Harvard classmates Stephanie Kaplan, Windsor Hanger, and Annie Wang met in 2007 while working on Freeze, a campus publication that focused on fashion. The three were responsible for transitioning the annual print magazine to an online publication with weekly and daily content. As it turned out, Freeze's online presence boosted readership so significantly, that college women from other schools began discovering the content.
'We realized there wasn't really an online media outlet that was targeting the college market with relevant content,' says Kaplan. 'And who better to provide that content than us, the students who related to it most?'
So the three partners decided to create an online magazine that would serve college women nationwide with content in six different topic areas – Style, Health, Love, DormLife, Career, and World – and also house micro sites for other schools with campus-specific content maintained by students on those campuses.
In March 2009, the women won Harvard College's business plan competition, the i3 Innovation Challenge, with their idea for an online magazine called Her Campus. The site is sustained through Google ads and increasingly through strategic partnerships with brands like Juicy Couture and handbag designer Lauren Merkin that are looking to target the U.S. college market.
The summer before Kaplan and Hanger's senior year, and Wang's junior year, the three lived together in New York City and went to work on building their new site. Her Campus launched in September 2009 with articles in all six national topic areas and with Harvard-specific content as the first campus branch of the site.
Much like Facebook's trajectory, Her Campus soon brought on other schools to launch their own branch of the site. When Kaplan and Hanger graduated from Harvard in May, Her Campus housed content from 30 schools, including Penn State, Syracuse, and the University of Texas at Austin. The content for each campus micro site is created and maintained by the team of journalists at that school. Her Campus provides the school ambassador with editorial and publicity templates to publish their content directly to the Her Campus site. There are currently 373 students on the Her Campus team from schools across the country.
Now that Kaplan and Hanger are graduates, they plan to devote themselves full time to expanding Her Campus' reach and to bringing on as many new campus branches as possible. Another main focus will be to forge more strategic partnerships with companies that want to reach the college market, in order to increase revenue potential.
Stephanie Kaplan, Windsor Hanger, and Annie Wang, Founders of Her Campus
A trio of Harvard students take a campus publication online and discover a promising business opportunity.