Think your ‘Gram game is on point? Think your beauty routine is unrivaled? For these two students, upping their glam and repping their social media is a full–time job. Sophie Rose (W' 19) and Morgan Brown (W' 18) are girl bosses in the making. They both built their empire on social media, proving that the beauty business is more than skin–deep.
Fun Fact: Sophie Rose is not a good hair braider. Yet, she is the owner of @Instibraid, an Instagram account dedicated to hairstyles and hair tutorials. She started the account her sophomore year of high school along with her friend Shir in 2012. This was only two years after Instagram was founded in 2010.
“It was really just a joke," Sophie said. "Shir would always sit behind a girl in class and braid her hair and take weird photos of her hair in class. At that time, she had a lot on her phone, and we said let's just throw these on Instagram. The first few were just random photos of people in class with us, and then we said we should actually try to make something out of this.”
Quickly, her account gained followers as Instagram grew as a social media platform, and the account made the switch to posting professional and celebrity photos of people like Blake Lively. Well before Kardashians started hocking detox tea on Instagram, Sophie saw the business opportunities the account could bring. “We were working with a ton of companies big and small. We had a huge partnership with Redken, they would send up products, and we would integrate them into our photos. It was a beneficial advertising campaign. Our biggest campaign was with a company Fave4, they had a one month takeover of our account. They paid a couple thousand dollars to take over our account.”
At their peak, Instibraid had 1.1 million followers and celebrity fans like Emmy Rossum and Paris Hilton. That was when Sophie knew she had really made it: “It was little things like that. When you would compare numbers, and we had more followers than Kendall Jenner at a point.”
Up until this point, Sophie and Shir remained anonymous, going by S&S on their account. It was not until they revealed themselves on an appearance on Good Morning America that their fans knew their true identity. “We had a choice at that moment to turn the celebrity route and go forward with our faces. In order to truly achieve success on Instagram, you need a brand behind you. Even if you look at @thefatjewish or @girlwithnojob, they have a voice and a face behind their account. Neither of us really wanted that, and I don’t regret that whatsoever.”
Sophie owes to her account’s success to “timing, luck, and having an early understanding of how to play the Instagram game.” But she also spent hours over the years building up the account. During her gap year, which she spent in Israel, she was located in the same city as Shir, who had moved there during high school. “We made the most of it because we were finally in the same city. That’s when we focused on the Youtube channel and created braiding tutorials and focused on building our blog. I was spending 10–15 hours at least, bare minimum engaging with the account followers, reaching out to possible companies to work with, dealing with sponsorships, etc.”
Originally, the account was titled Instabraid, so it encountered legal trouble when Instagram banned the use of Insta– or –Gram in account handles. The issue was debated heavily, as Sophie had already copyrighted the name Instabraid. “They had a lawyer reach out to us threatening to shut down our account if we did not change our name. We settled; we would call our account @Instibraid as it was the closest sounding thing to Instabraid. Being that we had a blog, a Youtube channel, and a website all under Instabraid, we only changed it on our Instagram.”
Looking forward, Sophie is open to getting help in managing her account. “I really still consider bring on a manager. If people are looking, I am happy for them to approach me. I would love someone close to home or school with me who would take it on. If we could find a way to turn it around and bring it back, it would be an amazing year and a half left of school.”
Now almost finished with her marketing concentration in Wharton, Sophie sees the connections between her classwork and her account. “There is definitely a lot of 'wow' moments that gave me an understanding of what went well, why we gained our momentum, why we gained followers. There was so much potential in this account and there still is so much potential.”
Beauty guru, comedian, and lifestyle vlogger Morgan Brown does it all. She began her digital domination on Instagram, posting makeup looks and “Outfits of the Day before Outfits of the Day was a thing.” Soon, her following expanded beyond friends and family. She launched her Youtube Channel ItsHeyMorgan in 2014. With a background in performing arts, Morgan creates content for her subscribers ranging from silly “Build a Bigger Butt” tips to heart–wrenchingly personal stories. With a marketing concentration in Wharton, she has fine–tuned her own personal brand, which she credits as the secret to her success.
“When I was not showing me or my personality, my growth was going nowhere," Morgan said. "I had to genuinely be myself. Audience is very important and that’s how you are successful in a social media space. I am making content for them.”
Now with over 562,000 subscribers, Morgan is a part of the Youtube Partner Program which monetizes advertisements shown on her videos. On the weekends, Morgan consults companies looking to expand their social media presence. Her “bread and butter,” however, comes from sponsorships and collaborations on her Youtube videos: “We get so many emails on the daily. As your own brand, you decide what you want to do. I have to see what fits with me. You can tell right off, as a black women with naturally curly hair, it says a lot about me, and who would fit with me or my audience.”
Recently, Morgan has worked with mega–brands Urban Outfitters and Garnier, but her favorite project was for MTV's Video Music Awards. “I was doing red carpet hosting. I thought: look at where this little online platform got me, walking with Beyoncé and P. Diddy.”
Morgan carefully selects her projects to align with her personal brand and beliefs. After Morgan published a collaboration with an unnamed partner, the company came under fire for racism. While fans acknowledged that her campaign was planned months in advance, many of Morgan's subscribers looked to her for a response. “I didn’t do a public statement about it, but did it conflict with my own personal values? Absolutely. Later, the company reached out because the campaign went so well…I absolutely could not do it. Because of the actions of the brand, I decided no.”
Morgan owes her business acumen to her late father, who inspired her to attend Wharton. “He was in business himself, and I was daddy’s little girl. When I got older, I opened myself up to other markets, and I discovered other parts of myself. When I told him I decided I didn’t want to take this traditional route, he said he was most proud of me in that moment for recognizing what I want most in life.”
Morgan’s social media business allowed her to be financially independent while in school. However, Morgan never considered pulling a Zuckerberg and dropping out, even when balancing school and work makes her feel like she would “almost explode every week.”
“I’m not always going to make Youtube videos," she said. "There’s an end point. I am Morgan Brown the person and Morgan Brown the business women. I need school for Morgan Brown. I knew I needed to finish it, especially after losing my father. He sent me that message, that you are going to finish this.”
For both of these beauty bloggers, the future looks bright—even brighter than their bomb highlighter.