thecnnekt is a digital + IRL platform that spotlights diverse voices in an effort to nurture a cultured, connected community. We spoke with the brains behind the operation, Emily and Chary, about their friendship, ethos, and NYC lifestyles.
Nooklyn Stories: Where are you both from originally, and what brought you to NYC?
Emily: Born, raised, and attended college in Philadelphia. My major was in fashion, so NYC was the place I knew I’d ultimately end up if following that career path.
Chary: Born and raised in Pomona, California. I came to New York with a dime and a dream! Like everyone else. Just wanted more for myself, and thought I could launch my writing career in New York.
NS: On thecnnekt’s About page, you share the story of how the two of you met online when you were both new in NYC. How long ago was that? How did it feel meeting and connecting for the first time — was it friendship at first sight?
C: I believe it was three or maybe four years ago. Emily cancelled on me a couple of times before we solidified an actual meet up. I was suspicious at first — like does she really want to hang or nah? But then it finally happened during an NYFW party (I was in fashion at the time), and it really was friendship at first sight. We were tucked away in a booth and just talked all evening — well, more like yelled because it was an actual party. There was something about her vibe that attracted me to her and was like, I really want to be friends with you!
E: I canceled ONCE! It certainly was friendship at first sight. Chary wanted to dive into all things personal right off the bat. I was down with it. It was real, which is hard to come by these days.
NS: So true. Tell us about the origins of thecnnekt. What spurred the idea? Do you remember having an “a-ha” moment, and if so, what was it?
E: We both expressed that we were craving MORE creatively. Between that and our unique experience of meeting, we birthed an idea that could combine the two. We knew we could but a artistic spin on making genuine connections.
C: It was after our second girl date, and too many drinks, that we talked about creating a platform to really bring women together. And I am not sure if it was the drinks, or just the energy of the evening, but we were like “hey, let’s do this.” There were several meetings that followed and here we are!
NS: We love that you focus on being inclusive and sharing stories from people of all backgrounds and identities. What’s your process for finding and selecting people to feature on the site?
C: Thank you! We really pride ourselves in being diverse and inclusive in all aspects — culturally, however you identify, and socioeconomic status. We are very cognizant of the intersectionality that exists. In terms of our content, we always lead our prospects with purpose. What do these people do and why is it important?
E: PREACH, Chary! To add to that, we started reaching out to people we admire or who blew us away with their work. From there, the names and contacts started coming to us. Talk about “cnnektions”.
NS: Can you elaborate on thecnnekt’s mission and goals? You’ve been live for a year now — what has your experience been like growing the platform while staying true to your manifesto?
C: When we started thecnnekt, we knew we wanted it [to be] diverse, inclusive, and impactful. When it came to content development, we wanted quality versus quantity. I like to think we are very close to our brand DNA and our mission to this day. And I was once told that as every organization grows it evolves. So, although we intended the platform to be solely for women, we felt that by expanding to men and other non-gender conforming folks, we would adhere to our ethos of being inclusive. So voila!
E: I couldn’t have said it better myself.
NS: Do both of you work on thecnnekt full time, or do you have other gigs and projects on your plates? If so, what are they?
C: I work full-time as a Social Media Manager at a non-profit organization, and pick up 1–2 shifts at a social club (think of it as a WeWork but for tech members). My nights and weekends, and sometimes train rides, are reserved for thecnnekt. And when I have a chance, I immerse myself into writing projects. So yeah, busy woman.
E: I also work 9–5 (actually more like a 9–7) in the fashion industry. My mornings, lunch breaks, nights and weekends are dedicated to thecnnekt. I am also starting an interior decorating small business. As much as we’d like thecnnekt to be a full time thing, we don’t have the funds right now. BUT, we are working on that by doing this fundraising campaign! I also think that most people have a million other things going on. It makes us relatable.
NS: What is the professional dynamic like between the two of you, given thatyou’re friends and collaborators? What do you love about working together (and have there been any challenges)?
C: We are fortunate as co-founders and friends. Seriously. We are two women who are just so passionate about what we do, and organize our lives in a way where we can do it all. And we got lucky with strengths and weaknesses because what I lack, Emily is strong in and vice versa. I am so thankful that she’s my partner-in-crime in this because Emily is so damn patient with me and everything. She’s my Joe Biden.
E: Exactly what Chary said. However, challenges do come. What we’ve learned through all of it is to be open and honest. Sometimes we just sit face-to-face and address issues, talk it out, then hug it out. It only makes us stronger. She’s my Obama.
NS: Do you have any advice for other women looking to start their own projects?
C: Am I allowed to say a bad word? If I may: just f-cking dive in. Even if you don’t have all the details together, as long as you have that vision. Lead with that. When we started, we wanted to wait until “the perfect time” to launch, and honestly, there is no such thing in life. So we went for it, and learned a lot of things along the way. Also, I am advocating for peer mentorship. I feel like when you hear “mentor” you always seek out folks who have a seasoned career or something, but hey, your peers are doing amazing things, too! We have been fortunate to learn from wonderful people and those who were willing to help and make thecnnekt become the killer underdog it is.
E: Yes — just do it! The rest will fall into place. You can’t grow your idea without trying it and learning from your mistakes. It’s the best experience.
NS: Okay, let’s talk NYC living. What neighborhoods do you live in and what do you love about them?
C: I live in Bed-Stuy, and I love it. I feel like Williamsburg is super popular and “the hot spot”. While I enjoy a visit here and there, I am a low key kind of gal. So Bed-Stuy is fitting for me — it’s like young professionals and has this brownstone charm, block after block. I have been in the area for three years now and have cultivated my go-to spots where I know people on a first name basis. I love that local feel, you know?
E: I live in Williamsburg. It’s funny because when I moved to Brooklyn (I was in Chelsea for many years before that) I was upset about it. But now, I cringe when I have to go into Manhattan. I love it because you’re immersed in so much culture here and always on the pulse of what’s “new” and “now”. The amount of creativity that oozes out of this neighborhood is unlike any other, because it is a hot spot like Chary said, and that results in visibility. I am inspired everyday just by walking down the streets and paying attention to everything around me.
NS: Can you walk us through an ideal day in the city? What are some of your favorite haunts?
E: Wake up and work out to get that natural energy flowing. Then head to my favorite coffee spot, Lilia, for some unnatural energy, and walk around the farmers market with my fiancé and my pup. I love buying fresh pickles there and seeing all the new vendors pop up. We’d then go for a stroll through the neighborhood and do some shopping, then hit up Sprout for plants. I am a major plant lady, so much so that I get teased that I’ll run out of oxygen in my apartment. After the stroll, I would lie out on my rooftop, watching the sunset while reading a great book. Honestly, I would ideally go back to Lilia for dinner because PASTA. Then head to Nitehawk for a movie and a drink.
C: It all depends on what I’m in the mood for. But a perfect day? Get eight hours of sleep and go for a morning jog. Clean up and have breakfast and coffee at Stonefruit, hop on a train to The Met, enjoy a few feature exhibitions and take a stroll in Central Park, heading back downtown for Korean food at Barn Joo 35. End with a night cap at some divey bar like Local 135 or head back to Bed-Stuy and grab a strong drink at Dynaco. Get a good buzz and go home to sleep. That is my life more or less!
NS: Sounds excellent. What should readers be on the lookout for in the near future with thecnnekt? Anything exciting coming up?
C: With the money we are raising from our iFund campaign, we will be rolling out some exciting programming. We love creating spaces for folks to learn, share resources, authentically develop relationships, and just be the realest version of themselves. I don’t want to spoil anything, so y’all have to subscribe/follow to find out!
E: Yes to what Chary said.
NS: Anything else you’d like to add?
C: Don’t forget to follow us @thecnnekt on social media. We’re also very collaborative women, so holler at us!
Check out @thecnnekt on Instagram and contribute to their crowdfunding campaign if you can!
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Photos by Alyssa Kirsten