Building Your Own Spaces With Monday Girl
The job market is a complex one to navigate but if one thing is certain, it's that results won't come without effort. For Rachel Wong & Istiana Bestari, when the market wasn't giving them what they needed to find their next big opportunity, they took matters into their own hands and developed the tools they needed to succeed. Quickly identified as a solution for a major gap in the market, Rachel & Istiana launched Monday Girl, a networking, events and digital platform to help women navigate the workforce and it's been a major success ever since. Now taking their 6-year side hustle full time, we got the chance to speak to the co-founders about their journey and expert tips, from networking to brand partnerships. Read below! Today, Monday Girl has become such an empowering place for women in the workforce. What was the motivation for starting the platform? Istiana: We built the platform that we wished we had, to solve a problem that we were struggling with. When we first met, we were both fresh to Toronto. We didn't know anyone and were trying to get our foot in the door. Rachel: All these rooms that I would walk into, I just felt, wow, I'm very much like the "only", whether it's the only woman, person of colour, or both. I was not getting any shortage of advice but it was a lot of advice that wasn't applicable for myself as a young woman of colour entering the workplace for the very first time. Istiana: For me, I remember attending so many networking events and just very quickly realizing how most networking events were not designed with women in mind. Typically, they were so exhausting. They were awkward. Also, I struggled with connecting with people on LinkedIn and I remember ranting to Rachel when we first met and she felt the same way. Rachel: In that same chat, we came up with the name of Monday Girl. We came up with the next action plans, and then we split up responsibilities. We were at it. You two seem like great business partners. How have you nurtured and grown your own relationship with each other over the years? Istiana: We really are each other's biggest cheerleaders. I don't think either of us could do this by ourselves and every day we're constantly hyping each other up. I think that's really important with having a co-founder is being each other's support systems celebrating our wins together. Rachel: I remember so many times where, for example, Istiana crushes it on a call or nails a presentation and I'm always just so proud of her and it goes both ways when I do things well. We really just hear each other out and hype each other up and that's helped us be such strong business partners. At least on the outside looking in, you seem very busy. Now that you're both in this full time, how do you keep it exciting and fun and not just feeling like a job? Rachel: Every so often, we get this really amazing message from one of our members about something that Monday Girl helped them with, whether that's overcoming a really tricky job situation where they had to deal with micro-aggressions at work or hearing that they used our resources to get a job or a mentor to get a referral. All these things keeps us going. Istiana: Another thing that's really important for us in keeping this excitement and momentum is that what we decide to do is always stuff that we're excited about. We're always planning things that we would love to attend, that we want to go to ourselves, all projects that we're excited about. It definitely is very hard work but it makes it a lot easier when we're building something that we're excited about. Y ou’ve done a really good job working with some major global brands and organizations on events and content for your community. How do you approach getting partnerships like that? Rachel: The first thing I'd say is don't be afraid to get ghosted and constantly reach out. After a certain point, people will get back to you and you just have to be okay with being persistent. Cold emails still work. The second piece is show that you put some level of thought - and it doesn't have to be super comprehensive or a full proposal - into your outreach and articulate how it can help the partner achieve their KPIs. If there's a specific collection or campaign that they're putting out, and you think there's a really strong synergy, talk to that in that very first sentence. People don't have the attention span to read through a long email, so just make that your only point if you have a point. The the third piece of advice is just to keep maintaining and building and give back where you can. Even if it's not always a paid thing, support the brands when you can. I think brands really remember that and that's when they want to work long term with. That's great advice! Lastly, what's a key networking tip you have for anyone that is looking for a new job? Istiana: A lot of people think, when they're starting out, "how can I connect with the CEO of my dream company?" and you're always looking for the most senior person in the room. Later, you'll realize that the most valuable people to network with are your peers. Start with the network that you already have. Tap into the people that you already know because there's a lot of connections there, whether it's your alumni, like clubs, sports teams. Rachel: Those are the people that as you grow, they grow with you and they're going to be able and have much more bandwidth than a CEO to actually help you and connect you with those openings or those roles when they do come up. I'd also say, don't be afraid to do this in an industry agnostic way too. Sometimes we think, "I'm in fashion and I'm only going to network to people in fashion". The reality is they're probably not going to tell you something opens up because they're going to want to go for it. However, if you're networking with people in different industries, there's a little bit more of a gap, so finding open spaces like that can be helpful. Make sure to check out Monday Girl for news about their events and mentor opportunities and keep it locked to Pier Five for more conversations with small business founders.