(Photo via Facebook)
Emily Merrell was working in special events and marketing for fashion brands in New York City when she began to feel restless.
“I felt really siloed in that industry,” Merrell reflects. But as she looked around at her female friends, Merrell realized that many of them had the kind of skills and experience she was craving — be it professional, personal or completely random.
So Merrell, always the event planner, convinced her friends to get in a room for some purposeful networking. But this wasn’t just a free-for-all — Merrell hand-picked pairs from among the group who would get to meet each other at this event. Each duo was chosen for some commonality in experience, interests, industry or more. A curated networking experience, if you will.
The evening went really well.
Back by popular demand, Merrell continued organizing similar events for ladies networking over the ensuing two years, always while holding down a full time job. In December, though, Merrell decided to pursue this passion full-time and launched the Six Degrees Society. Since then, the Society has launched chapters in Chicago, Los Angeles, New Orleans, San Francisco and Miami, all in addition to the original market of NYC. The Society hosts about one event per month in each market — the events run the gamut from panels to cooking classes to workshops on specific topics and beyond.
A D.C. chapter is set to launch on Sept. 26. The event will be held at 1776 on 15th Street.
Merrell told Technical.ly each new chapter launches because a number of women in that market reach out to her and ask. She uses an ambassador system in each city to help plan and prep events — all of the ambassadors are professional women with other jobs, but they do get a commission based on event ticket sales.
As for the curated networking matches, though, the signature experience of Six Degrees Society events, “it’s a very manual process still,” Merrell said. Merrell still makes all the matches based on short bios attendees send her — she enjoys the process but struggles to explain the method to the matching madness. As we talk Merrell is busy making matches for an upcoming NYC event — the woman who is trying to start her own personal training company? Perhaps she should meet with this marketing expert. And the high-powered lawyer who mentions that she wishes she had more time for self-care? Maybe she would enjoy meeting the personal trainer as well.
“I kind of felt like I’ve become a side-hustle whisperer,” Merrell laughs.
All in all, Merrell and the Six Degrees Society have accomplished a lot since launching just months ago. And Merrell says it’s going really well — the feedback she gets is overwhelmingly positive. Still, it can be difficult to describe the Society networking experience to someone who hasn’t been to an event, and may have an overwhelmingly negative association with the word networking.
“I’m still working for the right words to articulate how it feels,” Merrell admits.
But she knows how she wants it to feel — like “going to an awesome friend’s house for dinner where you know you’re going to meet cool people.”
Sound like a party you want to be at? Find more info on, and get tickets for, the inaugural D.C. event here.
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