The Self-Love Formula

Let's change direction.

Need Better Friends? This App Will Help You Find Them

Making friends as an adult woman is hard. Shoot, making friends as an adolescent woman or a teen or a grade-school-aged girl can be hard.

The problem is finding like-minded homegurls that aren’t trying to compete with you, one-up you, make themselves feel better about their own insecurities by putting you down, or steal your job or your man.

Female-on-female hate is real, people.

And co-founders (and besties) Diana Murakhovskaya and Irene Ryabaya know this all too well. That’s why they started Monarq, an app-based social network for women to connect, support and empower one another.

CAN I GET AN A-(WO)MEN?!

In an age of female empowerment, Monarq offers women a place to connect and engage with each other in a meaningful way. Whether you are looking for a best friend in a new city, or a partner in crime to do your favorite activities with, Monarq connects like-minded women to do what they love together.

These passionate co-founders approach their mission with such clarity and go-get-it attitudes that you can’t help but be a believer (and a follower).

I reached out to connect and get to know these wonderful women better. And the responses I received had me staring at my inbox wide-eyed and grinning from ear to ear.

All the juicy goodness is in their Q&A below, so read on to hear what these powerhouses have to say about the realness of starting a start-up (hint: it’s not just the usual “working 24/7” bit), how hiking helped them develop their business idea, and their positive view on being women in tech.

Monarq is such an awesome concept! Usually, great business ideas come from a personal journey or experience. Was this the case with Monarq? What void in the market were you looking to fill?  

We wanted to make it possible for other women to find each other through the kind of serendipity that brought us together as friends and business partners. It’s frustrating to watch how easy it is for any single woman to get a date on Tinder or Bumble and yet how difficult it is to find a climbing partner or a coffee buddy in a new city. So, Monarq was born!

You both left careers in finance to embark upon this journey. How did you arrive at the decision to leave and start Monarq?

We spent almost a decade in the same male dominated industry – oil sales and trading. A mutual friend in London put us in touch because it was rare to meet like-minded women in finance who would support each other. It wasn’t long before we were talking every day.

We were both looking for more fulfillment in our careers and shortly after that introduction we quit finance, traveled the world together and apart and then worked on a few hobbies (like rock climbing!) and passion projects in EdTech and Foodie events.

We were hiking a mountain in Borneo, Malaysia in late 2014, when it dawned on us that the best way for us to build an inspiring company we’d be proud to call our own would be to do it together. Our combined skills in tech, sales and finance and our mutual tenacity and overarching ability to get sh*t done is exactly what startup unicorns are made of.

We came home from that trip and gave ourselves 30 days to start a company and find an idea that we were passionate about. By the end of the first week we knew we had to build a way for women to connect so we got to work registering Monarq and figuring out a way to make it come alive.

What was the biggest start-up challenge you faced when launching the business? How did you overcome it?

For both of us it has been transitioning from a very structured corporate world to a startup life where every day and every hour is entirely your own. Having each other helped us be able to take it head on, to celebrate our successes together and be there for each other when things get a bit off script. We take every day as a new and exciting opportunity to learn something we didn’t know before.

When did you know you were really on to something?

We knew we were on the right track when we started seeing more and more messages of women empowerment in the media like the Squad and Amy Schumer and women speaking out at award ceremonies about equality and supporting each other. There is a very frank conversation going on very publicly about how our society treats women and what needs to change. We are thrilled to be in the middle of that conversation. We are doing our part to empower the modern woman and connect her to a like-minded tribe that would support her in her every endeavor.

We were very fortunate because as soon as we launched the Monarq website and and Instagram, the community started forming naturally and reaching out to us with an outpouring of emails and comments telling us “This is so awesome, how can I help?” It was so inspiring to see that there was a real need for this kind of connection and that we were solving a real problem. Our community started there and it’s been our main focus ever since!

What has been the most surprising part of starting this business?

Our favorite quote since starting Monarq is by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: “At the moment of commitment the entire universe conspires to assist you.” When we committed to building connections for women with Monarq, we never expected to receive the amount of amazing support from a lot of great people.

The other thing we discovered is that once you just start two things will happen: first, you will start to see more holes in the world and come up with dozens of ideas for other businesses to work on and second, you will start some of these on the side and they will become even bigger and more successful than the initial thing you set out to do. That commitment to your initial mission can create opportunities for connections and serendipity that take you to the next level.

In your experience, does being women in tech present obstacles or opportunities?

A challenging part of starting a company is that we women are, yet again, a tiny minority in the industry. So far we haven’t felt this as strongly because we have been self-funding our business and have surrounded ourselves with terrific women and men who have supported us every step of the way. But we know the great wide startup world is not that rosy.

We have heard from many fellow women that startup funding for women-led businesses is many times harder than it is for men and studies prove the anecdotal evidence. On the other side of this, most discovery mechanisms used by early-stage consumer startups are, yet again, heavily male dominated. Which means we need to get creative with grass roots organic efforts to find users and rely heavily on our networks to spread the word about Monarq. Most online tutorials or advice we read simply does not apply. Though this is challenging, it’s also exciting because we and the other women in this with us now get to “write the book “on how to reach women.

These days there is a lot being said and written about women being under-funded but we think it’s time more is done about it. We want to do our part by expanding our monthly #MonarqMoguls investor dinner series and working on a larger event with an incredible partner to help take funding for women led companies to the next level. If you want to be the first to know when we announce it, sign up on monarq.co!

What are you looking forward to in 2016?

When it comes to Monarq, last year was a great year for us to bring our vision to life. In 2016 we’re very focused on growing the community exponentially and being able to positively affect the lives of millions of women around the world. We’ve also started working on some exciting soon-to-be-announced events that will further our mission to offer women a place to connect in a meaningful way.

Coffee, tea or green juice?

Diana: I always start my day with one eye closed and one eye on my Nespresso coffee machine before anything else happens. Then I can take on the day and whatever it brings.

Irene: I carry a cup of tea around with me at all times. I like a nice variety of flavors, both black and herbal and a bite of chocolate to go with it as a treat once in awhile.

We both definitely try to get 3-5 workouts in like pilates, yoga, running and spin into our week. Since our days are always varied we usually plan them around our work and meetings throughout the day. We also try to eat healthy and so we bring most of our lunches, green juices and dinners from home.

So are you big users of dating apps, too? Any success stories there?

While we’re both happily committed in long term relationships, we both spent a lot of time playing with other apps for research purposes. It helped us find many pain points that most people, especially women, feel when they try to use dating apps. We have very understanding significant others who didn’t mind us diving into the world of dating apps in an effort to improve on the Monarq experience.

The book I’m currently reading is…

Diana: Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham

Irene: The Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu

 

A HUGE thanks to Diana and Irene for answering my Q’s! For more from them and Monarq, you can follow on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, and download Monarq here (your friends are waiting, as they say!).

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