To say that Emily Raleigh is your typical college student would be an understatement. Emily wears multiple hats, full time student at Fordham University, Resident Assistant, and most importantly Founder of The Smart Girls Group. Integrating her coursework with her business has granted Emily opportunities to expand The Smart Girls Group. Establishing professional connections and using the resources available to her on campus Emily was able to raise further her brand. Emily's drive to empower fellow "smart girls" created a sisterhood of ambitious and intelligent young women who aspire to inspire and encourage each others passions. Read about her below.
Describe your personal brand in three words
Happy. Passionate. Energetic.
30 second elevator pitch, Go!
My name is Emily Raleigh and I am the Smart Starter & Founder of The Smart Girls Group, a one stop shop for the next generation of superstar women. I started SGG when I was in high school after writing a book for my little sister on succeeding in high school and now, we have a monthly magazine, daily articles, campus chapters throughout the U.S. and Europe, online classes, Smart Girl Sisters from all over the world and more! I’m fiercely passionate about women empowerment, marketing and branding, media, and social business. I’m currently a sophomore at Fordham University, studying marketing, communications and media management, and visual arts.
Current position and your typical work day
As the Smart Starter of The Smart Girls Group, I lead all business development within SGG and oversee all of our departments within the company. The job does not allow for a typical work day, and balancing that with school and my Resident Assistant job definitely does not make any day the same as the last, but here is an outline:
- 5am :: This is usually around the time that I wake up. I use this time to get done last minute homework, go to the gym, or catch up on some work for my RA job. I’m starting to train for a half marathon, so I’ll now have to use this time to run the New York Botanical Gardens across the street from my dorm.
- 8am :: By now, I’m off to the SGG office, which is in an incubator near Fordham’s campus. It’s a super fun environment and everyone who works there is very encouraging. Here I’ll spend a majority of my day. I break up my day with meetings, so I may have a meeting at8am, 10am, and noon, and then between each meeting, I work to get one single task accomplished. By having that time restraint, I don’t waste time, which definitely works for me.
- 5pm :: Around now, I’ll head back to campus to grab dinner with my friends or I’ll have a dinner meeting with someone. Since Smart Girls Group takes up a majority of my day, I try to make sure dinner or some other time during the night is reserved for being a college student rather than a businesswoman. It’s for sure a challenging balance.
- 6:30pm :: This is when I start my classes. As a business student, I take classes like Finance, Managerial Accounting, Marketing, etc. It’s great because a large majority of what I learn in class can be directly implemented to what I do with Smart Girls Group.
- 10pm :: After classes, I spend the rest of my night working on homework or my RA job. I dedicate one day a week specifically to school work and usually get it all out of the way then, but this is if I have the motherload of homework or if an exam is coming up. Usually, though, this is when I’ll work on events for my residents because I am in charge of a leadership living community at Fordham.
How have you developed your brand?
I think I've always been developing my brand because I think developing your personal brand is synonymous with figuring out who you are and who you want to be. However, I never thought so deeply about branding until I started The Smart Girls Group. Even after that, I primarily focused on SGG’s branding because I felt selfish working on my own. Last year, I got coffee with one of my favorite bloggers and she is incredibly talented when it comes to personal branding. I told her how I struggle to focus on my own personal brand and she explained to me that if I wanted SGG to succeed, I needed to also personally succeed when it comes to branding. After that, I started becoming much more intentional about it. My friend, who is in the same industry as I am, was also at the point where she wanted to work more on her brand. We decided to become each other’s accountability partner. So we sat down, made a plan, set some goals, and have been keeping each other focused ever since. I think that developing your brand is never finished because you are always discovering more about yourself. For that reason, it is so important to have someone who knows you well and who can help you make sure that you are presenting the best version of yourself possible.
How did you garner press coverage and media attention?
I have done it simply by telling my story. I think Smart Girls Group is very unique in its own right and we have garnered press solely by telling that story. We received the 2013 Kenneth Cole AWEARNESS Grant and after that, we definitely saw a lot more interest as far as press. We are fortunate to have amazing advisors who have helped us with press. I’m also a part of the Compass Fellowship, which is a national fellowship for college social entrepreneurs and they have been incredibly helpful with bringing about opportunities like that for us. What it really comes down to for us is telling our story and connecting with other people who feel as passionate about empowering Smart Girls as we do.
Personal brands attract opportunities. What has been the greatest opportunity you have gotten?
The greatest opportunity I have gotten so far was definitely being selected for the Women in the World Leadership Academy last summer. Tina Brown, the former Editor-in-Chief of Newsweek and Founder of Women in the World, selected 50 college aged women from all over the world to be a part of this academy where we got to hear from remarkable leaders like Zainab Salbi and Reshma Saujani, while connecting with other female college change makers. From there I got the opportunity to write for The Daily Beast and have started a mastermind for young women entrepreneurs with other girls who were a part of the academy. It was such an amazing experience!
Who are some of your mentors and why?
My biggest mentors are my parents. They know my strengths and weaknesses to a much deeper level than anyone else. My mom is an interior decorator and my dad is a businessman so they have advice on anything from creativity to marketing. They also raised me on the idea of “the Smart Girl” so they fully understand my vision for Smart Girls Group in a way others cannot. Aside from my parents, I have two amazing mentors that I met in college, Jackson Lindauer and Ross Garlick. They have dedicated so much time to helping develop Smart Girls Group as a business and have helped me become a businesswoman in more ways than I can even count. I’ve also never met two business students so accomplished or so driven and that has inspired me. They got me involved in Compass, which was how I met Alex Simon, Compass’ Executive Director. He has been such a blessing for both Smart Girls Group and I, and he was the first person on our Board of Advisors! He has presented so many opportunities for SGG and I, and he has advised me on so many big steps that we have taken, from monetization to the conference we are having in Summer 2014. I’m very lucky to be surrounded by so many people who have supported me and guided me along this journey.
What were the steps you took in college that impacted your professional success?
I’m sort of doing my career and college at the same time, so this is a tricky question to answer. I think I have tried to take steps in both college and my career that would help the other. For example, if I have to write a paper for an English class on any topic of my choosing, I’ll write it on women’s rights or the media so that I can further educate myself on a topic that affects my career. I’ve definitely tried to use as many opportunities as possible where I can integrate the two together.
What would you say to a young person who wants to work in your industry?
You are never too young to pursue your dreams! I think there is this idea that if you are in high school, you are supposed to do one thing, and if you are in college you have to do another. There is not an age requirement on success. In fact, the younger you are, the more impressed people are by your ambition and the more they are willing to help. There are few things that excite me more than getting an email from a Smart Girl Sister who is in middle school or high school saying how she plans on changing the world. Just dive right in.
What can we expect from you in the near future?
Well I have a few new projects starting in 2014 both in and out of Smart Girls Group. The biggest thing going right now is the Smart Girl Group conference we are holding this summer. It’s going to be HUGE and I cannot be more excited! Smart Girls Group is going to grow a great deal this year and hopefully, so will I.
What has been your biggest branding challenge thus far?
My biggest challenge was seeing that I can work on my personal brand without guilt. That feeling of selfishness was very hard to overcome and even now, it is difficult to fight it, especially because I am a social entrepreneur.
Connect with Emily!