Stephanie Kaplan ’10, Windsor Hanger ’10, and Annie Wang ’11 met while working for Freeze, a student-run lifestyle and fashion magazine on campus. In 2009, the trio used their experiences there to win the i3 Innovation Challenge, a business-plan competition sponsored by Harvard Student Agencies, the Technology and Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard, and the Harvard College Forum. “Part of our mission was to start a platform for people who wanted to start a student magazine, but didn’t have the funds to do a print version and didn’t have the ability to build their own website online,” says Hanger.
Her Campus is the website they created to meet this need. It presents “national content supplemented by local content, both produced by teams of student journalists across the country,” explains Kaplan, who is in charge of the website’s content, as well as branch expansion. “At their own branches, the local students run their own student publication through the link within the Her Campus website.” Branches are set up through an application process that involves writing samples and proposals on how to publicize Her Campus; after a new branch is accepted, Wang, who designed and oversees operations of the website, adds the new college page as a link to the Her Campus site, enabling the branch to upload content.
Since being launched in September 2009, Her Campus (www.hercampus.com) has become a team of more than 1,000 students with branches at more than 100 colleges. The site has established content partnerships with Seventeen—which featured a spread on colleges written by Her Campus journalists in its October 2010 issue—and with the Huffington Post. Her Campus also functions as a marketing and PR firm. “We partner with brands that are interested in college markets,” explains Hanger, who oversees business development and publicity initiatives. The firm offers companies—including New Balance, Rent the Runway, and Juicy Couture—marketing packages such as Her Campus-section sponsorships, advertisement campaigns, giveaway weeks, and new-product distribution on campuses. This commercial side has made Her Campus profitable since its launch, Kaplan reports, with more than 100,000 website readers daily and steadily growing traffic.
Kaplan, Hanger, and Wang (who’s currently on leave from the College) now work full time on their enterprise in office space in the Square that was part of their i3 Competition prize. Last July, Inc. magazine listed them among its “30 Under 30 Young Entrepreneurs in the World.” As the company expands, they envision their website as “the number two stop after Facebook for all college women when procrastinating,” and as the “go-to source for companies working with female undergraduates.” Negative comments about their website leave them unfazed. “Once you’re an entrepreneur and you decide to go out on your own, you are putting yourself out there 100 percent,” Hanger says. “You get very thick skin. You realize that not everybody’s going to see value in what we’re doing, and that’s OK as long as we see value in what we’re doing.”