Co-founder, Creative Director, and CFO of Her Campus Media, Annie Wang, has managed to create a company that has over 90 million monthly views, be featured in Forbes 30 Under 30, and graduate Harvard, all while being in her 20s.
How did she do it?
Easy, she lives by her own unique version of the most popular girl-power mantras circulating the internet today.
This past Saturday, Wang visited The George Washington University as one of the Keynote speakers for GW Women in Business’ Spring Conference event.
The purpose of her presentation, titled “Living the Meme- how to manifest your favorite girl power mantras”, was to give real-world career insight to an audience full of young women eager to be their own version of girl bosses.
“I’ve just been on this girl message power kick,” said Wang. “I thought this was the perfect opportunity to give this type of ‘meme’ talk.”
While Wang has an appreciation for the mantras discussed, she applies them to her own life in a different way than what is expected.
Her first meme, “She believed she could so she did,” isn’t exactly what happened at the start of Wang’s career. During the beginning stages of Her Campus, her and her co-founders, Stephanie Kaplan Lewis and Windsor Hanger Western, had no intentions of turning their campus organization into an actual company.
“We didn’t have this grand vision from the start,” stated Wang. “We stumbled on it.”
When the three Harvard undergraduate students initially took over their university’s women’s’ magazine, they decided to convert it to an online platform in order to reach a digital audience. This was all possible due to Wang’s hobbies since middle school, coding and graphic design.
Articles were able to be published on a daily rate rather than semesterly, causing viral attention from college women around the world.
Wang, Lewis, and Western all knew they wanted to scale their growing business, but Wang still had a year left of college. She was faced with a decision- should she stay in school or pursue her career? Wang chose the latter and risked being called “crazy by any good Asian.”
Clearly, this leap of faith paid off.
So, rather than being able to go into the world and immediately finding her calling, Wang believes, “It years of hard work and the right moment to prepare you to rise to the challenge.”
Another meme the Boston native examined was, “Be the CEO your parents always wanted you to marry.”
While many people think this position includes having a huge corner office, jet setting around the world, and having an amazing wardrobe, Wang emphasized that this was not exactly reality.
“Building a business is not going to be glossy,” said Wang. “You need to stay focused and stay scrappy.”
While she built her “100 percent bootstrap company”, Wang refused to compromise the core operating procedures she set in the beginning. She loves that she can allow dogs in her office and give Fridays off in the summer, aspects of her company she views as more important than the superficialness of being a CEO.
These decisions have given Her Campus a steady rate of expansion.
“We may not have that super sexy hockey stick grown start, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
These weren’t the only ways Wang transformed her company.
Using the meme, “Empowered women empower women,” the young business mogul stressed the importance of giving other people the room to grow when you are in such a high position yourself.
“I went from being an achiever to setting other people up for achievement,” said Wang.
To be successful, she explained to the audience of female college students that a leader needs to be able to delegate without the fear of other people being unable to do the work as well as them. The truth is, transferring responsibilities is what keeps a company running so the CEO and other people in positions in power are able to place their focus on more large-scale tasks.
“Learn to delegate to become not only comfortable but excited to do,” said Wang. “Together, we can achieve more and achieve more at a quicker pace.
Not only did Wang share how she has been able to expand her company, but she also touched upon her ability to improve her own personal weaknesses using the meme, “Though she be little, she be fierce.”
Naturally, the introvert finds difficulty in the traditional way of networking. Wang talked about how she isn’t always just able to approach a bunch of people and strike up a conversation.
But, she had to learn how to still get what she wants
“It’s not about how many people you know, but how you steward those relationships, particularly in one on one interactions,” believes Wang.
This is how she received the opportunity to do a TED talk. She had made a connection with a receptionist while at a workout studio in Miami, and from there, she was introduced to the right people.
Despite being incredibly nervous about speaking in front of millions, Wang took this opportunity without a second thought. It would allow for Her Campus to reach a global audience.
“Be willing to work hard that anyone else so that when the time comes, they will not see how small you may appear to be but how fierce you truly are,” advised Wang.
By the conclusion of her speech, it was no secret that listening to Wang’s journey and success can be slightly intimidating for any young female.
Although she told her stories of struggle, it’s hard to imagine a woman who didn’t skip a beat while wearing 4-inch Louboutins feel uncertain about anything. But she did, and that’s how she became the girl boss she is today.
Clearly, Wang wants to share her secrets to help the thousands, if not millions, future CEOs looking up to her. After all, she believes women are the most powerful when together.
“We as women really do rise together when we support, empower, and challenge each other,” she ended.