This Young Entrepreneur Started a Company to Harness the Power of Networking and Help Her Community Hustle
Editor’s Note: Inspire Me is a series in which entrepreneurs and leaders share what motivates them through good times and bad, while also sharing stories of how they overcame challenges in hopes of inspiring others.
Like many entrepreneurs, FindSpark co-founder and CEO Emily Miethner solved a problem that she, herself, struggled with. Miethner graduated during the height of the recession with a degree in fine arts and design. After leaving school, she was able to land a job in working in social media management at a publishing house and then a startup, but all the while, she saw how difficult it was for her fellow creatives to get a foothold in the industries of their choice.
“Even for me, as someone who identified outgoing and a people person, I found a lot of situations when it came to finding internships or networking daunting,” Miethner recalled to Entrepreneur. “I thought, if I was an extrovert, and I'm finding this daunting, then I understand why other people my age don't like networking or understand the power of it, because they haven't really done it successfully yet.”
So she worked to demystify networking, organizing events, job boards, career fairs and resources all geared towards students and recent grads. It started as a side hustle, but in 2013, she decided to make the leap and start running the company full time after spending her mornings, nights, lunches and weekends dedicated to helping FindSpark succeed.
Five years later, the company has held more than 250 career programs for a community of more than 28,000 young professionals, helping to place them at big name companies ranging from Buzzfeed and Grey Advertising to L’Oreal and Ralph Lauren. After several years as an entirely New York-based operation, FindSpark recently expanded to open a Chicago headquarters.
Miethner says that during stressful moments when she feels like she is juggling a million things at once, she seeks inspiration from her own carefully cultivated network and takes a moment to feel grateful for the relationships she has been able to form over the years, not just for herself, but for the talented young people who came after her.
“I wanted to make networking fun and inclusive and welcoming,” says Miethner. “That is what enable us to grow this really incredible, talented diverse group of members that employers want to connect with.”
Miethner shared her insights about the importance of generosity and how to make your connections count.
What inspires you at work?
Hearing success stories from our members and our clients is the best. For our members success can be anything from finally launching a personal website, landing a job or an internship or reaching out to someone they admire and getting an inspirational interview. For our employers, helping them get awesome people on their team whom they might not have otherwise connected with.
Who was a mentor that inspired you?
I had a professor who has been a huge inspiration. He's the one that really helped to instill the importance of networking in me as a student. I think seeing someone like him who was so generous in making these connections [made a difference]. He had this really amazing speaker come in like two years prior to my being a student in his class. I fell in love with this guy's work. His name is Evan Roth, and he is this incredibly cool artist.
I remember telling [my professor] that he should have [Evan] come back in and speak again, and he invited him back because I asked him. I got to meet [Evan] in person after admiring his work. And for another speaker, I emailed [my professor] and asked if he would introduce me after his talk. He looped him into the email chain and said, “Emily is one of my best students, and she really wants to meet you.” I got two internships through that referral. Not everybody is that generous. Of course, in networking, things will not work out so easily, but they can. Having someone like him who showed me that if you're just constantly putting yourself out there, those sort of things happen, instilled in me my desire to pass on the joy of connecting. Now that I have a really strong network, I try to do that as much as possible.Related: The Founder of #HappyPeriod Shares How to 'Get Off Your Butt and Make Your Passion Part of Your Everyday Life'
What has inspired you to be a better person?
I do not always mention this, but I do think it's really important to have a supportive partner in your life. That has such a big impact on you. My fiance is also an entrepreneur and definitely has been a huge motivator and supporter. We've collaborated on a lot of projects together. We're always like calling each other to do more and do better and supporting each other through difficulties. I always love seeing other entrepreneurial couples who co-founded things or worked together.
Who is a woman that inspires you?
A woman whom I admire the most is the CEO and co-founder of BeautyCon, Moj Mahdara. She's just incredible. BeautyCon and that community is all about supporting diversity and expression. She takes the time to inspire and motivate other people and to share her story. Seeing someone like her, who's a woman founder, LGBT and a person of color -- she puts herself out there all the time and also shares how hard it is to be a CEO. She talks about traveling and missing her family. It's very clear that she loves her work, but I think she also puts it out there that shows it's incredibly hard work. She's shows the real side of things.
For those women who are looking to start a business, or have begun one, but are feeling discouraged, what advice do you have for them to keep going?
Remember when things get tough, that as an entrepreneur, [you will have] more control over your future and your work and your life. That sort of control [is] really valuable. It's very scary, and it's a very big responsibility -- but it is also a motivation.