Without a doubt, Kate Beckman is one of the most influential women entrepreneurs at Syracuse University.
While she is finishing up the New Media Management graduate program at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Beckman looked back on her undergraduate experience studying at Newhouse’s magazine journalism program, being a #FemaleFounder, and evolving as a recognized expert on Gen Z and a national voice in the digital media world.
“Seeing the growth of entrepreneurial resources at Syracuse University is really inspiring,” Beckman says. “I am so glad that students with great ideas have access to a community of supportive students and mentors.”
Originally, from Wisconsin, Beckman has always been fascinated by the out-of-state college experience. When she arrived on campus, she noticed there were no student publications that specifically created content for incoming freshmen. Beckman had questions about how to live out the best Syracuse experience. She also wanted to know how other freshmen were doing. Beckman wasted no time, and launched a freshman publication that helped SU newbies navigate their new life away from home.
By sophomore year, Beckman recognized that the freshman experience was not necessarily unique to the Syracuse campus. She decided to expand her publication nationally, naming it Fresh U. Working closely with the Newhouse Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship, Beckman was able to create a business model to scale to other college campuses around the country. Fresh U quickly became a resource for students applying to college as well as a resource for freshmen when they first step onto campus.
By the time she graduated, she had built a media network with contributors and readers from more than 100 campuses. Today, Fresh U is a national digital hub with more than 400 student writers, and Fresh U regularly collaborates with Seventeen and Teen Vogue. Beckman was able to grow a small on-campus student publication into a trusted national media venture in just a few years. As part of her business model, she did extensive research on Generation Z, the generation born after the late 1990s, which comprise most college campuses. Her extensive insights rapidly positioned her as an expert on Gen Z – a cohort that brands want to reach because of its economic potential. This group makes up made up 25% of the U.S. population, making them a larger cohort than the Baby Boomers or Millennials. They are digital natives, social media savvy and an entrepreneurial cohort – with the ability and desire to sell to the world from their own home, co-working space or virtual storefront.
Because of her incredible work ethic, networking skills, and extensive research and social media background, Beckman has been able to drive Fresh U’s growth organically. Moreover, it is being noticed. She is frequently asked to speak about Gen Z. Beckman placed in the top “entrepreneurial eight” of Student Startup Madness at SXSW after winning Syracuse University’s campus competition in 2016. She won the Syracuse University ACC InVenture Prize competition in spring 2017, and was a top five finalist of the ACC InVenture Prize competition in Atlanta – pitching on stage, Shark-Tank style, in a live broadcast television production at Georgia Tech. This spring she will be competing in the campus iPrize Competition.
When Beckman was a freshman at Syracuse, entrepreneurship was siloed. Over her time here, she saw it knit together as a supportive ecosystem. When Beckman started working with the Blackstone LaunchPad at SU, she realized the value of a collaborative innovation hub that connects with the essential subject matter experts that are so vital to growing an idea into a venture. She loved the sense of community she found in a place that brought together so many disciplines and skill sets. She describes the LaunchPad as a student centered entrepreneurial space that allowed her to quickly grow her network, meet, and brainstorm her ideas with fellow peers more confidently.
As her graduation approaches in May 2018, Beckman is exploring strategic options. She is weighing how Fresh U evolves, how to expand partnerships with existing or new companies, and keeping an eye out for opportunities and incredible things that are always emerging in the rapidly changing digital media world. She knows how to find opportunity. More important, she knows how to create it. She is already a respected digital media mogul, and nothing is stopping her. Follow her journey, because she’s just get started and her star is rising.
Photo and story by Amanda Chou ‘18, Blackstone LaunchPad Global Media Fellow.