How Syracuse student Julia Haber started her company WAYV in college
Despite growing up just outside of New York City in Westchester, Julia Haber adopted the hustler mentality at an early age. Born a go-getter, she’s had the idea of working for herself in her head since she was a child.
It wasn’t until college when she became a student at Syracuse University, where Julia studied advertising, new business and found her passion for entrepreneurship. This allowed herself the room to flex her creative brain while simultaneously learning how to create, operate and expand her own business.
By the time she was a sophomore in college, she already had internships lined up. She held positions at big-name companies, Snapchat and Spotify, helping work their internal and external creative systems.
At each of these jobs, Julia was able to purpose herself as one of the youngest creative strategists working on the brand. Through her experience, she found that one thing lacking in the industry was the way advertising was submitted and perceived.
In a recent interview with Kulture Hub, she explained,
“I’m a designer, and I found that I loved working with brands that didn’t want to be part of an agency. I found that there was a real need to change the way people engage with advertising. We learn a lot about the impressions and all the things that comes with that, which actually means nothing, so I’ve always had a little fire in my belly to think about how to change the way brands are engaging with people.”
When she was just a freshman in college, Julia gave us a glance at her first experience as a true entrepreneur. Building a pop-up shop out of an empty storage space on campus, she began selling products from other student entrepreneurs at Cuse.
“I knew no one would go if they’d never heard of the companies before, so I invited a couple of corporate companies like Lululemon, Treat House, and a couple of other brands to come be part of the experience and lay the ground work of what was going to happen.”
Through constant networking and pitching, Julia managed to get AT&T to fund the idea. Inviting these big name companies to sell their merchandise contributed to the pop-up’s success by capitalizing on their existing, active engagement.
By the time the pop-up had run its course, Lululemon had made a profit they hadn’t expected to make on the campus of Syracuse. Julia told us,
“Lululemon killed it, they made a tremendous amount of money in sales that they’d never anticipated in making before. I knew I had to do some more digging and see why they did, and it was because the brand had never been on campus before. People don’t like to leave, so when brands come on campuses, the real bread and butter is to engage with it.”
Then, WAYV was born.
WAYV takes an experiential approach to all things involving marketing. In other words, rather than going out and seeking the shop you’re looking for, WAYV brings it to you.
“We work with the brands to create the experience they want. Whether it’s to drive subscriptions or make sales, we give them the opportunity to provide what’s important to them. We craft the experience around that, whether that’s more interactive, like opportunities to ask questions, photo booths that they can get content for, etc. We completely recreate the container to represent those brands and then pick up the shipping container and we put them on college campuses around the country.”
Collaborations to bring the pop-ups to life start with the partnerships made. Julia cites an exposition in an empty storefront that “brought 760 kids in 5 hours,” through the appearance of an Instagram model that they’d worked with.
Back in April, WAYV partnered with Rent the Runway on a successful, several-month project pop-up which featured food, fun, and fashion all-in-one. Students were met with photo booths, delicious doughnuts, colorful wall art and hands-on experience with Rent the Runway’s clothing.
“The Rent the Runway pop-up shop really gave us market validation from the consumer side, from students and also from the brands. We worked for about 5 months before we executed the rent the runway pop-up. We had to work with their goals, budget and completely change the experience multiple times to make it match what was possible. There were a lot of elements we had to overcome to create this, which was really telling for how we will run that on a scale for the future. Because we had such a positive response from students and a really positive response from the brand, it was really big catch and something that we can use to approach other companies.”
Aside from working with other campuses, WAYV plans to connect with content brands like The New York Times, Elite Daily, and Wired. In addition to retail brands such as Revolve and Hershel and Coach.
Plus, technology brands such as Uber, Lyft, and Netflix; beauty brands like Cover Girl and Color Pop, and finally, experiential brands that bring the entire experience to life. Just like photo booths and multi-media companies.
WAYV plans to formulate success through a simple strategy, utilizing storage units and melding their aesthetics by drawing inspiration from two to four different brands at the same time.
“We’ll have two to four brands in a space at a time, all having a synergic relationship like Vans, Vice, Refinery 29 and Revolve, all brands that have the same demographic but do a different thing. So, with thinking of pairing content creators, journalistic with retail brands and technology brands, even doing a Spotify pop-up shop.”
Last year, after pitching the idea in 5 competitions, WAYV won $20,000 in equity free cash.
“We have a formula for success: Tons of visuals, engage with your audience and be a human and not a robot. Having the ability to be conversational when you compete against a lot of people who aren’t comfortable talking around others. It’s really easy to a part if you can pitch well.”
Julia’s advice for those starting out on their own venture requires a little bit of soul-searching. She advises knowing your role well before taking a stand on what you want to do.
“It was always in my blood to be a doer and an operational person. Some people are the idea people, some people are operators, some people are lazy, so before you start creating something, think about the role that you’ll personally play and how you can do further business, knowing your role in the business development is important. Knowing your strength and your weaknesses and finding people who can help you do that.”
If you’re looking to start your own project or idea, Julia advises you talk about it with as many people as possible to get as much feedback as possible. She finished our interview with some solid advice for young entrepreneurs out there saying,
“It’s a myth to not talk about it. You should talk about your ideas with as many people as possible. It’s so smart to get people’s feedback and opinions. It can help boost your confidence, but can also be challenging if you get too many opinions. Definitely write all your ideas down, test it with different people and try to find mentors in that industry. It’s always good to bounce it around with people with that experience.”