Erin and Claire currently live in New York City and are the founders of Metta Society. Metta Society was born out of the belief that true inspiration and change originate from meaningful conversation. Metta Mingles—their event series—bring women of different backgrounds, mindsets, and passions together for a variety of events, and take place in New York, Denver, and Los Angeles.
We talked on the phone with Erin and Claire to learn how they started their business, and how they both balance Metta Society on top of their 9-to-5 jobs. They explained that a lot of Metta Society events take place in Colorado. They met each other at Colorado State University, while studying apparel design and merchandising. They were assigned to be partners for a group project and discovered they were very compatible. In New York City, they each found separate jobs but continued to collaborate outside of work. Besides working on Metta Society, Erin and Claire enjoy spending their free time at hot yoga and trying new food in the city.
Erin and Claire, where did you start your careers in New York?
Erin: I started my career in New York City interning at Tory Burch and Women’s Wear Daily (WWD). Moving from Colorado, there was some sticker shock. To afford living in New York, I had to take out a loan and work part-time at Victoria’s Secret. This time in my life really taught me time management and self-budgeting. After my internships ended I found a job at Saks Fifth Avenue as a Digital Merchandiser. I’m so glad I started there because it’s a top down management style. You learn to swim or sink, and I learned so much about myself, the fashion industry, and management styles. I was promoted twice during my three years there but decided to leave retail and move to the brand side of things. For the past almost four years, I have been working at Erno Laszlo. It’s an amazing working environment, and I have the best job! I manage all our influencers and social media accounts.
Claire: I graduated from Colorado State University, and to complete my degree, I landed an internship at Marie Claire magazine in NYC. Prior to that, I interned at a fashion PR agency, but realized it wasn’t for me. So, I fell into the beauty internship at Marie Claire. I was able to write and go to Fashion Week. I loved it. I was working with skin care products. I was there for six months, and then the person in the role above me left, so I was hired full time as their beauty assistant. I was at Marie Claire for almost four years, and I eventually was promoted to be the associate beauty editor. In that role, I wrote a column called What I Love About Me where I was able to travel around the country and interview and meet so many amazing women with unique back stories. Then, I left and went to Refinery29, where I’m now the senior beauty editor. I work 9-6, and work with Erin on Metta almost every evening and weekend. Metta is very much our side-hustle, and we have received incredible feedback and traction in Colorado for it.
What was the largest challenge when you started Metta?
Erin: When we first started, our largest challenge was trying to get women to come and build up a brand image—especially in Colorado. It was very important to market on social media. We wanted to make sure it was useful and that people got something out of it—and most importantly enjoyed themselves at our events! We worked with influencers we knew and spread the word organically. We needed to make a place that was Instagramable, genuine, and open. We are in a groove now and know what works and doesn’t work.
What happens at a typical Metta event?
Claire: All of the events have a theme and a panel discussion with pros in the field. As someone that goes to a lot of events, I find it frustrating when the panel discussions are surface level. There is a level of honesty at our events. Our last event was about finance, and we had actual business owners divulge exactly how much money they had in their bank before they quit their jobs to start their business. We aim to share information during these events that people want but is often hard to find. Giving our attendees that honesty is really great. We are able to bring light to these topics that are often considered taboo.
How big are Metta Mingles?
Erin: Our events range in size from private dinner parties with 20-25 people and happy hour mingles which are upwards of 80 people. The majority of events are 50-60 attendees.
What is the largest challenge you faced personally moving from Colorado to New York?
Erin: There are a lot of challenges moving from Colorado to New York City. My biggest challenge was really knowing my worth and being able to speak to my skill set. I think so many women, when confronted, fall into self-doubt. It took a couple of years of practice of knowing my skills. Knowing your worth and speaking to it can be a challenge. Now I think confidence is everything and if you are able to speak to what you know, it will pay off.
Claire: First, moving to New York was a big challenge, but I knew it would help me in a long run. I think finding your second job is equally as hard. They want to know you can work at another company too. But, for me, negotiating salary is a challenge. It is so important, and a lot of people don’t realize that they can negotiate, not only their salary, but also vacation days, job title, and other things. If the company can’t give you the salary you want, ask for a better title.
What advice would you give to young women working on a side project?
Claire: I think it is important to pick a side hustle that you’re passionate about. Today everyone wants to be an entrepreneur. I am such an ideas person, and I have all these ideas of what I want to start. Knowing the pros and cons of every idea is so important. I think being really curious is important. Be as curious as possible. No question is stupid. There are always new tools and people coming into the industry. Don’t doubt yourself. Be curious and kind and become an expert in that field.
What does it mean for you to be powerful?
Claire: Being powerful means being in the position to influence women to do good and make a difference. Via Metta Society we donate a portion of our proceeds to a non-profit that supports women. It is not about money and societal standing; it is about encouraging others to be their best self and to be genuine and caring of others
Erin: For me, I am a people person and love having genuine connections with people. I feel most powerful when I connect intellectually with someone. This ties back to the organizations we donate to. We have connected with these women and it’s so empowering and inspiring!
Do you have anything else you work on in your free time? Or other passions?
Claire: I hate the word “foodie,” but I am kind of one. My mom is French, and my dad is Sicilian, so I have it in me. It really came out
when I moved to New York. I love trying out new restaurants.
Erin: My biggest hobby is self-care. I attend a figure drawing meetup group and also practice hot yoga a few times a week. Both these activities help me unplug and reconnect with myself. After yoga, I always have the clearest head and am able to approach things with a better mindset. I also love animals and if I could surround myself with puppies every day I would.
What’s the future of Metta Society?
Erin: Right now, it is growing into the west coast. We are really interested in expanding into different markets.
Which charities do you support?
Erin: Our events are ticketed, and a portion of proceeds go to charities that focus on female empowerment. In the past, we’ve donated to non-profits like Planned Parenthood and Girls Inc., but every event is different.