Julia Haber ’18 embodies entrepreneurship. She is not only a learner and a connector, she is a doer. And she’s making waves. In fact, a very big WAYV.
This year, Haber created WAYV, a company that provides immersive experiences that bring the essence of brands directly to students in their own backyards. Haber knows that nothing is more important than experiential marketing. “Understanding the consumer is your very first step,” she says. “If you can understand how to build brand affinity with a consumer, your brand will start to mean something.”
As a senior studying advertising with an emphasis in new business and branding at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and minoring psychology at the College of Arts and Science, Julia has made a study of how consumers relate to brands. It inspired her to completely re-imagine what an immersive brand experience could be. “The idea started because Millennials and Gen Z want to share momentous elements in their everyday college life on social media,” says Haber, who interned at Snapchat in Los Angeles last summer. “They want to have a fun time with their friends and post cool posts, but at the end of the day, know that the brands they are investing in also cares about what they are saying.”
That insight helped her create WAYV – a venture that tricks out portable storage spaces as immersive popup retail spaces to give brand partners in retail, tech and content creation a space to engage with college students. She pulled together a diverse student team, with skill sets in finance, retail, marketing and technology, based at Harvard University, Tufts University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
WAYV will launch with an exciting beta test with Rent the Runway this April at Syracuse University. From there, Haber plans on taking WAYV to east coast college campuses after she graduates in May 2018. WAYV plans to build audiences of influencers on campuses by engaging them in these immersive popup experiences, as they bring them to different universities. Her scale-up plan includes developing WAYV at a premier accelerator program in a major metropolitan area this summer.
Haber firmly believes that there is nothing more meaningful than in-person communication. “Millennials and Gen Z really love the popup shop culture because they crave sharing and participation with brands.”
As one of the pioneers of student entrepreneurship on the Syracuse University campus, Haber is no stranger to the popup shop culture. She organized the very first student popup shop in 2015 co-sponsored by AT&T. Serving as a retail space for students and retailers to open temporary stores in Marshall Square Mall, the project was a huge hit. Haber also started VISION, a creative club funded by Adobe that allows students to explore innovative ideas. The club catalyzed the Bump the Mumps event last fall and engaged with more than 20,000 people in just two hours. At the height of the mumps outbreak on the SU campus, VISION provided care packages including hand sanitizer and hot chocolate. Bump the Mumps was an incredible VIRAL event that educated the student body on good hygiene practices to prevent mumps from spreading further.
To say that Haber is deeply rooted in the entrepreneurial space at SU is an understatement. In 2015, when she was just getting to know the resources SU had to offer as she was putting together the popup shop in Marshall Square Mall, she realized there had to be better way to unite the different entrepreneurship programs into one place. Working with campus entrepreneurship leaders in the following months, she became the student brand ambassador that helped Syracuse secure designation as a Blackstone LaunchPad by the Blackstone Charitable Foundation. She traveled to NYC for the funding announcement in fall 2015, and was there to help cut the ribbon in April 2016, when the Blackstone LaunchPad at Syracuse University opened its doors.
“People have ideas, and they need a centralized space with resources to turn their ideas into action,” Haber says. “This is that place.”
Photo and story by Amanda Chou ‘18, Blackstone LaunchPad Global Media Fellow.