Stephanie Kaplan Lewis, Annie Wang, and Windsor Hanger Western share the origin story of Her Campus.

By Mary Anderson
August 16, 2019
Credit: Edel Rimando

Stephanie Kaplan Lewis, Annie Wang, and Windsor Hanger Western—founders of Her Campus, a leading college marketing and media firm—were your average college undergrads with a big idea. Here, they explain how they started the successful, female-run company that exists today, plus choice words for future leaders.

How They Struck the Right Chord:

“When we were undergrads at Harvard, we transitioned the student lifestyle and fashion magazine from print to online. Soon we heard from women at colleges across the country that they were looking for a similar outlet to read and to write for. We recognized a market for content that spoke directly to college women.

In 2009, as juniors, we won Harvard’s business plan competition and launched Her Campus, a platform that gives college women the training and resources to start their own online magazines. We’ve expanded ever since, and we are still 100 percent female owned.” (Related: Student Takes On Her University In Powerful Essay About Body Shaming)

Their Biggest Business Lesson:

“We quickly learned to always have a contract when working with advertisers and not to get excited until one is signed. We got burned by this early on. It’s OK to make a mistake, but it’s important to make changes so you don’t repeat it.” (Related: Woman Proves Body-Positive Advertising Isn't Always What It Seems)

Whether Work/Life Balance Actually Exists:

"Entrepreneurship is notorious for taking over your entire life, but it's been nice to also see how it's a career that can afford you work/life balance, too. We've taken it upon ourselves to create a workplace that doesn’t just accommodate, but also supports and empowers women so they can have the careers they want without sacrificing family."

Words for Future Founders:

“Don’t sit around trying to think of a business idea. If you immerse yourself in industries that you’re passionate about, you’ll be the best person to find the holes you can fill. Get out in the world, and take note of pain points that exist. You’ll know what business you need to start.

Running a company is a marathon, not a sprint—there will be highs and lows and times when you feel like you want to give up. The key is to continue to put one foot in front of the other and push through no matter how tough things get. It’s a long game but being your own boss, having control over your destiny, and getting to bring your company’s mission to life is so worth it.” (Related: How This Female Entrepreneur Turned Her Healthy Lifestyle Into a Thriving Business)

Want more incredible motivation and insight from inspiring women? Join us this fall for our debut SHAPE Women Run the World Summit in New York City. Be sure to browse the e-curriculum here, too, to score all kinds of skills.

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