As coronavirus struck, thousands of college students were displaced from their schools and sent back to their hometowns. Summer internships were canceled and students struggled to feel inspired by their online coursework. The question for college students across the country became: “what the F*&#$% do we do now?”
Entrepreneur Julia Haber understood the struggle that college students were going through, and got to work to create a solution to build a professional experience specifically for college students.
Haber studied public relations and entrepreneurship, with a concentration in fashion and entertainment at Syracuse University in the S.I. Newhouse School Of Public Communications. She knew she wanted to be an entrepreneur from a young age and had her first experiences opening pop-up shops on Syracuse’s campus. This inspired her to found WAYV, @ourwayv, which brought mobile branded experiences to college campuses.
Home From College has already hosted a Zoom Q&A session with Christian Navarro, the director of brand marketing at SoulCycle, interviewed Kay Hsu, head of Instagram Creative Shop, and curated tons of content on their Instagram page. Home From College has shared tons of resources to guide students in the fight for Black Lives Matter, including their “87 Ways You Can Help” guide, which was seen by 1.3 million users on Instagram and shared by celebrities like Noah Cyrus and Christina Aguilera.
The Fit Magazine sat down with Haber to talk all about her journey becoming an entrepreneur, what makes Home From College unique and how the platform can benefit students while they are home from college this summer.
Q: How did you know you wanted to be an entrepreneur? What inspired you to start WAYV and Home From College?
JH: I wanted to create something that would provide quality for college students, and I’m really excited about human connection, experiences, and I love working with brands.
I knew that the pain points of college students were always happening, and it became exacerbated when everyone went home from college and there was nothing there to support students. There were no resources, the schools were overwhelmed and the Zoom experience was [not great]. I just thought there would be a better way to create a brand and a community that was for all college students. That they felt represented in and created experiences that they weren’t getting access to previously through content and partnerships, and a brand they felt spoke to them.
Q: What were some of the first steps you took to get Home From College up and running?
JH: I started talking to a ton of students and hearing the pain points, and I said to my business partner: “I want to buy the domain Home From College.” I think there’s something very much there about home is wherever you are, wherever you feel comfortable and literally everybody is home from college, so the name speaks to what the experience is and the pain point. It was emotional and I started to think about how content isn’t created specifically for college students, but there is ton of content in the world, but there isn’t one place where you can create content and opportunities for students.
We built the whole thing in about three weeks and started interviewing industry leaders who wanted to help give back to college students and had stories and support to tell. I knew that community could be part of it, so we started bringing in students who were interested in the concept and had about 40 students actively building out different initiatives all the time. We are launching a community, and we have about 500 students who are doing focus groups with us all the time; data tests, concepts and just building based on whatever the need is.
Q: What is Home From College offering to college students that is unique and they can’t get on any other digital platform?
JH: The combination of content and community. We are calling ourselves “LinkedIn meets MasterClass,” specifically for college students. If you go on LinkedIn right now, there isn’t a ton of very specific content for college students. It’s all about professional people, but college students are one of the highest grossing profiles on the LinkedIn platform, because kids are just trying to figure out how to get experience, access and internships, and jobs are canceled.
The speaker series we are doing; we are doing a ton of partnered series with different companies to tell stories and information that is specifically relevant to what college students are going through. [We are] asking their questions in a really curated format and then on the community side, launching a bunch of programs that have specific goals in mind. So we are launching this program called the “2009 Club,” where [we match] graduating seniors with industry leaders who graduated during the recession in 2008 and 2009 to help them.
July 15 [we’re launching] a concept called “The GIG,” which are going to be project-based initiatives that we develop with companies to create actionable, goal-oriented needs that companies have and marrying students with that so they can get experience with 12 different companies in the course of three months rather than just one internship that we are developing with them.
Just the access to the leaders we are working with that aren’t usually that accessible to college students in general.
Q: What advice do you have to aspiring entrepreneurs who don’t know how to get started?
JH: I just interviewed this woman Karen Cahn, who started this company called “iFundWomen,” and the whole point is to give people opportunities to start companies. We were talking about how we look at Emily Weiss, [the founder of Glossier] and Audrey Gelman, the founder of The Wing, and we are like, “oh my god they have it all,” and it’s just so much hard work. Those kinds of overnight successes take five plus years [to build].
I went to hundreds of college campuses, I interviewed hundreds of students, I work hours a day, and it’s not glamorous. So you need to be really passionate about whatever you are doing because it takes a lot of time and persistence. I would just encourage you to take a deep dive into yourself and say “Am I capable of doing this? Do my skills align with what my passion is?” and talk to as many people as you can so that you can get feedback and see if [being an entrepreneur] is a good market fit for what you want to do.
Check out Home From College to make the most of your summer and prepare yourself as a professional!