Ruth Mayer and Susan Davis met in the summer of 1985 in a German language immersion program at Middlebury College.
Mayer had recently graduated from Cornell University with a degree in history. Davis was earning her own degree in art history and English literature at Reed College in Portland, Ore.
As Mayer and Davis moved on with their lives, pursuing graduate degrees and different jobs, marrying and starting families, and moving to different locations, they remained friends.
“We often talked about the idea of how we couldn’t live without each other,” Mayer said.
Each time they moved to different cities and navigated new school systems and opportunities for themselves and their children, they took turns helping each other.
“We were always looking out for each other and hooking each other up,” Mayer said.
When Mayer moved to Charlotte from northern California in 2010, Davis, who lives in Chapel Hill, provided what Mayer calls “the ultimate help.”
“In the whole state, I only knew Susan,” said Mayer, who lives with her husband and two daughters in Cotswold. “But through Susan, I got a whole network.”
“We realized this is how women navigate the world,” Davis said. “We thought it would be helpful for us and for other women if there were a simple, elegant way to do this all in one place.”
Mayer and Davis began working on an interactive social media platform that would provide women the support and resources they had appreciated from each other, but on a much larger scale.
They decided to call their network Charlotte, not as a nod to the Queen City, but inspired by the life-saving friendship depicted in the book “Charlotte’s Web.”
The digital platform that forms the basis of Charlotte allows users to group their friends into webs to whom they pose questions and receive answers. Unlike Facebook, everything on Charlotte is private.
“There is no public wall,” Mayer said.
“The point of Charlotte is to ask questions and get answers from friends you know and trust, and from their friends, thus dramatically extending your reach,” Mayer said, explaining that Charlotte makes it easy for women to connect friends who might be able to help one another.
Charlotte is designed to tap into the way “women relate to each other and the fact that helping one another fuels them,” Davis said, while also providing them with a place where they can have an authentic, trusting and helpful interaction.
The site is question-and-answer driven.
“It is just you and your question and your answer,” Mayer said. “All of the public posturing and cleverness is shut down.”
“It is really utilitarian,” Davis said. “It is not a waste of time.”
Mayer, 52, and Davis, 51, have other jobs.
Mayer is a communications and development consultant with Columbia University and Davis is a writer, blogger and audio consultant.
Mayer and Davis have developed a prototype and are currently looking for investors.
“I believe in helping those around me,” Mayer said. “And I can’t think of a resource or a job I have gotten that I didn’t get from another woman.”
Davis said: “It is for getting through life and helping other people get through life.”
Katya Lezin is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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