Tell us a little about you and your company. Age, background, how you got going etc…
My name is Bryan Roy I’m a 20-year-old junior from the University of Arizona. Born and raised in Agawam, Mass., I started Hottest College in America this past August after a popular swimsuit calendar decided to just feature Arizona State University students this year. Naturally from our in-state rivalry, we wanted to represent our school with pride and showcase our girls in a classy way.
Everybody at home always asks about the weather and the women at school, so why not just show them? The same way Lute Olson coined this school’s nickname into “Point Guard U” — why can’t it be referred to the “Hottest College in America.” 110 degree afternoons can do that, and so can our models.
And heck, why wouldn’t the football or basketball coach send his prospective recruits our calendar? Tell me that wouldn’t at least open a 17-year-old’s eyes.
What motivated you to actually start the company? Did anything in particular make you take the leap? Did anyone tell you not to do it?
School pride. I love the University of Arizona and everything about it (maybe with the exception of rising tuition— but who isn’t these days?) Our in-state at Arizona State University have their own calendar, so why can’t we? Time after time, when pop-culture sports blogs rank the hottest campuses, the only judgment they use is by a Google Image search. Next year, hopefully our girls will show up.
Nobody has told us not to — yet. I bet the Women’s Resource Center won’t be hanging up our calendar in their building. But really, this is something (we always tell our models) that will pass the “Mom Test.” They’ll be classy and cute, not seductive and sexual. I know the campus will be proud of this.
“We’re not reinventing beauty. We’re not redefining school pride. Our final product is far from revolutionary” – Could you explain this and how you are separating yourself from the competition?
It’s the same reason why students pack the football stadium and basketball arena on weekends: Kids love school pride, especially with the dynamic of out-of-state students at the UA. The vast majority of students come from all over: Phoenix, LA, Bay Area, Chicago and New York. This is just another way for our student body to be proud of our beauty — and from that perspective, we don’t have any competitors.
But from a revenue standpoint as a campus publication based on advertising, we’re offering much, much more than just the print calendar. While it is timeless traditional dorm decor, Hottest College in America is thriving in the Facebook U generation of students. There’s no bigger marketing tool than Facebook — it’s the reason why campus buzzes about this brand new product. With over a thousand fans (growing by the day) we’ve received dozens of model nominations in just months of our creation. From there, we can use those numbers to reach more students directly and offer advertisers the same outreach on campus. And who knows our campus better than us students?
Could you explain the technology and online resources you are using to market the company?
Like I mentioned before, the online standpoint is why we’ve thrived in the incredibly short amount of time. (Web design and marketing has always been my specialty.)
Instead of just 12 photos in a printed calendar, we’re going to put galleries of not only the photo shoots but the behind-the-scenes aspects of our preliminary shoots. And tagging the models in those photos, so their friends can see our brand — thus expanding our circle of reach. We’ll be uploading video, interviews, TwitPics @hottestcollege and a behind-the-shoot blog. It’s essential for all our Web activity to occur during peak hours — like when students are suppose to be studying during evenings.
How much time would you say you or your company spends marketing online? ie…Do you think its necessary to be on twitter or facebook all day to be successful?
I’ve studied trends on Facebook — especially now with Facebook Chat — that pinpoints ideal times traffic peaks. You want your brand showing up in the live news feed with maximum exposure: Sunday evenings and weekdays (excluding Friday) from 8:30 p.m. to 11 p.m.
What have you learned from marketing online? Any mistakes to avoid?
Don’t spam. There’s nothing worse than 15 Facebook messages in a three-day span that all say “CONCERT ALMOST SOLD OUT!!! BUY YOUR TICKETS NOW!!!” Make it professional and to the point. Use rich content. I always think of producing content the same way I would if I were a journalist covering the company. Of course there’s a little bias to it, but deliver information people will want to read and “like” on Facebook.
Do you balance any online/offline marketing at all? If so how?
Our tangible marketing campaign picks up next semester with “promo nights” around Tucson nightlife. We have three marketing interns that will be responsible for generating the buzz around campus through fliers, posters and banners.
Do you ever get into ruts while starting up? If so how do you push through them?
Haven’t 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’ve gone out of our way to make sure it happens. The drive to succeed is something that can’t be taught, so I’m glad all three of us have “it.”
Future plans for the company?
We’re deeply involved with promotions for Country Thunder USA, an upcoming music festival nearby that asked us to dominate our market. Concerts are something that would go hand-in-hand to reward models as perks and our audience with exclusive deals. This is really the future of where we’re going — a hybrid entertainment/publication promotion group.
What advice would you have for any college student who is thinking about or is starting the journey of entrepreneurship?
Don’t worry about grades. You’re going to college to network and connect with future business partners — no matter how strange the route. Cory MacDonald was my RA freshman year and Carly Kennedy was my co-worker sophomore year. Unknowingly, all three of us have the strengths and dedication hard to find these days — we’re a tripod.
And go somewhere with opportunity and huge audience. The UA has almost 40,000 students, which is bigger than many towns. Campus is a city in itself with the dynamic and demographics most college entrepreneurs would kill for.