Graduate Student Spotlight: From Classroom to Blog

Necel (left) and Borelli with fruit favorites
Necel (left) and Borelli with fruit favorites

The idea for VegScoop.com, a news and recipe site about vegetarianism, began as an assignment in Professor Edward Reiner’s Multimedia Financial Analysis class, a graduate course at NYU’s Center for Publishing. Students were asked to work on financials for a new media venture. So, we decided to identify and research the needs of a niche, highly engaged audience. We found that vegetarians are actively searching for news and recipes on the web, but often unable to find a reliable source. Most websites within the vegetarian landscape are outdated, unprofessional and/or difficult to navigate. We felt there was a need for a site that helps users wade through all the clutter and provides vegetarians with accurate, up-to-date information on all things veg-friendly.

With guidance from Ed and other professors and many hours of hard work on WordPress, VegScoop.com was born.

Since it went live six weeks ago, VegScoop has received more than 3,000 page views and has a growing, loyal following. To widen our audience, we’re using social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to promote VegScoop.  We’ve also set up RSS feeds and actively engage in conversations with our friends and followers. In fact, we met two UK vegetarians on Facebook who are now blogging for the site on a monthly basis. Communication with the vegetarian population is a must: after all, market research, as we learned in our Intro to Marketing class, is crucial to the success of a business. With this is mind, VegScoop is actively asking the vegetarian community for advice on what type of content they’re most interested in. Responses are pouring in and users as far away as India and Singapore are sending us messages on Facebook about their favorite vegetables!

Now that we have an engaged audience, we are starting to monetize our site through advertising and e-commerce. We’ve joined the Technorati ad network, as well as Amazon.com’s affiliate program. Already, we’re selling vegan and vegetarian cookbooks on Vegscoop.com.

The next step will be an e-commerce, vegetarian grocery store. (One of the biggest complaints of the vegetarian population is that eating healthily is often too expensive.) Organic foods and fresh produce, two staples in a vegetarian household, are a great deal more expensive than other grocery store options. In order to become both a solution-provider and a one-stop-shop for the vegetarian population, VegScoop would like to partner with a bulk distributor to provide a cost-efficient grocery shopping experience for their customers.

Creating an online business from scratch has been an incredibly rewarding experience. Each of us has a background in large media companies. In fact, we’ve worked together for several years at Meredith Corporation on titles such as Ladies’ Home Journal and Better Homes and Gardens. We both agree that collaborating on a small business is exciting, and also a little intimidating: the business is a direct result of the time and effort we put forth. At the end of the day, if we don’t post something, nothing gets posted! So, does this post count??

by Catherine Borelli and Sofia Necel

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