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Tell us a little about yourself and your company. Age, background, how you got started, etc.
My name is Brian Roy. I am a 20 year old student at the University of Arizona. Born and raised in Agawam, Massachusetts, I enrolled in “America’s Hottest College” this August after the popular swimsuit calendar decided to show only Arizona State University students this year. Naturally, due to our in-state rivalry, we wanted to proudly represent our school and showcase our girls in style.
Everyone at home is always asking about the weather and the women at school, so why not just show them off? Just like Lute Olson came up with the school’s nickname in “Point Guard U” – why can’t it be classified as “America’s Hottest College”. 110 degrees in the afternoon can do it, and so can our models.
And heck, why wouldn’t a football or basketball coach send their potential recruits our calendar? Tell me it wouldn’t at least open the eyes of a 17 year old.
What motivated you to actually start the company? Is there anything in particular that made you take this step? Has anyone told you not to do this?
School pride. I love the University of Arizona and everything about it (maybe except for the tuition hike – but who doesn’t these days?) Our staff at Arizona State University has its own calendar, so why can’t we? Time after time, when pop culture and sports blogs rank the most popular campuses, the only judgment they use is Google image searches. Next year, I hope our girls will come.
No one told us not to do it—yet. I bet the Women’s Resource Center won’t put up our calendar in their building. But it’s actually something (we always tell our models) that will pass the “mom test”. They will be stylish and cute, not seductive and sexy. I know the campus will be proud of this.
“We are not reinventing beauty. We are not redefining school pride. Our end product is far from revolutionary.” Could you explain this and what makes you stand out from the competition?
Students fill the football stadium and basketball arena on the weekends for the same reason: kids love school pride, especially given the dynamism of out-of-state students in UA. The vast majority of students come from all over: Phoenix, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and New York. This is another way for our students to be proud of their beauty – and from this point of view, we have no competitors.
But in terms of revenue, as an ad-supported student publication, we offer much more than just a printed calendar. Despite being a timeless traditional dorm décor, “America’s Hottest College” is thriving among Facebook Generation U students. There’s no better marketing tool than Facebook, which is the reason the campus is buzzing about this brand new product. With over a thousand fans (growing every day), we have received dozens of model nominations in just a few months of our inception. From there, we can use these numbers to reach more students directly and offer advertisers the same reach on campus. And who knows our campus better than us students?
Could you explain the technologies and online resources you use to promote the company?
As I mentioned before, the online point of view is why we thrive in an incredibly short amount of time. (Web design and marketing has always been my specialty.)
Instead of 12 photos in a printed calendar, we’re going to have galleries of not only photo shoots, but behind-the-scenes aspects of our pre-shoots. And tag the models in those photos so their friends can see our brand, expanding our reach. We will be uploading videos, interviews, TwitPics @hottestcollege and a filming blog. It is very important that all of our online activities take place during peak hours – for example, when students have to study in the evenings.
How much time do you think you or your company spends on online marketing? those. … Do you think it’s necessary to be on Twitter or Facebook all day to be successful?
I’ve studied trends on Facebook – especially now with Facebook Chat – which determines the ideal traffic peak times. You want your brand to appear in the news feed with maximum reach: on Sunday evenings and on weekdays (except Fridays) from 20:30 to 23:00.
What have you learned from internet marketing? What mistakes should be avoided?
Don’t spam. There is nothing worse than 15 Facebook posts in three days that say: “THE CONCERT IS ALMOST SOLD!!! BUY TICKETS NOW!!!” Do it professionally and to the point. Use rich content. I always think of content creation the same way I would if I were a journalist covering a company. Of course, there is a slight bias in this, but provide information that people will want to read and like on Facebook.
Do you balance between online and offline marketing at all? If so, how?
Our tangible marketing campaign will begin next semester with promotional nights around Tucson nightlife. We have three marketing interns who will be responsible for creating buzz on campus with flyers, posters and banners.
Have you ever gotten into a rut at startup? If so, how do you break through them?
Not yet, but I think our biggest strength is confidence. When people tell us it can’t be done or “don’t count on it”, we do our best to make sure it happens. The desire to succeed is impossible to teach, so I’m glad that all three of us have it.
Future plans of the company?
We are actively involved in promoting Country Thunder USA, an upcoming music festival nearby that has asked us to dominate our market. Concerts are something that should go hand in hand with rewarding models as perks and our audience with exclusive offers. This is truly the future of what we’re heading for – a hybrid entertainment and publishing promotion group.
What advice would you give to any college student who is thinking about entrepreneurship or just starting one?
Don’t worry about grades. You go to college to socialize and network with future business partners—however bizarre the route may be. Corey McDonald was my freshman at RA and Carly Kennedy was my colleague in my sophomore year. Unconsciously, all three of us have a strength and selflessness that is hard to find these days – we are a tripod.
And go somewhere with an opportunity and a huge audience. UA has nearly 40,000 students, more than many cities. The campus itself is a city with a dynamic and demographic structure that most college entrepreneurs would kill for.