Harvard-Bound: My Interview With Stephanie Kaplan

Stephanie Kaplan, pictured left, with co-founders Windsor Hanger and Annie Wang, is the CEO and co-founder of Her Campus. Her Campus is an online magazine for college women which is written by the nation’s top college journalists. Stephanie and her co-founders were recently named to Inc. Magazine’s 30 Under 30.

Natalie MacNeil: Stephanie, tell us about Her Campus.

Stephanie Kaplan: Her Campus is an online magazine for college women that individualizes its content college-by-college by establishing branches at schools across the country, supplementing national content with local content, produced entirely by the nation’s top student journalists. Her Campus also serves as a marketing platform, connecting companies with college students across the country in creative ways.

We launched in September 2009 after winning Harvard’s business plan competition, and we have since grown to a team of 500+ college students with branches at 50+ colleges nationwide, content partnerships with Seventeen magazine and The Huffington Post, marketing partnerships with New Balance, Juicy Couture, Rent the Runway, and Lauren Merkin, and has been featured on ABC News Now and in AOL Money College, CNN Money, Business Insider, The Boston Globe, and U.S. News & World Report, among others.

NM: It sounds like you’ve been busy! What gave you the idea for Her Campus?

SK: My co-founders (Windsor Hanger and Annie Wang) and I met as undergraduates at Harvard, working on Harvard’s lifestyle and fashion publication. We transitioned the magazine online and found that it was being incredibly well-received; traffic was skyrocketing, companies were reaching out to us about partnerships, and girls from other schools were telling us that they wished their school had a similar publication, because their only writing outlet was the campus newspaper. We realized we were hitting on an unmet need- for an online hub of content targeted specifically at college women, and a platform for aspiring student journalists- and we sought to address this need on a broader, national scale.

NM: What are some of the challenges you’ve faced running a business while going to college?

SK: Not having enough time! This past year, we were all full-time students at Harvard (Windsor and I just graduated), taking courses, doing extra-curriculars, holding campus jobs, while also running a business on the side! We had so much we wanted to do with Her Campus, but there was only so much time to do it. We are thrilled to devote all our time to our venture. Other than having time as a constraint, we found the Harvard community to be incredibly supportive of our work, and we also had easy access to so many resources and contacts as students, which was incredibly helpful.

NM: What’s the biggest startup lesson you’ve learned?

SK: Introduce yourself and talk to as many people as you can! Be proactive and take the initiative at every single step. You never know when you will make a helpful connection or learn something really valuable from someone. Network as much as possible in order to learn from others in the field as well as let others know what you’re up to.

NM: You cover a lot of fashion on Her Campus. What’s your power outfit?

SK: My power outfit is an olive green tank with any great-fitting black, white, or blue jean bottom, and my super bedazzled Enzo Angiolini sandals. I like to dress simple and classic but with one unexpected touch, and I always wear green when I want to look my best because I have green eyes.

NM: What is a day like “in your heels?”

SK: Unpredictable! Running a start-up in its early stages is so fast-paced; every day is different and I never know what to expect in my inbox. I have so many projects I’m juggling at any given time that I feel like I get to work ten different jobs at once. But generally I’ll be in the Her Campus office working on my laptop, meeting with Windsor and Annie, having meetings and phone calls, attending events, etc.

After work, I’ll get together with friends in Harvard Square, or go to the gym, or watch TV shows I’ve DVR’ed (current obsession is “Say Yes to the Dress”), and then usually do more work before I go to sleep! With a start-up, the work is never-ending, but it’s also so fulfilling and so much fun.

NM: Thank you Stephanie!

Be sure to check out www.HerCampus.com.

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