With the rise of blogging, people all over the world are gaining their own voice and passion when it comes to fashion and creativity. However, it’s only a select few that gains footing enough to expand nation wide with a large readership. U LaLa* is one of those blogs. Founded by Katherine Crowley and Molly Longest, Purdue University grads, U LaLa has expanded to campuses across the world in order to inspire college women and let their voices be heard.
It all started with Purduelala, launched in 2010. Katherine and Molly were both communication majors who held a passion for magazines but had no way to gain writing clips in the industry (this was before Pattern, of course). So they decided the best way to let their creativity flow and gain experience, was to start their own blog — and Purduelala was born.
After graduation the duo decided the website could transform into something bigger. They were approached by younger students willing to take Purduelala over, which sparked an idea.
“We thought, ‘If there are girls on Purdue’s campus that are willing to take it over, and have a way to grow their writing skills and be creative, then there are probably girls at other campuses willing to do that too,’” Katherine says.
They brought their existing following, which was developed via word-of-mouth in the Greek system, and transferred to U LaLa, which now has presence on forty schools across the world. Katherine and Molly started becoming more strategic in the way they promoted the website, finding ways to push content and get people to the website without a marketing budget. They wanted to find content that would really resonate with the female college student.
A large part of their mission as an influential college blogging platform is to promote positive media for women in a world of mass media overload. The website aims to promote strong values, and stray from the regurgitated content of weight loss and flirting methods.
“By standing behind this pledge it makes us stand apart,” says Katherine. “What we found, is that we were surrounded by all these incredibly bright, interesting college women and they were reading content that wasn’t up to their standards. So we decided we could make it a platform for change along with having creative and fashion content.”
U LaLa only features real girls, using their student writers for outreach and encouraging them to involve friends in photo shoots and article posts. U LaLa is working to grow this connection to female empowerment by pushing the idea to their writers, connecting students with other powerhouse women in the industry and monetizing the site with specific sponsorships that stand behind the U LaLa mission. They also are soon to launch an ecommerce store, working with female founded companies to incorporate their products with the U LaLa brand.
U LaLa’s first sponsorship was with Goodwill Industries. This milestone was one that sparked the realization that U LaLa was truly a business. Instead of just providing ad space or slapping a banner on the site, they worked side by side with Goodwill and combined ideas.
“With a publication you have to build the audience first before you can attract a sponsor or someone who wants to pay you,” Molly says. “You have to build that value.”
Molly and Katherine are now living in New York City, taking the next step to grow their business. But they are grateful for their beginnings in a college town thanks to the resources provided and rich community that allows word to travel quickly.
“Starting in college gave us the experience we needed and the confidence to say, ‘Hey, we did this,’” says Katherine. “You’re in college, your entire life doesn’t depend on the company. You can start to plant those seeds, grow your company, make the mistakes you need to make and see what works and what doesn’t.”
Those college roots have grown into something bigger. Now that they’re in New York, U LaLa is spending time seeking investors and sponsors to expand their website. Often they feel intimidated, as recent college grads running a start up company, but that doesn’t damper their spirits.
“Molly and I always say to each other— ‘Fake it ‘til you make it’,” says Katherine. “The idea is that it’s the way to feel confidence sometimes.”
“No one is going to believe in you or have confidence in you it you don’t believe and have confidence in yourself,” says Molly. “We walk into these meetings and people are doing these incredible things like building heart monitors the size of a pop tart. We couldn’t do what they’re doing, but they couldn’t do what we’re doing!”
“** As of June 2014, U lala is transitioning to thelala.com.”