Emily McMonagle and Chary Sathea met like many modern day friends—via a website that brought together women and writing. After that website folded, the two kept in touch and began to plan for their own digital platform. After fine tuning their idea, thecnnekt was born. thecnnket features interviews with talented and passionate individuals who get a chance to speak about what they do and why it matters. Chary and Emily are working to create an inclusive and welcoming space where readers can find inspiration. I sat down with the ladies of thecnnket a few weeks ago to chat about their beginnings, how they’ve grown, and what the future holds.
How did thecnnket get started?
Chary: We met on this other platform called CityElla that was open to contributors, and I wrote this story about—this was four years ago, it was way before Bumble BFF and all those apps for making relationships and friends—I just put it out in the universe, “How does a grown ass woman make friends?”, and it spiraled from there. Next thing you know I get an email from this girl named Emily and she introduced herself as also being a contributor for this website. We decided to meet up during New York Fashion Week and we just hit it off—it was like love at first sight. It sounds really cheesy but she was so chill. We met up again, and I don’t know if it was the alcohol or being inspired by each other and the conversation we were having at the time, but that was when the birth of the concept happened. It was over drinks after work one day and we were like let’s replicate this site that no longer existed where we met and make it with our ethos, but also for others to be able to form a community on and offline.
Emily: The site shut down out of nowhere and we were devastated, one because we didn’t have a place to publish or be creative anymore, and then two, we were presented with such an awesome opportunity to meet each other through that site, and we wanted to give others that opportunity back.
What is thecnnket?
Emily: We’ve been having this conversation a lot. The busier we get we always pause and have a look at our original mission, so it’s very fresh in our minds. thecnnket spotlights her, him, and them—we’re in this generation where not everyone identifies with a gender. We want to make sure that we are open to everyone. We interview our subjects online through digital content and then offline with live events. We are super inclusive, that’s one thing we pride ourselves on. We highlight someone from the music industry, from the art world, from the fitness world, a teacher, an immigration lawyer. If you’re reading the website there is guaranteed to be someone you can relate to.
Chary: And it’s important to note, just to snowball off the inclusivity piece, it’s not just about the different or diverse industries that these people are in, it’s also cultural backgrounds as well. Considering the space that we are in, we are pushing for more representation and diversity, we believe that we need to have those voices showcased.
Once you decided to create this together, what were your next steps?
Chary: There were a lot of meetings involved! Honestly it was dragged out for quite a bit until there was this trigger and we were like, you know what, forget it, we’re just gonna dive in. We had already been working on the back end, we already had the creative direction and the content. It definitely started small, and I think with anything that you make and with any organization, you start off with one thing and then you slowly evolve into something else. We went in head first and it’s been great to see how it’s grown organically through these wonderful relationships that we’ve made along the way.
How do you balance running thecnnket with your full-time jobs?
Emily: We can give you the typical answer which is working on your lunch break, working nights, working weekends, but emotionally it's tough. You have to take care of yourself first, because if you don’t have yourself in check your project is going to show that. If she’s having a crazy week I jump in, if I’m having a crazy week, which was recently, she’s going to jump in. It’s super helpful to have a partner and honestly, without her I couldn’t do it. And not to toot my own horn but I’m sure she’ll say the same thing. It’s the partnership, it’s having someone who’s on the exact same page as you. And it’s hard and it’s frustrating but like I said self-care first because you’re gonna burn out.
Chary: That’s one of my greatest fears, because I feel like our generation is focusing more on self-care, which is great because we are preventing burn out. I think managing life as millennials and living in New York we’re just going to hustle, hustle, hustle, but we’re taking a moment to pause and reflect and then go back in. We do work very well together—it’s like a match made in heaven because we complement each other in almost every way.
How has thecnnket grown since you started?
Emily: We started with Spotlights and Essays, and really started focusing on the Spotlights a bit more because there’s always somebody who is looking to be inspired and interviews do that, and they help reach a lot of people, and that's what our community does. Our community loves reading someone’s journey and relating to it.
How do you pick your subjects?
Chary: When it comes to partnerships in our event spaces or the content we publish, we always want to see if potential subjects are doing something meaningful—we’re definitely big on purpose, and showcasing people who aren’t in glorified roles. I know Emily loves Lauren Blodgett, she’s an immigrant lawyer and considering the air that we live in now, she’s defending women and children and helping them get citizenship. It’s things like that, people who change lives.
Emily: Each subject has to tell an important story for us. You have to leave our pieces feeling inspired. We either reach out to people we admire from friends of friends or people we follow.
Can you talk about the events you’ve hosted and what goes into planning them?
Chary: It starts with brainstorming about the concept we want to create. We work backwards—when to start outreach for partnerships, when to release ticket announcements, and so forth. There’s definitely a lot of logistics involved and it can be discouraging because now with social media, brands only want to work with you if you have X amount of followers and if they can see the conversion, how they’ll benefit, the ROI. I think we’re pretty good at pitching ourselves. We have a deck, we have concrete examples, and brands that we have worked with—emerging brands, all local New York-based because that hits home for us. Most times if we don’t get a partnership or sponsorship it’s all out of pocket for us. We’re just in our 20’s trying to survive New York, we don’t have a trust fund or anything like that.
The third piece is the crowd. Selling tickets can be difficult based on how you market your event and who is involved. We’ve been fortunate enough to have a decent crowd that will show up and I think we’ve hosted enough events now to know what works and what doesn’t, but we’re still learning. I’m excited to one day produce an event and say “Hey Emily, we’re sold out!” within two days. That would be the dream.
Emily: One thing I want to touch on is how we pick the subjects for our events. We do a deep dive into our content and we see what people loved that we published and try to find a common theme. Our last event for example, we had someone from the fitness industry, a plus size model, a yogi, and a financial advisor. We’re like what do these women have in common and we landed on self-care. We called it Beyond the Bubble Bath—how do you take care of your finances, how do you work out but still love your body. We had this genuine conversation with these women and it was amazing. Our goal was to get the crowd involved versus us talking and having a Q and A after. We really encouraged the audience to chime in and interact, because you’ve seen some of these people on our website. We publish what works and then we bring it to life—the IRL experience.
What has been the most exciting thing you’ve learned since starting thecnnekt?
Emily: The most exciting thing has been to learn what we are capable of. I think we expected it to have a post a week, but then it became two and then three posts a week. I think it’s exciting to see every time we fuck up, we grow. Every time we hit a milestone we strive to hit the next, we continue to go upwards.
How do you practice self-care?
Emily: To be completely honest, I drink an insane amount of wine. I like to sit and work on thecnnekt and relax with a glass of wine. I love a face-mask—there’s nothing wrong with the superficial, bubble bath self-care. I honestly love to lay on my couch, no TV, no music, and just reflect. Just chilling and decompressing and letting the day go.
Chary: I decompress a little differently—if we don’t have any post work meetings or things like that, she knows I’m at the gym. That’s where I get out all my frustrations and how I relax. Sundays are so sacred to me. I like to wake up, go to the gym, get coffee, and be a vegetable all day and then before bed I’m prepping for the week, whether I’m meal prepping and cooking—chopping vegetables is very therapeutic for me—and then I like to write. I have a personal blog that I share publicly, but then I write in my journal and that is just for me. I started going to therapy in February and that has been great, I feel like a whole new woman.
What is some advice that you were given or wish someone had given you?
Emily: Hands down I tell anybody who asks me this don’t wait until you have this perfect thing, just do it, and it’s going to evolve from there.
Chary: I second that, but I will also add something in two parts—from Grey's Anatomy, Sandra O’s character, someone was saying that she has this unwavering faith about herself and her capabilities and her career, and another piece would be from Elizabeth Gilbert's book Big Magic that I read when I was going through a creative rut. There was one snippet that said if you have inspiration you need to run with it, because if you don't that inspiration is going to float away and go to someone else, and I see it all the time. I’ll want to write about a topic but I’ll hold off and it will be published by someone else! Be fearless and just do it.
What’s up next for thecnnekt?
Emily: We are shooting a video with an amazing production company to further explain who we are and share some testimonials of people who have had success with our company. We’ll use that not only for our platform and for press, but we were accepted into iFundWomen, so we’re going to be running a crowdfunding campaign soon. You need a video and different tiers of rewards, but we have a lot of big plans, we want to get merch out there too. They really believe in what we’re doing, so we can’t wait to present what we’re doing in a visual way to the world.
What is your sign and how do you feel about it?
Chary: I am an Aries, and true to their traits I am a hard headed person, very assertive, but I’m also very compassionate. I care a lot about the people and things I’m involved with, but I’m an Aries true to heart.
Emily: I’m a Gemini. I totally have two personalities and it drives me crazy. I don’t change based on who I’m around, it’s more about the mood and the situation I’m in. I can tell when it’s coming across, I’ll be ranting one day and then the next everything is amazing! I’m very passionate and Gemini’s feel so strongly about what they are doing creatively so they are going to feel all the feels and express them.
What are you currently reading?
Chary: I’m reading The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer, I’m more than halfway through. The protagonist is very interesting.
Emily: I’ve been reading Sweetbitter, I’m really interested in the show but I wanted to dive into the book before I watch. I’ve become a big subway reader, which before I moved to Brooklyn I always thought was impossible, because I ride the L train and I would think how are people reading right now, it’s packed! I was reacting to the book out loud and people were looking at me, but that’s how you know it’s good book, you lose yourself.
Who should we follow on IG (besides thecnnekt)?
Emily: I’m super into Salty World—it’s a newsletter. The recent cover is a woman who has had a double mastectomy, and she’s her telling her story and her background. The imagery is beautifully shot and consistent.
Chary: Mine would be Alex Elle. She’s a poet who lives in D.C. and she shares a lot of daily affirmations. I’m definitely in the spiritual phase of my life right now where I want to be surrounded by goodness and I need those.