By Chris Bavender
They say necessity is the mother of invention and that’s exactly how thelala.com was born.
As sophomores at Purdue, Katherine Crowley and Molly Longest – both communication majors – needed writing samples and a creative outlet. So, they created a website called purduelala.com.
“It was a great way for us to practice our skills in journalism, photography and design, and by our second semester senior year, we had garnered a good following,” said Longest, a Carmel High School graduate. “We had a few girls at Purdue approach us about wanting to take the site over once we graduated, and also got interest from girls at other universities who wanted a Purdue lala for their campus We realized we had an opportunity to turn this site that had become our favorite hobby, into a business.”
So the duo built a website in May 2013 after graduating from Purdue and beta tested it for a year to gauge interest. Longest said response was “overwhelming” and officially launched the Lala in August 2014. The online magazine has contributors from 95 campuses around the world, including Paris, Germany, and Amsterdam.
“The site itself has developed into something that we are so proud of. We’ve recruited a team of 200 college women who create all the content on the Lala as well as 100 marketing and PR reps,” Longest said. “So our team alone has gone from just Katherine and I to 300 amazing college women who are thought leaders, creatives and marketing powerhouses.”
Powerhouses who have come to them, Longest said.
“When we launched the first site after graduation, we hand picked a few younger girls at Purdue to be our first contributors, but then from then on we just started receiving emails from girls all over the country asking how they could be a contributor for their schools,” she said. “It was all organic expansion through word of mouth and social media and that was so incredible to not only see that girls were loving the site and our mission, but they wanted to be a part of it. That’s probably the best compliment ever.”
Longest and Crowley just celebrated their one year anniversary of living in NYC – moving there March 1, 2014, and running the site full-time ever since.
“That summer after we graduated, we each moved back home to get our first site off the ground – I went back to Carmel and Katherine went back to Cape Cod and our parents were kind and supportive enough to let us use their kitchen tables as our temporary offices,” Longest said. “It was in December of 2013 that we entered into a business competition at the Entrepreneurship Advancement Center in Fishers hoping to further our business along.”
The competition was a nine weeklong workshop. Competitors were assigned a local business person to help guide them through building a business plan.
“We were assigned to Gerry Hays, a professor of startups at the Kelly School of business and the co-founder at Slane Capital,” Longest said. “We had always wanted to be in NYC because it’s really the digital media hub of the US, and had mentioned this to Gerry and he felt so strongly about our site that he told us he wanted to invest in our company and get us there.”
Staying motivated can be tough at times.
“But Katherine and I are just so in love with the Lala that we’re excited each day to wake up and do our job. Also, when you have a team of 300 of the most amazing college women working with you, that makes our job a dream,” she said. “But it is difficult to stay focused at times and we’ve just had to learn our working style and how we can be most productive. The beauty of working for yourself is that you can set your own schedule. So for me, I know that the time I have the most trouble concentrating is from 4 p.m. – 7 p.m., so I’ll normally take a break at that time, go for run, get groceries, make dinner, and then get back to work from 8 p.m. on.”
They may work a lot, Longest said, but it all boils down to loving what you do and finding a routine that works.
“Knowing where we see the Lala going in the next few years is the biggest motivator of all,” she said.
So, where is the Lala headed? Could a print magazine be down the road?
“For now we’re going to stay digital, but we see our brand extending into so many outlets. We’d love to do more physical campus events in the future, or a big annual retreat in NYC, or put on a Lala music and arts festival, or do a campus tour – the possibilities are endless,” she said. “We also see our brand extending into product hopefully soon through e-commerce and brand collaborations. And who knows maybe a book down the line. But right now our main goal is just to continue to spread the site and our mission to as many college women as we can and keep creating amazing content.”
Four tips for success
- A constant stream of coffee
- A great Spotify playlist
- “Making sure to do things as co-founders to create a good company culture helps,” Longest said.
- Step away from your to-do list every now and then to look at the bigger picture.
About Molly Longest
I was born in Munster, Indiana and moved to Carmel when I was 2-years-old.
Forest Dale Elementary
Clay Junior High
Carmel High School
I have two sisters, Lily, who is 26, and Sophie, who is 17 and a senior at Camel High School right now.
Do your parents still live in Carmel?
They do! In the same house we grew up in!
What did you enjoy most about growing up in Carmel?
I loved so many things about growing up in Carmel! My best experiences all came from school really. We’re so lucky to be in the school system that we are and have the opportunities that we do.
I was in show choir in high school (the Accents) and have so many fond memories of that time. I was also really involved in Student Government and just had a wonderful group of friends growing up. We’re all still really close today and every time I’m back in Indiana for holidays we all still get together and it’s like nothing ever changed.
What sort of child were you? Funny? Serious? Athlete?
I was a funny, creative and imaginative kid. I’m definitely the goofiest of all my siblings, and always had my hands in some kind of artistic project whether it was drawing, making jewelry, playing guitar, writing music, or putting together photo shoots with my friends.
I also had, and still have, quite the imagination. I think to be an entrepreneur you just have to because you have to be able to envision something that doesn’t already exist in order to make it happen.