When the founders of Betches penned their first blog post in 2011, they weren't looking to start an immensely popular millennial lifestyle brand. The three life-long friends - Jordana Abraham, Aleen Kuperman, and Samantha Fishbein - were seniors in college, and they were looking for an outlet to counter the glorification of bro and frat culture on campus - and to give a snarky voice to the women being drowned out by that particular form of male-driven ideology.
"We've known each other since we were 10 years old," Abraham said when I spoke to her, Kuperman, and Fishbein on Feb. 2. "We grew up in the same town, have been friends all the way through, and then ended up going to Cornell together. Senior year, we lived together - and one night, we decided to do something funny in response to this type of culture. We weren't trying to make a business, honestly. We were just trying to make funny commentary."
But what began as a humorous look at college life quickly expanded to encompass a viral Instagram presence, a book deal, and now, a daily destination for millions of like-minded women. The company now has its hands in every form of media out there today, yet the founders remain the beating heart of the Betches brand, integral to each and every aspect of the massive, multipronged media company they now run.
"It's been quite the ride for us," Kuperman noted. "None of us were really business people when we started, and a lot of it has been learning as we go, trial and error . . . but learning from our previous experiences while running the company has led us to where we are now."
Regardless of experience, what Betches has been doing is clearly working. The company is still 100 percent owned by the three founders, but now touts 13 full-time employees, an office in the Flat Iron district in New York City, four ongoing podcasts, and two books under its belt with a third underway. But it hasn't always been easy for the trio; when asked about the biggest challenge they've faced to date, Fishbein points to the current segmented media landscape and how difficult it can be to unify all of the platforms and extensions into one cohesive, consumer-friendly brand.
"At first we had the website, then there was the book, the podcasts, the shop - but our biggest Audience was always on Instagram, or at least the main platform that people were using. A lot of our audience only knew that we were on Instagram, but meanwhile we had all these brand extensions that we actually own - the website, the shop - that are also crucial revenue drivers to our business. One of the biggest challenges is connecting the audience - which is why we've refreshed the website, why it's so huge for us, because it's the first time that we've had everything in one place," she said.
That refreshed website is part of a 2018 rebranding effort that includes a new look, a new logo, and a brand-new website that supports its expanded vision and the growth of the company as a whole. It's also the tail end of a shift that has seen Betches pivot its priorities from being an ultrafamous Instagram account to becoming the media company it is now. And that enables the trio to expand into more event-based programming - happy hours, events, musical performances - as well as grow their partnerships across the corporate spectrum to attract the attention of industry investors.
Most importantly, though, the rebrand takes into account the fact that Betches was founded by three college students who are now three mature women - and that their audience has been along for the ride and has aged along with them.
"The last time we changed our logo was 2015, and we've changed a lot since then," Kuperman said. "Our audience has been growing up with us, and we wanted to show a little bit more maturity in the sense that it's very fresh and current. We changed it from all uppercase to all lowercase to reflect our colloquial voice and style and bold to reflect the same tone. For the website, we muted our pink a little bit to reflect that maturity. If you look at the top of the website, you'll see our logo, and then below that you'll have video, lifestyle, pop culture, The Sup - which is our new news and politics vertical - and podcats, books, and shop."
"Before, it was articles and things that we would write about in blog form, but now we can incorporate all of our brand extensions in one place," she added. "In terms of strategy, that's important for us because we own our website, we own 100 percent of the content, and we wanted to have one single place where all of those could live and intersect."
It's important to note, though, that while Fishbein, Kuperman, and Abraham now hold senior positions within the company that they founded, they're still very much involved with the day-to-day creation of the content that we consume and share and adore - and each one has a different aspect of the Betches brand that they're most proud of.
Fishbein says her point of pride can be found in "the fact that we're able to adapt a voice across so many platforms and keep the audience for so long," something that she attributes to "our ability to adapt to both the platform and the time, noticing that our audience demographically has gotten older, but that we've been able to essentially maintain their attentions by keeping that same voice and keeping it interesting."
For Kuperman, it's all about video - and reader engagement. "I'm really proud of our new videos and all the video content we've been producing. We have incredible engagement - not just on the videos, but across all of our social content, and it's been really, really exciting and rewarding to see our audience truly engaging and loving the things that we put out there in the exact same way they would when it was just the three of us writing articles out of our apartment."
Abraham also highlighted engagement, again noting the struggles of unifying the multiplatform Betches audience. "Our ability to leverage a large following on one platform and being able to use that to really increase the traffic and the awareness of all of our other platforms - that was something that we overcame, and that we've done really well and that we're really proud that we've moved past that."
But at the end of the day, the three founders of Betches are all about having fun, keeping it real, and doing what they love. "Don't look at what everybody else is doing," Kuperman said when I asked her what advice she would give to others looking for a way into the industry. "Comparing yourself to other people doesn't work when you have something truly unique. You can learn from other people, but don't compare yourself."
"You should look at the market and do something or say something that's different, that hasn't been seen or done before, because it's so easy to get into any space, to just start something," Abraham added. "But I think before anyone starts anything, what they really need to think about is what they're doing that nobody else is doing. It's great to have an opinion and share it - but differentiate yourself in the market."
Indeed, from where we stand, Betches is truly the epitome of differentiating yourself in the market. Once a creative outlet of three college seniors, the viral media brand is poised to take on the world - and we can't wait to see what Abraham, Kuperman, and Fishbein come up with next.