Brandeis International Business School

014: The Origins of Her Campus Media

Bringing the boardroom into the dorm room

Stephanie Kaplan Lewis is the co-founder, CEO, and Editor-in-Chief of Her Campus Media, the number one media brand for college women, which she co-founded in 2009 as an undergraduate at Harvard.

Stephanie and Her Campus have a great story, and it’s one that we’re so happy to share on this podcast because it is truly a case of the dorm room being the boardroom – at least, at first.

From the Dorm Room

Stephanie and her co-founders got their start during undergrad at Harvard. They met working on a student publication, what was basically Harvard's lifestyle and fashion annual print magazine.The three of them ended up becoming board members of that organization, taking it over, and making the shift from print to digital.

After they debuted online, the site really started blowing up and attracting attention from college women, not just at Harvard but all across the country.

Their readers started reaching out, saying they wished there was a similar publication for their school, or saying that they wished they had the opportunity to work on a similar online magazine. Stephanie and her co-founders could see that they were hitting on a nerve, and there was really a need for a media outlet like this, for both the readers and the aspiring media professionals.

They decided to enter Harvard's business plan competition to flesh out their idea, during their junior year, and they won! “Of course, the business plan competition is a far cry from having an actual live, up-and-running business. So, that's when the real work really began.”

So they launched while they were still in school, and Stephanie thinks this is still a great idea for any undergraduate students out there who think they have a really good idea. It may seem like you don’t have enough time, but you’re only going to get busier in the professional world and you’ll likely never have access to as many resources as you do while you’re on a college campus.

So is it difficult? Yes. Does it take a lot of time? Yes. But is college still one of the safest times to try out an idea? Yes!

To the Boardroom is the media company’s flagship site, covering content about anything and everything that college women might want to know about.

What is really unique about the site, though, is that all the content is written entirely by college women. So, it's written by the top college journalists from schools all across the country, powered by a campus chapter network that they’ve been building over the past decade.

There are now Her Campus chapters at 400 colleges and universities all across the globe, and each of these campus chapters is a student organization on campus. On average, it's made up of about 30 women who are involved in creating local content, hosting events on campus, or posting in social media. By participating, these students get the opportunity to get their feet wet and build the portfolio they’ll need to move on to media and marketing jobs and internships in the real world.

“And that's kind of at the core of what we do: this mission of serving college women, empowering college women... we're looking to serve college women with our content, with our programming – but, also, then, really drilling down and serving this group of college women that make up the Her Campus team, where women are looking to go on to careers in media, in journalism, in marketing, in communications, in entrepreneurship, and really giving them skill sets and equipping them with the tools that they need to go on and be successfu.

We hope that Stephanie’s story inspires you to start that idea you have today. You don’t necessarily need investment or more experience or more time to start – your idea doesn’t need to be perfect for you to launch it.

“So, just get going on something. It doesn't need to be perfect by any means, but kind of having that momentum will be what can take you forward and probably inform what you're doing better than any amount of researching could.”


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