There are always going to be girls who make us feel like slackers. Some of them you might know from the media (a la Gigi Hadid) but others are among us, just being straight #girlboss inspirations at seriously unreal ages. Our Women We Love this week are two of them, having started their own companies before they graduate college. Meet Alexandra and Daniella Pierson…
At only twenty years old, Alexandra created newly-launched app, Springpop, and Daniella writes and distributes the daily newsletter, The Newsette, all while still attending University of Pennsylvania and Boston University respectively. How do they do it? Let’s ask them…
YOU ARE BOTH SO YOUNG TO HAVE STARTED YOUR OWN BUSINESSES! DID YOU ALWAYS ENVISION HAVING YOUR OWN COMPANIES?
ALEXANDRA: We have always been very entrepreneurial. Our parents are in business, and growing up in an environment like that led us to think we could create anything, and that products can always be improved upon. We both had a few other ideas for businesses before this, but Springpop, and The Newsette were the ones that truly reflected our passions. I always thought I would build something, since creating designs and ideas is something I’ve always loved.
WHAT STEPS DID YOU TAKE BEFORE LAUNCHING THE COMPANIES?
DANIELLA: Since I knew that I wanted to start my own business one day, I chose a school that offered a strong entrepreneurship program. I started Boston University, and by my sophomore year I came up with the idea for The Newsette. From then on I dedicated every ounce of free time to it, and a year and here we are a year and a half later.
ALEXANDRA: I started working on Springpop more than two years ago. When I first had the idea to create a social media company I surveyed 500 people about my idea, and what they wanted in a social platform. I used those responses to start designing and shaping the idea for Springpop, and created a beta site. After another year of getting feedback from beta users and understanding what was working or not working, and six months of development, the Springpop app finally launched on the App Store!
DID YOU FACE INITIAL CHALLENGES, ESPECIALLY BECAUSE OF YOUR AGE?
ALEXANDRA: As a business owner, I face challenges every day. Once you think you have it all figured out, there’s a problem you have to put all of your energy toward. I think Danny and I have found that people can think we don’t know what we’re doing because of our age, and might try to give us a bad business deal. The first app development firm I worked with tried that, and that’s why I moved to the second firm, that built Springpop. The most challenging part about our age is that many things are very new to us, like negotiating or crafting a business plan.
WHAT DO YOU SAY TO SOMEONE WHO THINKS A 20-YEAR-OLD IS TOO YOUNG TO BE A BOSS?
DANIELLA: I would say that you’re never too young to start something successful, and only a lack of passion can ever hold you back. I currently struggle with my role as a boss with my interns, because a few of them are older than me, but I truly believe that your work speaks louder than your age. When you create something that people love, others will stand behind you.
HOW DID YOU CONCEPTUALIZE THE IDEAS FOR YOUR COMPANIES?
ALEXANDRA: I came up with the idea for Springpop after taking my first marketing class at Wharton. I was inspired by the concept of branding, and personal brands. I set out to create a beautiful, stress and clutter-free feed. I’ve also taken a lot of psychology classes at Penn, and positive psychology inspired me to add positivity to the Springpop app. Unfortunately, stress and negativity are huge issues on college campuses, so I wanted to create a place that could brighten someone’s day.
DANIELLA: Winter break of my sophomore year Alex was busy working on Springpop and was neglecting me, so I decided to keep myself busy by starting my own company. I had no idea what it would be, so I asked myself what I loved to do. The answer was reading magazines. My favorite time of the day was sitting with a warm cup of coffee and reading interesting articles. And that’s when it clicked. I thought, “Why don’t I start my own mini magazine that has a little bit of everything you want to read in the morning, and feels like a gift in your inbox?” And the next day, I sent my first e-mail newsletter.
WHAT DO YOU THINK THESE SERVICES BRING TO PEOPLE’S LIVES?
DANIELLA: I recently asked some of my readers to give me testimonials for our new website, and was shocked to see that hundreds of people wanted to share what The Newsette has brought to their lives. Many readers told me that they think of us as their friend giving them everything they need to conquer the day, and that we help them catch up on the things they care about during their busy work day.
ALEXANDRA: Springpop brings people a stress-free way to explore their interests. Social media feeds are so cluttered nowadays, with posts you don’t want to see. On our app, you are limited to following fifty posters, and they can only post 5 times a day, which means less clutter, and more control over what you see on your feed. I hope that Springpop also brings inspiration and joy to people. Every user gets five hand-picked motivational and positive posts from Springpop each morning, so that they can wake up in a go-getter, happy mood. Finally, the goal is for Springpop to be a positive space, so posters can’t see how many followers they have, or how many likes their post got.
HOW HAVE ONLINE SERVICES LIKE YOURS CHANGED THE WAY PEOPLE DO BUSINESS?
ALEXANDRA: Nowadays, brands have to be very authentic to attract customers. Millennials want to follow their favorite brands on social media, and hear about them on platforms like The Newsette and Springpop, so that means companies have to not only have a voice, but create value for their customers online.
DO YOU BOUNCE IDEAS OFF EACH OTHER?
DANIELLA: We basically are each other’s business therapists. We call each other on a daily basis to talk about new ideas we have, get feedback, and cheer each other on.
ALEXANDRA: Every morning we’ll call each other while we are getting ready and talk about what issues we’ll have to face that day. Then we’ll email or text each other all day asking which design we prefer, or if we like the copy we just wrote. I trust Danny’s opinion 100%.
WHAT’S THE MOST FUN PART OF YOUR JOB?
ALEXANDRA: Going on the app each day makes me smile. I know how long of a road it’s been, so seeing the final product and being able to use it (and see other people use it!) is so rewarding. Another part I love is talking to my five interns. They are so intelligent, and have ideas for the company that really excite me.
WHAT’S THE BEST ADVICE YOU HAVE FOR SOMEONE STARTING THEIR OWN BUSINESS?
DANIELLA: Pick something that they’re truly passionate about, because there are going to be many obstacles that arise that will make you want to quit. However, if you truly love what you’re doing, it will be easier to get right back on the saddle after something doesn’t go your way.
AND FOR SISTERS GOING INTO BUSINESS TOGETHER?
DANIELLA: I would say that you should use each other as a support system, and make sure that there are clear roles that each sister has so that there isn’t any fighting over who does what. But I think that going into business with a family member is a wonderful idea, because you know that they will be your biggest fan and you can always trust them.
ALEXANDRA: I would recommend splitting the responsibilities based on your skills. If one sister is more of a creative and the other is better with numbers, split the business like that. I can imagine a lot of problems arising if you are both in charge of the same parts of the company.