Emily Merrell built her business on the value of networking. Six Degrees Society is a membership, mastermind, and coaching community for strong, independent, and fierce women that has grown into more than 10 cities and 300 digital events worldwide.
In this conversation, Emily shared how she launched Six Degrees Society as a side hustle (and what it took for her to take the leap to full-time). She explained the pivots she had to make when the pandemic hit and the new revenue streams that came out of it. We also talked about fundraising and how the traditional ways of raising money aren’t the only ways to go about it.
This is an enlightening conversation and I know you’ll love how vulnerable and open Emily is about her entrepreneurial journey. Listen to Episode 32 of The Career Memos Podcast available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, and Stitcher.
Fight the resistance in the early days that will push your growth to new levels.
Emily’s career journey began in the world of fashion, holding coveted special events and marketing roles at Ralph Lauren, Tory Burch, and Club Monaco. But it was a post-college opportunity of living in Argentina, networking, and soaking in the culture of a foreign country that led to that first role at Ralph Lauren.
Today, Emily runs Six Degrees Society, a membership, mastermind, and coaching community for women, which started as a supper club with a few of Emily’s close girlfriends. It was a hobby, inspired by her joy of bringing people together. In the early days, Emily resisted everything, to the point of not even charging for her first event. She eventually bit the bullet and started a newsletter list on Mailchimp and launched a website that featured career profiles and others’ stories.
The entrepreneurial itch was there, even though she didn’t believe it was a real business at first. Taking the leap into making it her full-time focus was an exciting moment. Emily knew she had no debt, she was thinking about Six Degrees in nearly every waking moment, and this was her time. At the end of year one they were in 8 cities, and that grew to 10 by year two. A membership and 1:1 coaching were added later as additional revenue streams.
Make decisions quickly and pivot when you need to.
At the beginning of 2020, Emily had a fire in her belly. After a more challenging 2019, she was ready to go all in with Six Degrees Society and had planned several travel opportunities, including a trip to Palm Springs in March to attend Alt Summit.
As soon as the Coronavirus pandemic hit, all of her venues began cancelling on her. Speakers started cancelling. One of her venues wouldn’t even serve food. Within a day, she pivoted to Zoom and soon learned the brilliance of breakout rooms. It was a gamechanger!
This later inspired the launch of a mastermind that was a perfect hybrid between the membership and 1:1 coaching.
To date, Six Degrees Society has hosted over 300 digital events with members from all over the world, including Alaska and Brazil. Ultimately, the pandemic kicked off a rebirth of Emily’s love for her business and for her coaching.
Take risks and consider different ways of raising money.
Beyond the idea of traditional fundraising methods, Emily chose to start a crowdfunding campaign on IFundWomen, where she raised $5,000. She loves running and owning her business, so the idea of giving up a portion of equity didn’t resonate.
Don’t forget about credit cards and loans, too. There are other ways to raise money.
Emily’s accountant helped her secure a small business loan during the pandemic and while she initially felt ashamed of it and in a scarcity mindset, it’s taking those risks and accepting that help that will push your growth further than you ever thought possible.
“I had this terrible itch to become an entrepreneur – I was surrounding myself with a ton of expander type entrepreneurs. And I kept waiting for my breakthrough in that moment of ‘what would I create?’ People were looking at me like I had six heads. They were like, ‘Do you not see that this is your entrepreneurial venture? Do you not see that this is what you’re supposed to do and what you’re supposed to be?’”