Juliette Brindak started a social networking site for tweens when she was 16, and it’s doing better than ever.
Miss O And Friends generates 10 million monthly visits, a twenty-fold increase from its inception in 2005. It’s also worth around $15 million, according to early investor Procter & Gamble.
When she was ten, Brindak drew characters for a set of five friends she called “Cool Girls,” who were all inspired by real-lifemain cool girl, Miss O, represents her younger sister Olivia. The set of “Cool Girls” would eventually become “Miss O And Friends.”
In the beginning — like many startups — Brindak reached out to family members and friends for investment money. Her mother, a graphic designer, brought her drawings to life while her father, who has a background in business, aided in the fundamentals of creating the company.
What started out as a few sketches on the way home from a family vacation quickly ballooned into a haven for millions of adolescents. The site was ranked the third largest girls-only Web site in 2011, according to Inc. Magazine.
From left: Hermine Brindak with Franny, Juliette, 21, co-founder and CEO of missoandfriends.com, Paul Brindak, and Olivia, 18, with Zooey, in their in home office, on Monday, August 2, 2010. Photo: Helen Neafsey
Now, at 23, Brindak isn’t as in tune with what tween girls are looking for, so she uses the site as an avenue to understand their needs. Through polls, quizzes, and the “Girl2Girl” wall, members are able to keep Brindak updated.
“In November 2011, girls were writing on the Girl2Girl wall asking if we could get them tickets to a One Direction concert. This was the first time we ever heard about One Direction and we were able to create a concert/sponsorship with Simon & Schuster’s ‘Dork Diaries’ books and winning tickets.”
She’s made it possible — through contests — for her users to see celebrities, such as Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers, in concert. Currently, she’s offering an all-expense paid trip to Canada for four lucky fans to see Taylor Swift’s show.
Through high school and college, the site has continued to improve. When it was originally launched, there was little more than a few catchy graphics. “There was a homepage, which had the five Miss O characters and simple flash animations,” Brindak says. “There was hardly anything to it, but it was definitely a start.” Now the site boasts message boards, quizzes, games, music, and more.
But managing the site as a college student at Washington University in St. Louis was no easy task.
“One teacher, who ironically was an entrepreneur and taught my class on social entrepreneurship, was the only one who wouldn’t budge about dates. I had a final on the same day I had to fly out to California for a really important meeting and he said that if I missed it, I would get an entire letter grade taken off my final grade. Luckily, the meeting got moved, but I was so shocked about his reaction.”
Instead of the typical business majors most entrepreneurs study, Brindak decided to focus on Anthropology and Public Health because her site revolves around women health issues.
“I was able to learn so much about cultures around the world and also become informed and aware about different ways that I can reach out to women,” Brindak says. “The goal for the site was, and still is, to help young girls build confidence and self-esteem.”
To share her users’ stories with the world, Brindak published the book Miss O & Friends: Write On! The Miss O & Friends Collection of Rockin’ Fiction, a compilation of user-submitted stories. Brindak tells us she plans on publishing more books in the near future.
“We started off with a business plan that we have used as our guide, but that business plan is always changing. We continue to find new ways to engage girls, to generate revenue, and new outlets that are appropriate for Miss O and our community.”