharge my batteries and do nothing. Otherwise, I’ll struggle with extreme burnout, get sick and won’t be able to show up the way I’d like to show up.

Where is your favorite local San Francisco spot for an after-work drink (let’s pretend there isn’t COVID) and we can still meet for drinks after work?

One of my favorite cocktail joints in SF is Smuggler’s Cove. It’s a fun bar that transports you off to a faraway island and offers a plethora of rum drinks. Definitely a fun hidden gem in Hayes Valley.

What was your favorite spot for a cocktail in New York City?

I miss the cocktails in NYC, each seemed better than the next. My favorite spot is Raines Law Room. It’s this little speakeasy spot on 17th street down a flight of steps. Inside the space it’s hard not to notice the wallpaper for its beauty but upon further inspection, it’s detailed with super wild sexual poses. The cocktails are incredible and the ambiance is low key and super sexy. Highly recommend grabbing a drink or two there or their sister bar The Williams.

We met through the blog, The JetSetting Fashionista and bonded over SSS Ranch where you were married. What has been your favorite destination to travel to? What is next on your bucket list?

My favorite part of traveling is getting the lay of the land and turning discomfort into comfort. I haven’t felt “uncomfortable” traveling in a long time and am looking forward to planning a trip to a place where I don’t know the language and have to pay attention. Next on my list of places I want to go is Thailand and Vietnam. After that I’m super eager to experience New Zealand. I’ve also realized that there is so much in the USA that I have still yet to experience including the Grand Canyon.

Emily Merrell

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