This Young Woman Turned Her Love Of Preppy Style Into A Successful Business
2:30 pm, January 31st | by Meredith Lepore
While most of us were trying to pick a major and pass exams in college (and, uh, drink), Carly Heitlinger was running a profitable business out of her dorm room and becoming a social media powerhouse. While she was a freshmen at Georgetown University, Carly decided to start a blog about her affinity for all things preppy after she came up with the perfect name: The College Prepster. Her side-project blog was soon capturing the attention of major brands like Madewell, J.McLaughlin and Kate Spade. Nowadays the site has 6,363 members and she has over 11,000 Twitter fans following every preppy move she makes. This made graduation last spring slightly less stressful, as unlike most of her classmates Carly had a job waiting for her, one in which she has total creative control.
We aren’t sure when she finds time for sleeping as she runs CollegePrepster in addition to working full time at the startup Levo League as Director of New Media, but she did find time to chat with us (while wearing a very cute J.Crew dress) about launching a business when you are in college, working with advertisers and one of the biggest preppy conundrums of all time: Is Kate Spade or Lilly Pulitzer better?
How did College Prepster get its start?
I had a rough first semester at Georgetown. I’m talking rock-bottom, hourly panic attacks, and a major identity crisis. I mean, I went from the top of my class in high school to a breeding ground of overachievers. I felt small and, frankly, not smart. I had a panic attack during my first ever midterm and received a whopping 12%. Yes. That might have actually been the lowest grade ever given out. Basically the whole semester was me trying to stay afloat and climb out of this deep (and dark) hole. I somehow managed (hello, miracle on 37th & O St!) to survive.
While studying for final exams that December, someone joked about how I should start a blog. Blogging was so not “in” back then and we half-laughed it off. But over holiday break, I researched blogging platforms and ended up carving myself out a tiny little home on the World Wide Web.
How did you balance school with the site when it really started to take off?
The busier I am, the more diligent I am about staying on top of my to-do lists. Plus, as a marketing major, pretty much everything I learned in the classroom was applicable to what I was doing on my own. And everything I was learning on my own made the theories in class make sense. I could actually test the theories in real time, with real results. As nerdy as it sounds, it was awesome.
I know you said at first you were against companies putting ads on the site so what made you change your mind?
I was absolutely opposed to it. But, the nature of blogging (as with anything and everything new) changed by the minute. It got to the point where I was spending a ton of time writing and then it made sense to monetize. It was not a decision I made lightly. It’s also really allowed me some flexibility that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.
When did you realize that this was really successful?
Frankly, I don’t think I’ll ever feel that way! I’m super critical of myself and very goal oriented. This is a lethal combination. I set a goal and before I hit it, I’ve already raised the bar. It’s stressful! But…I don’t think I’ll ever get used to having strangers “recognize” me. True story: I’m socially awkward.
What is your favorite thing about College Prepster?
Getting emails from freshman girls saying they’re experiencing the same things I went through. When I was struggling, I wanted to know that I wasn’t alone. If I can give that to someone else, I think that is the best thing in the world.
What is the most challenging part?
You seem to work a lot. What is your daily schedule? How do you deal with work/life balance?
I wake up at 5:05 on the nose. I get ready and head to work. (I work for this amazing company called Levo League!) I work all day and then probably have one short-ish meeting in the evening. I head home and then start Workday Part Two. It’s emailing, invoicing, writing, and Photoshopping. Sometimes I think my life is one big PSD file.
What is next for College Prepster? What are your plans with it? How would you like to see it grow?
Who’s to say? I always have things in the works!!!
Who do you like more: Lilly Pulitzer or Kate Spade?
Oh! Now that’s just mean! Here’s the thing: I’ll always love Lilly. Growing up in Florida, summer Lilly is essentially a required component of any outfit. But Kate Spade has absolutely stolen my heart!
Pink or green? Or both?