In Conversation with Emily Merrell of Six Degrees Society
Describe your business in a few words?
Six Degrees Society is a female focused networking organization that combines curated connection with inspiring event programming. In addition to Six Degrees Society, I am a business coach for solopreneurs and help them scale their business through events, partnerships and community.
What made you take the leap to start your own business?
I always beat to my own drum and saw there was a lack of female focused communities out there — so I decided to create my own. While I created Six Degrees Society more as a desire to connect all the fabulous women I’d collected in my life it evolved into a community where we could learn and grow with one another. While I never intended Six Degrees Society to be a business, I fell in love with what I was creating and ultimately took the leap into working on it full time.
What was your background prior to starting your own business?
Before/during my creation of Six Degrees Society I worked in special events and marketing for high luxury fashion companies. I planned new store openings, charitable shopping events, unique in store experiences and loved being able to bring things alive within our gorgeous stores. During my time in fashion and events I learned SO much about strategic partnerships, the value of an audience and how to ask for what I want.
Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
Deep down the answer is “Yes”, both my parents were entrepreneurs and I never fully felt at home in the corporate culture. I knew my entrepreneurial moment was coming but was not 100% on my “what”. Even as I built Six Degrees Society I was still searching for something more, I thought I had to create a product or something bigger to consider myself an entrepreneur. I hadn’t realized I was in the process of building my future business until my community pointed it out to me.
Take us back to when you first launched your business, what was your marketing strategy to get the word out and did it go as planned?
HA, I wish I had a plan or strategy in place. Rather I let my community know what I was creating and continued to iterate and gauge their interest. My very first event started with posing a problem to a handpicked group of women I’d met over the years, luckily they were intrigued by my idea of bringing everyone together and the next event happened because people wanted more. I kept listening and pivoting until I landed on a name and decided to put my 100% energy into it. I’m the example of building a business by passion first and profit was figured out later on.
We always learn the most from our mistakes, share a time with us that you made a mistake or had a challenging time in business and what you learned from it?
Oh man, where do I start. I wish I had been more clear about my offerings when I started. I was so small in my thinking and thought the only revenue would come from events– it was totally unscalable and small minded and I wish I had thought bigger and bolder right out the gate. I also wish I had invested in a virtual assistant much sooner than I did. I was so committed to doing everything I didn’t understand how I could outsource or ask for help.
What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?
I am so proud of the mastermind I created during COVID. I’ve been a business coach for the last three years and this year I put together a whole new offering that sold out during the pandemic, a mastermind of 10 extraordinary women from across the country. I was blown away by the quality of the individuals that joined and overjoyed watching them help and support one another.
When hiring for your team, what is your go-to interview question? Please share any hiring tips you can share from your experience?
My go to hiring question for an ambassador (they were individuals that would execute the IRL events when I wasn’t there) was “if the venue didn’t have a cheese board, plate or utensils what would you do.” I want to hire ambassadors who are autonomous and can make decisions without relying on me.
How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?
We used to be a completely IRL event experience. I would travel between the markets we were in producing incredible events. In March we ultimately had to pivot all of our events digitally and we were able to scale the number of events we hosted. We also were able to build an audience in markets where we didn’t have a presence and grow internationally as well.
What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?
There is going to be a roll out of several new digital offerings and programs, including more member only experiences and events. I’m hoping to make the business that much more systemized and organized.
What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?
The biggest lesson that I learned in 2020 is that I don’t have to be everywhere. That being in one place for an extended amount of time was amazing– it allowed me to focus, to create routines and grow my business with intention.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?
I wish that I had put more focus on digital offerings from digital events to creating something like the mastermind.
How have you managed to stay grounded this year?
I have become a huge fan of ME time in the morning. From journaling for 10 minutes in the morning to surrounding myself with friends and family (virtually) that keep me grounded.
Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?
YES! I think we shouldn’t be our work. That took me a long time to understand. My identity was so wrapped up with my business and what happened in my business that I had a hard time carving my own identity. To achieve that balance, I go to bed at a normal time, I do my hardest work in the morning (including my workout) and in the evening I’m with my husband. I also don’t let my business run me– I keep my phone on silent, my instagram is batched and try to work on my business more than IN it. I also hired a marketing agency this year that was the best use of my energy and money and was able to delegate a lot of the little things in my business.
What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?
I love being alone. I am a huge extrovert and get a ton of energy around people but I also need my alone time and my personal space. I am not an optimal human if I don’t get my morning routine in.
What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?
- Do the hardest thing first thing in the morning.
- Use Trello to write down the 3 things I need to accomplish for the day.
- Use timers and Pomodoro to keep focused.
What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?
It means being a leader and inspiration to other women entrepreneurs and or future entrepreneurs; and being here as a resource.