Emily Raleigh is a twenty something at Fordham University and Founder of the international sisterhood, The Smart Girls Group. SGG, which started out as a magazine, grew to be an international sisterhood. The group had it’s first conference last month, featuring notable speakers such as Jill Abramson, Executive Editor of The New York Times, D’Arcy Rudnay, Chief Communications Officer of Comcast Corporation and Kayla Webley, Senior Editor of Marie Claire!
How inspiring is a twenty something who started her own POSITIVE business, while still in school? I’m talking with Emily about how she started the business and how she balances in all in this interview!
In your most recent blog post, you talked about how a few people close to you said that you should aim low when requesting speakers for the Smart Girls Conference. What was another moment where you didn’t aim low and it worked out well for you?
When we relaunched Smart Girls Group last fall, most people thought we were in over our heads to be developing new platforms and not solely sticking to a magazine, but we knew that Smart Girls Group was meant to be more than just a magazine. In the end, it made us a better company and it enhanced the community around Smart Girls Group. I don’t ever get frustrated when people tell me to aim low, though. It makes sense and in some instances, has definitely helped me.
In your opinion, what was the best part about the conference? Will you do something differently next year?
The best part of the conference was for sure the attendees. There were girls there who I have been working with for upwards of two years now, but were on the other side of the country. It was such an incredible, humbling experience to see so many of the Smart Girl Sisters in one room.
There are definitely things we will improve upon because that’s our responsibility, but we will be taking the 2014 attendees’ opinions into major consideration with every move we make. It’s exciting to think about what is next for the Smart Girls Conference and we have a few things up our sleeve already that I know will surprise people.
When your not changing the world, what do you do for fun?
I currently live in New York City, but my home will always be on Long Beach Island, which is one of the barrier islands on the Jersey Shore. I’ve grown up 20 steps from the beach, so I’m very into sailing, kayaking, running on the beach, and riding around town on my rusty beach bike. It’s a great place to spend time with family and close friends because there is so much to do.
What is your vision for the Smart Girls Group for the next 5 years?
I get this question a lot! I love thinking about where we will be five years from now and I think in a lot of ways, it will be very different from where people think we are going with the brand (but in a good way). Our goal is to expand upon what we currently offer and grow our global community of Smart Girls in ways that continues to align with our mission.
What was your most challenging moment when starting the Smart Girls Group?
Management! As a high school student, I literally had no idea what it was like to manage a team. Sure I had started organizations and clubs in and out of school, but this was different and definitely more challenging. There was the added element that everyone was working on this as a small side project, which meant that a majority of the work fell onto me. Now, I’m lucky that things are different and the Smart Girls Group staff and the overall Smart Girls team really makes managing this much easier. Now we are more organized, stronger, and have better processes, thanks to so many advisors who have guided those developments.
You are only a Sophomore in college! What would you like to do after you graduate (career wise)?
Leading Smart Girls Group for sure! I truly couldn’t imagine doing anything else.
What’s your typical day like from start to finish?
I try to wake up between 5 and 6 every day, and then I usually will use that time to run or go to the gym. I really like having time in the morning before my classes start to just get done small things, plus it is a great time to do laundry because most college students aren’t awake to take all of the dryers! I have classes most days during the week, but I consider it part of my day for The Smart Girls Group as well because I am a business student, so all of my classes are in some way relevant to SGG. Luckily, with the way my class schedule works, I can work throughout the day because my classes are either very early or very late at night, so in between I will go to the SGG office at the Fordham Foundry, a small business incubator just steps away from campus. I spend the rest of the day and sometimes into the night there, working on SGG. It’s a really awesome space because there’s so many entrepreneurial minded people there who are always willing to help you make business decisions. Whenever I get done all of my work for The Smart Girls Group, I will meet up with friends and grab dinner at one of the restaurants on campus or at the cafeteria. The rest of my night consists of homework, club meetings, and working at my job as a Resident Assistant. I try to get to bed early, but that’s a work in progress!
Has a Smart Girl ever really just touched your heart with a story or their background? Could you tell us about it?
There are so many stories that have affected me within Smart Girls Group. In fact, most do. I get lots of emails from my Smart Girl Sisters saying how Smart Girls Group has changed their lives and how they are pursuing their passions in a new way now, thanks to our resources and opportunities. There’s no words to describe how that has touched me because when you write down your goals when you start a business, they seem like these unattainable dreams that will never fully happen. Smart Girls Group and it’s affect on both my Smart Girl Sisters and myself has shown me that those goals are attainable and to keep those emails coming, you need to continue to innovate and strive for more as a company and as a person. Whether she is a girl from Virginia who landed her dream job or internship thanks to her leadership within Smart Girls Group or a girl from India who decided to go to college instead of getting married right away thanks to an article she resonated with in our magazine, every story has had a lasting impact on my life, and for that I feel like the luckiest girl in the world.
Connect With Emily:
The SmartGirlsGroup has also been featured in September’s Issue of Marie Claire magazine! You can vote for SGG to be featured in the November issue of the magazine through September 1-7th on Marie Claire Magazine’s website! xoxo