Emily Merrell is the founder of my favorite networking group, Six Degrees Society. It’s apropos that I end this year’s Career Profile series with Emily Merrell, because she’s become a close friend and I’ve met so many other close friends and Career Profile participants because of Six Degrees Society. Six Degrees Society is a women’s networking group where Emily takes the guess work out of networking by creating curated matches during each event. Events all have at least three matches and many have an activity like a fitness class, book signing, or wine tasting. Founded in 2014 by Emily Merrell, Six Degrees Society has evolved into a supportive community of women that is launching new chapters in Chicago and Los Angeles in 2016. Emily has worked for INTERMIX, Tory Burch, Polo Ralph Lauren, and Club Monaco. I’m so excited for you to learn more about Emily and Six Degrees Society!
Emily Merrell, Founder of Six Degrees Society
How did you end up at INTERMIX? What was your career path?
I never thought I’d work in fashion and sort of fell into it in a round about way. After living in Buenos Aires for nine months after college, I ended up landing a job in retail events at Ralph Lauren. From there, my career continued to grow in that trajectory. After three and a half years at Tory Burch, I found my current role at Intermix posted on LinkedIn and got the job.
Did you always know you wanted to work in the fashion industry and specifically in marketing and event planning?
Not at all! After coming back from Argentina, I was completely removed from brands and valuable goods, dare I say I was a bit of a hippie? I initially thought I would pursue a career in wine sales or travel planning. However fate had other plans for me. A friend of mine from Argentina connected me to someone at Ralph Lauren and, despite my little experience in the industry, I got the job planning events at Ralph Lauren. It was the best training ground to build a keen eye for detail and a great foundation for events. The rest is history.
You previously worked for some of my favorite fashion brands, Tory Burch, Club Monaco, and Polo Ralph Lauren. What were your roles at those organizations?
At Ralph Lauren and Tory Burch, the roles were pretty similar to what I do now at Intermix. It’s a lot of working hand and hand with the store teams and implementing event strategy at their stores and beyond. One of my most memorable events was when Ralph Lauren hosted a book signing for Gloria Vanderbilt and author Wendy Goodman at his new women’s flagship on Madison Avenue. For Tory Burch it was the celebrity packed opening of the Rodeo Drive flagship. It took everything in my power to keep my cool and not be a star struck nerd.
What is your favorite thing about working in event planning and marketing?
I love seeing an event through from start to finish. From the conceptualization of an event idea to looking and analyzing the metrics of the event once the dust has settled, like what sort of revenue it drove and the amount of client acquisition media generated.
You are also the founder of my favorite networking group, Six Degrees Society. What inspired you to found Six Degrees Society?
Thank you for being so involved with Six Degrees Society! It started by accident back in early 2014, when I realized that many of my entrepreneur friends weren’t meeting the people they should be meeting at the networking events they were attending. Networking events are huge guessing games as to who you need to meet, unless it’s industry specific, but even then it’s hard to maximize an event. So I created a system of networking that takes the guess work out of who you meet. At each event the attendees matches are hand-picked just for them based on their personal or professional interests.
What has been a “pinch me” moment with Six Degrees Society?
I think my “pinch me” moment happened after my inaugural event. I was shocked that people wanted more and it quickly evolved into monthly programming. I’m also so thrilled by the way it’s grown in two years! For someone that just built a website six months ago and is only advertising by word of mouth, I’m pretty blown away by the outpouring of support and attendance. Plus it’s awesome to hear people refer to Six Degrees Society in their every day vernacular.
The real “pinch me” moment is seeing the partnerships develop between the members. Erin Bagwell just directed a documentary called DreamGirl Film featuring some of the wonderful members. It’s a pretty spectacular feeling to know that you helped facilitate a life-altering meeting.
You are one of the best networkers I know! What is your #1 piece of networking advice?
I pick up most of my new connections at the food table. Typically the ones that are there for the food are my type of people. But seriously go into each event and be yourself! It’s always weird meeting new people, but try giving a compliment and finding a common interest to quickly break the ice. Plus, ask lots and lots of questions. If you are stuck, stick with questions like “where are you from,” or “where did you go to college.” If all else fails, crack a joke!
What is on your desk right now?
I’m currently reading Passages by Gail Sheehy. It’s a book that goes in depth about the different ups and downs we experience throughout each decade of our lives. I also have a big stack of unwritten Christmas cards.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Learn to say no. As a notorious people pleaser, I’ve struggled with over-committing and not taking time for myself. It’s super important to know when to politely decline offers and prioritize your well being and it’s still something I struggle with every day.
What is your best advice for other young professional women?
Don’t be scared to do it alone (as daunting as it is to attend networking events or something on your own). I highly recommend putting yourself in those uncomfortable situations for those are the experiences that challenge you and offer you the most reward.
Images via Emily Merrell and Six Degrees Society.