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SDS NYC Recap: Powerhouse Panel - Collaboration Over Competition

“What you say is how you live. It’s not just a word, it’s everything.”

Truly a powerhouse panel: Claire Wasserman, Suz Baleson, Billie Whitehouse, Leanne Shear, Emily Merrell, Navi Ganancial. (Left to Right)

Truly a powerhouse panel: Claire Wasserman, Suz Baleson, Billie Whitehouse, Leanne Shear, Emily Merrell, Navi Ganancial. (Left to Right)

The morning panel made me wish every breakfast started like this.  On Oct. 11, six founders had an honest conversation about growing their companies, giving back to other women and driving their hustle.

With Six Degrees Society founder Emily Merrell as the moderator, SDS heard from Navi Ganancial, Co-Founder of FounderMade; Claire Wasserman, Founder of Ladies Get Paid; Leanne Shear, Co-Founder of Uplift Studios; Billie Whitehouse, Founder of Wearable X; and Suz Baleson, Founder of The Wellth Collective

These women are making a space for themselves in the health and wellness community through innovative ideas and long hours. The message that came up consistently was that the process couldn’t be done alone. Partnerships breed succeed; their achievements have come from a place of collaboration rather than competition.

Bring on the power breakfast! Thanks to Vita Coco, one of our delicious sponsors. 

Bring on the power breakfast! Thanks to Vita Coco, one of our delicious sponsors. 

Hosted by KettleSpace, which converts underutilized restaurant spaces into a network of shared workspaces, the wellness trend continued with attendees treated to a healthy breakfast from Vita Coco, Yes Bar and Casey’s Krunch.

After the event, SDS spoke with three attendees to talk about how we can be collaborative rather than competitive.  

SDS: What do you do and how long have you been involved with Six Degrees Society? 

CHRISTINE MORRISON: I work in business development for onefinestay, a luxury hospitality company that provides 5-start service in private homes across the globe. This was my first Six Degrees event! I heard about it through another friend who thought I would really be able to relate to the events and women who attend - she was definitely right!

SARAH VAYNERMAN: I am the Founder & CEO of Work From Om, the workplace wellness company that brings yoga, meditation and mindfulness to the office. My first SDS event was last summer at a co-ed networking event at Projective Space on the LES.

PAMELA KAVALAM: I joined Six Degrees earlier this month. I met Julia Chebotar (a Six Degrees Ambassador) at another networking event, we got coffee and she convinced me to join. Also, after she told me about it, I kept meeting people who knew Emily and who said great things about the group. I'm currently in transition, I worked in higher education for several years and now I'm pivoting into the fitness industry. I currently teach intenSati, a cardio workout that combines aerobics, boxing, and strength with spoken affirmations for ClassPass community program.

SDS:  What resonated with you most in the "Collaborators Over Competition" panel? Is there a word or sentence that stuck in your mind from the event?

CM: Pay it forward - It was interesting to hear how these incredibly successful and busy women still make time for coffee dates and informational interviews with younger women who are interested in hearing about their career paths or getting advice. That was personally very inspiring since I'm one of those women who is always reaching out to hear about people’s stories. I'm always so grateful that people make time for me to share their wisdom and words of encouragement because these people become my role models for success and inspire me to keep trying to find my passion.

SV: It was refreshing, almost healing in a way, to hear women whose businesses I so admire expressing challenges similar to my own. I get backed up on email and often let things fall off my radar - when the founder of The Wellth Collective expressed that she, too, struggles with this, it was like a breath of fresh air. Learning that the owner of Uplift is, like me, somewhat of a risk-taker and often makes bets on herself when it comes to finances, made me feel like I'm in good company in my non-conventional ways.

PK: I think "vulnerability" was something that kept coming up and really stuck with me. When you see women who are so successful talking about how they've gotten so far in their careers, it's easy to think that they're different from you or that they've always had it all figured it out. When Billie told a story about an issue she had to deal with at work and feeling conflicted about it, it really showed that being a "boss" is a process and it doesn't end once you earn the CEO title. 

SDS: What's the best way to own your power at work? 

CM: To be a leader on your own team, take credit for your success and speak up. Even if you're not in a position of leadership, I think it makes all the difference to lead by example and speak up for what you think is right.

SV: Put aside any guilt you may associate with asserting yourself. As long as your work is thoughtful, your intentions pure and your communication professional, being assertive is no less than a requirement for success in business.

The Q&A after the panel touched on how to stick to the grind of being a founder. 

The Q&A after the panel touched on how to stick to the grind of being a founder. 

PK:  I've read a lot that the key to owning what you can do is to be both confident and competent. Be amazing at your job but also be confident enough to make sure that others know it. Believe in yourself if you have an idea - if it's going to have a positive impact on the company, your team, your product, etc., others will want to hear what you have to say. 

SDS: How can we be collaborative with other women instead of competitive? 

CM: Take time during our day to extend kindness to women and support them in their goals or projects.

SV: We have to know that there is plenty of room for all of us, and approach each other sincerely. Be open to meaningful connections and help when and where you may be of service and value. If someone is being competitive with you, my best advice is to pay them as little attention as possible. Keep working hard, looking forward, and don't get hooked on pettiness. If someone is being malicious towards you to the point that it is directly affecting your career or business, see #3 and have a chat with that person. 

PK: I loved what Claire said about when you negotiate for a raise, don't think of it as doing it for yourself. Think of doing it on behalf of women everywhere, to minimize the wage gap. That's so important- it's not a zero-sum game. Something else I do is try to think of how you can learn and share from every passionate and talented woman (or person!) you meet. It's so easy to feel competitive with people who are younger than us or further in their careers or who seem to love what they do. I listened to an interview with Melanie Whelan, the CEO of SoulCycle, and she talked about her "millennial mentor" - a woman who's younger than she is and advises her on her business decisions. I love that! Instead of being jealous or resentful of someone's success, we can learn from their experience and be happy to share our knowledge with them as well. Also, it feels really good to cheer for friends or help another person succeed. When one of my friends has a career win, I feel that positive karma. The same goes for when we meet a roadblock. When I decided to quit my job, I couldn't believe the outpouring of support and offers to connect, help and research that came from my friends. 

SDS: Navi said that she doesn't hire people who aren't winners, hustlers and owners. How do you win, hustle and/or own at work?

CM: I hustle by trying to be a little bit better at what I do every day and I never give up when I fail. I own my goals by speaking up about what I want and I win by celebrating my hard work and helping others around me achieve their goals.

SV: Lately, I've been owning by delegating. Whereas in the past I was afraid to give up control and let someone else take on a task or project, I now challenge myself to see the bigger picture and act in favor of it. I've realized that owning the system is more important than owning any individual piece of it. Holding myself to that standard has given me the confidence to delegate wisely but efficiently. 

PK: I actually wrote that down when she said that! I'm interviewing for jobs right now and as a career changer, it's tough to make the case that you have the right skill set to succeed in the jobs you want. I've been reading business books like Mindset by Carol Dweck, listening to podcasts (one of my favorites is How to be Awesome at Your Job), and doing an incredible amount of research about my industry. I had an interviewer tell me that the way I talked about company strategy was almost like I already worked there. I had listened to their CEO talk about the company's mission and I'd done an informational interview with a current employee. It's also helpful to volunteer, network, and make meaningful contacts in your intended industry. In every interaction I have with someone, I think actively about ways that I can add value. Is there someone I can connect them with, a book or article they might find helpful, an organization they might be interested in, etc. Hustling isn't just about asking for things, being generous and offering without expecting anything in return is a big part of it. 

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