Simple 1871 fact -- the people make the place. That's why we wanted to highlight the community that makes our home in the Merchandise Mart special. Today we chat with Jasmine Shells, CEO and Co-Founder of Five to Nine and 1871 Diversity Scholar, about inspiration, grit, and inclusion as part of the Our 1871 series.
Dedicated to your 9 to 5? What about your Five to Nine? This startup creates lively and unique social experiences to connect local and traveling professionals in Chicago, from rock climbing to concerts to happy hour and more.
That "Aha!" Moment
After graduation, I moved to Chicago and took a job at a consulting firm. New to the city, I had a hard time adjusting to my surroundings and building my social and professional circles. I considered how many of my co-workers felt similarly and this led to my 'aha' moment. I considered how technology could help companies create a more welcoming onboarding experience that introduced new employees to their coworkers and city.
On Sticking Together
Simon Sinek says people should work with those who believe what you believe. My team is the most supportive community I have found as they are with me to drink tequila during our wins and eat fries from Five Guys during our fails. I found them through my alma mater, Notre Dame. Many people joke that we are a cult and I can see why. We really do stick together. Go Irish!
Beating Tough Moments
We all know there are many ups and many more downs in a startup. Let's keep it real. However, what keeps me going are the customer success stories of members who have found mentors, business partners, significant others and best friends through our platform. This makes all the tough moments more than worth it.
I am a huge believer in analyzing how I could have approached a situation differently. I am well aware that I do not know everything and am prone to make mistakes. Once I hit a roadblock that I can't get past, I look to my mentors for advice.
The "Stalking" Method
My team jokes that I'm a stalker. You might think that someone is not interested in helping you or learning more about your business, but sometimes you need to follow-up again (and again). My "stalking" method landed us one of our advisors who has been instrumental in helping our company refine our offering and connect to prospective clients. People are busy and following-up is key.
Tackling Social Isolation
At one Five to Nine event, a member shared his story and it further sparked the fire for why Five to Nine exists. My co-founder asked him: “How did you hear about us and what brings you here?” He responded that he moved to Chicago two years ago and had a hard time making friends. At his company, the only way they connected employees was through happy hours and he does not drink. He found himself always having to opt out of these company get-togethers. Five to Nine, for him, gave him the ability to connect with peers in a more diversified way that wasn’t solely happy hours and drinking. We found that even though technology has made us more connected than ever, social isolation is an emerging problem. Our company wants to tackle social isolation and provide an environment for diverse professionals to thrive both socially and professionally.
I have had several conversations with diverse founders who are having a hard time finding funding in the city. Chicago-based women and minority founders have encouraged me to go to the coasts to fundraise as they have found more success outside of the city. I want to be a Chicago-funded startup, but also feel that I need to build relationships in other markets as well. I know diversity matters to Chicago as it makes strides to build awareness around diversity in tech. The city needs to continue in its efforts to demonstrate that this is an inclusive place where diverse founders can innovate and succeed.
I can't wait until self-driving cars are the norm. I would love to be able to nap or watch Homeland while commuting to the office.