Learn from Smart Women

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Named one of Glamour’s Top 10 College Women in 2015, Lily Herman Co-Founded The Prospect and has helped over 600,000 students survive high school, rock the college admissions process, and thrive during their college years.  Lily is in charge of all content, marketing, and social media overseeing 140 contributors worldwide, all under the age of 22.  In addition, this multipreneur is also Senior Editorial Intern for The Muse, editorial and marketing director for HelloFlo, and a national contributing editor for HerCampus all while balancing a government and sociology major as a rising senior at Wesleyan University.  Find out the secret to writing kick-ass content, how to balance being a successful multipreneur, and make the most of your college experience!

Survive high school, navigate your college admissions process, and excel beyond with The Prospect!

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Being named one of Glamour’s Top 10 College Women was the culmination of a lot of hard work, doubt, learning, and Sour Patch Kids.

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Exceptional Entrepreneur

What is your proudest college accomplishment?

I’ve been fortunate enough to have a great college experience and a lot has happened!

Overall, I’m most excited that I’ve been able to create the career I want despite not having any background in it.  I spent all of high school wanting to go into politics (I dreamt of being Hillary Clinton, Jr.), but shortly after arriving at Wesleyan and getting elected to student government, I realized that path wasn’t for me.  Journalism, media, and entrepreneurship weren’t even on my radar at the time; a teacher had told me I was a terrible writer, and I was deeply insecure about my communication skills.  Combined with both my parents being lawyers (I didn’t know a single media person) and Wesleyan a liberal arts college (so no journalism or media programs to speak of), there was a lot for me to learn.

Being named one of Glamour’s Top 10 College Women was very cool on many fronts (hey, when am I ever going to be in a national magazine again?), but for me, it was the culmination of a lot of hard work, doubt, learning, and Sour Patch Kids.  To go from being Wannabe Hillary 2.0 in the fall of 2012 to being recognized for my work in social entrepreneurship and impactful media in the spring of 2015 is a pretty big leap!

Additionally, I’m really proud that I’ve been able to jumpstart a career I’m excited about. I love all of the things I get to do every day and I’m beyond thankful for the friends and mentors I’ve found in the industry.

How can we find inspiration to make a difference through entrepreneurship?

The best ideas come from experiencing as many things as possible and reflecting on them over and over again.  Even though The Prospect was founded in February 2013, college access was on my mind for years prior, starting as early as age 15 or 16.  I let my frustrations with the college process stew, and the first ‘product’ of all that thinking, discussing, and tinkering was the initial founding of The Prospect.  I was also involved with college access programs and non-profits and got to see the problems facing students first-hand.  I don’t think The Prospect would’ve been as successful if I didn’t have that foundation.

Coming up with an idea just for the sake of coming up with an idea won’t get you very far; passion will.  Nowadays, so many people will build an app just to build an app or create a business just to say they did it.  But knowledge, passion, and experience have to be there first, and the best concepts come from knowing how to observe and then think.  You have to tinker with something on a small scale before you can turn it into something big.

There’s a beauty in just getting started and constantly tweaking something before you show it to the world as your idea.  I didn’t mention The Prospect on social media for almost six months after founding it because of that principle!

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You have to tinker with something on a small scale before you can turn it into something big.

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What are your tips for running a business while in school?

Spend a ton of time getting to know how you work best!  I didn’t focus on my time management skills during my first year or so working on The Prospect and I felt burnt out, exhausted, and spread too thin all of the time.  My hair started falling out, and I constantly had at least 20 important emails that needed answering at any given time. It was counter-productive, and I was sabotaging myself.

Taking time to find a schedule that worked for me was crucial.  It was also important to realize that the schedule I chose might not fit in with what my college peers were doing.  My day starts around 6 or 7 AM, and I’m in bed by 11:30 PM.  You won’t regularly see me staying up until 3 AM with Red Bull and Ramen noodles!

On a separate note, you don’t need to go to a school with business and/or entrepreneurship department to run an enterprise while in college!  I’m double majoring in government and sociology, and both subjects have been incredibly influential in shaping how I view my business and craft my leadership strategies.  There are also plenty of other ways to get your entrepreneurship fix while on campus.  For instance, Wesleyan has an awesome hub called the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship that offers programs, speakers, and opportunities to college entrepreneurs, and there’s a great community there, too.

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The first ‘product’ of all that thinking, discussing, and tinkering was The Prospect.

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What is the secret to being a successful entrepreneur?

A lot of people talk about needing a killer instinct, a relentless work ethic, and a lack of fear of rejection to succeed in entrepreneurship – and all of those are true!  Since they’ve already been discussed a lot, I’ll focus on other things I wish I knew.

First, be kind to everyone.  Every industry is a small one, and the same names keep coming back around.  Whether you’re talking to an intern or Beyoncé, be polite, genuine, and enthusiastic.  People will talk regardless, so make sure they have nice things to say.

On that note, regardless of whether it’s your own startup or someone else’s, make sure you’re passionate about the company and where it’s going, not just your own career or title.  That’s one of the reasons I love working with so many startups at the same time: I get to invest in the visions of other people and help them achieve their goals.  I also get to be a co-founder and CEO at one company while being an intern at another.  It’s been great getting the opportunity to be a sponge and soak up as much knowledge as possible based on these different positions and responsibilities.

Lastly, constantly focus your energies on bettering yourself and whatever you’re working on.  Complacency can kill a venture, and it can set behind an entrepreneur.  Keep learning, growing, and seeking improvement.

What is your dream for your future in digital media?

This question is so intimidating!  I love seeing how digital media can intersect with social entrepreneurship, and I’d love to explore that further.  At the end of the day, I love creating, editing, curating content, and sharing it with the world – so I hope I’m doing that in the future.

If it also wasn’t obvious, I’m a huge fan of doing a million things at once, so I’m planning on doing that as I get older, too.  We’ll see!  I’m more into taking up cool opportunities when they present themselves instead of planning a very specific career.

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First, be kind to everyone.

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Kick-ass Collegiate

How do you define remarkable content and social media?

Remarkable content and social media are about getting the desired effect out of your audience, regardless of what that is.  If your hope is that someone becomes emotionally invested in something you wrote, then that content did its job if you reached that goal.  If you really want people to find a tweet funny, seeing how many people favorite or retweet can tell you if people thought the same thing.

What is the key to effective social media marketing?

First, know your audience intimately.  Picture your ‘ideal’ user or follower, see what competitors are doing, and ask around.  You can’t create awesome social media until you know whom you want to engage with it and who’s actually engaging with it currently.  No matter how much money you pour into marketing, it won’t mean anything if you haven’t given thought to your audience.  Follower counts mean nothing without great engagement.

Second, understand that social media (regardless if it’s for yourself or a business) is about creating an overall image.  In other words, what is the lifestyle you’re trying to convey?  Regardless if you’re selling a physical product, content, or something more abstract, it’s about illustrating a particular way of living.

For example, The Prospect is written in the voice of an intelligent and helpful but pithy and down-to-earth college kid.  Thus, we encourage all of our writers to use their authentic voices, and our social media accounts follow the same theme.  I originally based TP’s voice off of my friends at Wesleyan, so when approaching our content as well as our social media, my question is always WWWPD: What Would Wesleyan People Do?

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Keep learning, growing, and seeking improvement.

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What are the ways we can have an impactful internship?

Internships are about finding a balance of knowing when to step forward and step back.  On the one hand, it’s great to be the intern who takes initiative, works with everyone on the team, and adds positively to the work environment.  That said, you are the lowest person on the totem pole, so earning your stripes and not overstepping boundaries are equally important.

Regardless of the department you’re assigned to or your role, strive to be the best at whatever you’re doing, and push to learn even more.  If you’re the coffee runner, be the best coffee runner ever—but also look for other opportunities to gain more knowledge in whatever area you can.

Also, don’t be afraid to talk to people!  You never know whom you’re going to potentially meet at an internship, so be assertive and don’t back away from an opportunity to get to know members of a team.  Even if someone doesn’t work in the same department as you, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get to know them.  And remember: Network from a place of authenticity.  Think of co-workers as potential friends, not just names to put into a Rolodex.  Some of my closest professional contacts were actually made over really random things, like livetweeting Survivor, and not necessarily work-related incidences.

Another important note about networking: Be kind to your fellow interns!  I’m at an age where interns are starting to become entry-level employees at all sorts of cool places, and they totally remember the people who were nice (and not so nice) to them when they were in the trenches.

How do you create balance as a student and entrepreneur?

I think instead of chasing after balance, it’s all about integration: When can I be a college student and an entrepreneur at the same time?  The two are not mutually exclusive, so it’s important to see how they can work together.  For example, if I want to work on a project for The Prospect but also want to socialize with friends, I’ll do that work in Wesleyan’s student union instead of in my room so that people can come say ‘hi’ and sit down.  Both goals are accomplished without having to compromise anything.

That said, there’s a lot of compartmentalization that goes on so that I can pursue both worlds fully.  I usually get up earlier so that I can answer emails before I start schoolwork, and on weekends, I take a break from working to hang out with college friends and do ‘normal’ college things.  I once heard someone say, ‘You are not your job,’ and I take that mantra seriously.  I like to pursue other interests, relax, and enjoy many things not necessarily related to my career.

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Know your audience intimately.

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How can we bSmart and make the most of our college experience like you?

I always tell rising freshmen at The Prospect to be open to anything that comes your way in college, and don’t focus on having the ‘perfect’ college experience.  So many students get caught up in what they think they should do and how they look to peers, and all of that really doesn’t matter in the long run.  I know that if I’d ignored my love of media and the Internet just to fulfill this previous dream of being in politics, I wouldn’t be as happy as I am now.  I’ve also learned to embrace the messiness that is college; it’s not perfect, and that’s totally okay.

On that note, remember that you are supposed to be uncomfortable during your college experience.  If you aren’t feeling some form of discomfort, you’re not growing.  Study abroad if traveling scares you, take a class that you know is going to be hard but rewarding, and don’t stick with the same three friends just because they’re ‘safe.’  You never get a time in your life that’s this close to being risk-free, so take advantage of that.

And as someone once told me, embrace the panic and enjoy the ride!

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Embrace the messiness that is college; it’s not perfect, and that’s totally okay.

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Meet Lily Herman

Occupation: Blogger/Writer, Editor, Social Media Consultant, Youth Empowerment Expert

Women I Admire: Too many to count! All of my female bosses and co-workers at The Muse, HelloFlo, Her Campus, and The Prospect are fabulous, though.

Dream Mentor: Mindy Kaling (Please be my friend, Mindy!)

Favorite Store: H&M

Go-to Outfit: Dark-wash jeans, nice blouse, white Converse

Favorite Quote: 'Man imposes his own limitations, don’t set any.' – Anthony Bailey

De-Stress Technique: Watching lots of Survivor re-runs

University: Wesleyan University

 

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Comments (2)

  1. Meagan Hooper

Lily Herman is an inspiration for college students and post-grads!

 
  1. bSmart Guide    Meagan Hooper

Very proud to feature her on the site!

 

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