2013-04-26

Co.Exist

This Woman Wants To Be Your Networking Wingman

Need some talking up at a party? Christine Hauer can do that for you, for a fee. It’s just another micro-job made possible by the Internet and the new gig economy.

For $28 you can take Christine Hauer for a walk in the park. For $165 you can bring her to a party and introduce her as your "assistant" or "friend" or "colleague"--"whatever you feel most comfortable with."

She isn’t offering what your dirty mind is imagining, though. She’s "confidence building" in the park and being a "networking sidekick" at the party. They’re micro-services that are usually small parts of the larger job of doing public relations, but now, thanks to the Internet, can be purchased as discrete components.

Over the phone, I asked Hauer exactly what I would get from a "networking sidekick." "I’m like this personal legitimizer, that doesn’t do it awkwardly," she told me. "It’s like I’m a friend." She demonstrated how she would work the room, praising me effusively to other partygoers: "Ahhh! I love Stan! Oh my God, he’s crazy! Look at him! He’s like the best writer, and he’s here! You’ve got to meet him!” She then seamlessly switched back to her conversational voice to explain: “It’s that kind of genuine excitement, like I’m just genuinely pumped up for you to meet this guy."

Hauer sells that genuine excitement on one of the first wave of “storefronts” at online marketplace Zaarly. The website pitches itself as an Etsy for services, letting users’ “side hustles” compete with companies. But as Hauer shows, they’re also creating a platform for services no one has ever offered before. For the right amount of money you can be the guest announcer for a pro wrestler (stagename: Romeo) or get a guided tour of your local grocery store “including nutrition and label reading.”

In Hauer’s case, those services are an outgrowth of an existing business: the Hi Five Agency, where she does an array of PR activities for clients like Jet’s defensive tackle Kenrick Ellis and celebrity hair and make-up artist John O. She sees the stand-alone services she offers on Zaarly as an experiment--and as a way to test out a potentially viable business. “You know how they have all these dating sites out there, like eFlirt and The Wingman?” she asked. “It’d be really cool if this [networking sidekick business] was like one of those except for networking.”

When I spoke with her, she had yet to do a “networking sidekick” stint for anyone who was not a client. But there had been one significant attempt, from an investor and entrepreneur who didn’t want his name associated with the service. He contacted Hauer about being a “networking sidekick” for a party at the New York Stock Exchange. When she couldn’t get a ticket, he asked if she did personal assistant work. “I was like ‘Yes I do!’ I always say yes,” she said. She’s been his personal assistant for the last six months.

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134 Comments

  • Jamiel Cotman

    I think its a good idea. Is already being done anyway when PR is being purchased by a company. Especially in dating. Wing Girl Method does this for guys wanting to meet girls. 

  • YouGottaBeKidding

    So if "she had yet to do a “networking sidekick” stint for anyone who was not a client" - how does she warrant a story then? An excuse to include her photo portfolio?

    I have an idea that hasn't done anything yet. I'd love a feature!

  • Ambrish Kochikar

    Doesn't this publicity kind of 'out' her and make it less likely she'll go unrecognized as a professional 'whatever' at the next party / networking gathering. Whoever believes just a random woman (or man)'s endorsement. I always look someone up on LinkedIn, for example. Now she's on the FastCompany website, so..I don't get the whole effort, but if it works, hey.

  • John Corder

    Hmmm. Not sure about wingman, but sure this lady could be a wingwoman for those businessmen wo require her services.

    Do serious business people really have time to utilize this service?

    I wonder.

    But certainly made me smile!

  • parker

    Or she can just call herself what she is, an escort. I guess whatever makes her feel better about herself. Call it whatever the hell you'd like, but it's no different.

  • Chris Jones

    Clearly this person needs to tweak her product. I wouldn't hire her even if I was in a position to use the service. But reading the comments here, it's clear who does and who does not think like an entrepreneur.

    This is the story of an unfilled need, a recognition of that need, and fearless action. Of course there's a negative side that anyone can criticise, but the positives dwarf it--just as with every truly entrepreneurial story, regardless of success or failure.

  • Layla Ezz

    My goodness how offensive. Women of decorative value... borders prostitution..

  • Mike Van Horn

    "...not what your dirty mind is thinking," but two of the three photos show cleavage and very unprofessional attire. I don't buy it. She needs to rethink and start over. 

  • Gabe Anderson

    Put yourself in the recipients shoes: Hi Christine, nice to meet you.  What brings you to the event, and how do you know Stan?

    Option 1: Christine tells the truth.  The recipient will generally NOT want to meet Stan, who will be pre-percieved to be socially awkward, possibly unskilled, and at worst, agoraphobic.

    Option 2: Christine lies.  Now we all know this is just bad.  It's no way to live life, and if found out, Stan would have been better off not showing up at all.

    Here are some substitute ideas:
    1) Contact someone you know will be at the event.  Be up front.  Tell them you haven't mastered the art of networking events yet, and might they be so kind as to introduce you to a few people?  That takes the pressure off you in the same way, but it's an honest approach.

    2) Call an extroverted friend, and ask if they might come with you.  You'll nearly never be alone, and they can provide the same service, but you don't have to use a fake story.

    3) Go with a fellow introvert.  Bet $20 you can get more business cards then she can. Now you're both committed, and you have a goal.

    4) If you must go alone, then go.  Have a purpose in mind like finding someone who designs websites, or getting feedback on an idea you're working on.  When you have something to talk about, it's not so intimidating to feel like all you have is to fill airspace.

    I'm at www.linkedin.com/in/gabrieland.... Message me if you're still stuck.

  • MikeCorning

    She deserves credit for the entrepreneurship, and I think her coaching business has promise, but as some have suggested her networking service is pretty similar to what an escort offers (someone pretending to be your acquaintance to make you look good). I have to say also that I've experienced first-hand this woman's business 'networking' skills. I was working as an assistant in NY and she lied to our doorman saying she had an appointment with someone at our company. The doorman called up and said Christine was not on our guest list but that she was insisting to him that she had a meeting. I thought maybe there was some sort of mistake, so I said it was OK to send her up. When she got into our office, she immediately gave me her CV and asked if she could speak to someone at the company. I then realized after reading her CV that she was the same person who has called several times that past week to try and speak with someone about a job, (even after I made clear this was not how are hiring process worked).  She made a point to talk loud and when she saw some of guys at our firm walk by she tried very hard to get their attention... - unfortunately I'm not exaggerating - I remember her name and face so clearly because I thought the whole scenario was not only deceitful, but pretty disrespectful and unprofessional. If this is any indication for how she 'preps' her clients for networking to get a job perhaps these folks should rethink their strategy. I don't think misleading and manipulating people is a very effective strategy for either building credibility or making friends.

  • Cuchulain

    Well, she certainly seems to have got under your skin! I don't see this as a "heads up" but as a character assassination and I can't help questioning your motives.
     

  • Research

    Thanks for the heads up, not surprising though, if this person has that much front looking to be hired  as a professional liar, that she would behave this way at your office. Appreciate the disclosure on your experience with this person.

  • Arif Zaman

    the primary response to any new idea is "flight" or "fight" and it is mainly because of our "Croc Brain" is . I can see a lot of "fight" here, to this new idea. Just like any other "means" to achieve and "End" - it is "crap in crap out". It is about how one uses this service! 

    For the networking events, specially in the high tech industry, if someone does not take part in it on a regular basis, it is very common to become defensive & less spontaneous and they end up doing a "standing around" a lot. A professional sidekick can be a great ice breaking element. 

    I think I am "for" this notion as I have had the opportunity to explore something similar in a recent networking event. I had my sidekick go and visit stand for "data collection". People were more comfortable to talk to someone who is pleasant and not alarming. Through  an introduction through my sidekick, it was lot easier for me and my potential client to talk business as both were aware of the context we were to discuss.

    Finally, just like any other tools in the business, if it does not work for you, it's fine. But I have got good results and I will most definitely using this form of service.   

  • David Devoto

    Before hiring any new company I ask for references. Might be difficult to get in this line of work???
    Not for us
    David

  • Mchris83

    New type of prostitution! Get paid to really just stand there. Sad people will say it's a brilliant idea but lets be honest. Why? If I see you with any of these girls, I know you are fake and will not trust you and do business with you. Could simply go to the website that offers this service and memorise faces. At least a prostitute has the decency to call a spade, spade...
    Lazy people who want to make easy money will think of absolutely everything in order to get some money fast. But it's not their fault. I blame the ones (idiots) who pay them...

  • Ben Brink

    It does sort of elicit the ick response. There's enough fake out there already. I'm sure it will facilitate fake people networking with other fake people, however.

  • SavvySales

    "Hell yes" here too!  Oh, who was that idiot that created the "pet rock" and was a millionaire overnight. People laughed at him on day one but he laughed back. It takes a strong spine to stick your neck out there and attempt to make something work. Then when she is wealthy from being in the right place at the right time everyone will say "she is lucky", however, "lucky" is when you sit home on the couch, do nothing, have no phone, never go out, and money falls in your lap for no reason. People that are "lucky" do what she is doing.......SOMETHING!

    P.S. Everyone is already talking about her here. The people criticizing her? Where is your "blog" of success.