Thursday, December 6, 2012

A Conversation with Sarah Schupp, Founder of University Parent Media

By Amanda Barrell

Parents sending their children off to college can be very daunting. Whether students are going 20 minutes or 2,000 miles away, parents are often unaware of the resources available to their students at school. While eager high school seniors have a lot to look forward to with the new and exciting experiences of college, parents are left wondering how they can help once their kids aren’t at home anymore. Many parents struggle in toeing the line between being overbearing “helicopter parents,” hovering over the student’s every move, or giving too much distance while their student struggles to adapt to life at college. 

Sarah Schupp, a Dallas native, and her family had been coming to Colorado for vacations and ski trips for years before she decided to attend college at the University of Colorado Boulder in 2000. As a student, Schupps specialized in the marketing and entrepreneurship management program through CU’s Business school and participated in the President’s Leadership Class. 

During her time at CU, Schupp noticed a gap in the information about resources that help students support their students while at school. With this in mind, Schupp, along with a few of her entrepreneurship program classmates, found the inspiration to make a change. For her senior project, Schupp created a resource for parents called University Parent Media to help inform them about everything from tuition deadline dates and financial aid to restaurants, activities and other things to do in their student’s college town.

Schupp acknowledged that starting UPM had its share of seemingly insurmountable problems. From HR issues to increasing cash flow, Schupp faced no shortage of challenges, but she overcame them through perseverance.

“I just had to keep going and overcoming small obstacles,” Schupp said.

Despite the challenges and setbacks, Schupp had a clear passion and dedication for the goal that she and University Parent Media were working toward, which ultimately led to UPM’s success. 

Young professionals in the Boulder area can learn a lot from the example set by Schupp’s dedication to University Parent Media. Given the nature of her company, it is essential for Schupp to reach out and interact with members of the communities which UPM features. Schupp works with university officials to engage with local community resources to provide material for each edition of the guidebook. 

Additionally, Schupp and her team work with various local businesses in order to build solid relationships and facilitate advertising sales for the guidebooks. Her largest advertisers are local hotels and Dell Inc.

Eight years after it’s founding, University Parent Media now reaches over 200 campuses and millions of parents every year, with new schools being added every month. UPM has published guidebooks, an email newsletter and a new website with helpful information for parents. 

“It’s so exciting,” said Schupp. “90% of the time our work is changing, but I’m rewarded in hearing the impact UPM has had on parents, schools, and the local community.” 

In 2011, ColoradoBiz Magazine chose the company as one of the Top 100 Women-Owned Colorado Businesses. In 2012, Inc. Magazine featured UPM on their “30 Under 30” list of America’s coolest young entrepreneurs.

Schupp credits her staff with the company’s success: “I’m really proud of our team.  We rely on everyone’s contribution to make us successful.” 

Learning about the university system has been one of the biggest accomplishments since starting the business.  “I’ve gotten to learn about how higher education works,” said Schupp. From the admissions process and financial aid to extracurricular activities and weekend events around town, Schupp has gained unique knowledge about all facets of university life. 

“I recently attended a conference put on by AHEPPP (the Association of Higher Education Parent/Family Program Professionals), and it was really interesting to get an inside view of the challenges facing schools,” said Schupp.

Looking to the future, Schupp and University Parent Media continually strive for ways to achieve their goals and increase their presence at schools across the country. In December they will launch a brand new mobile website, in addition to bringing on new schools every month. Schupp’s other goals for University Parent Media include providing information for 1,000 schools across the country, increasing their email list to one million recipients and making it onto Inc. Magazine’s “5,000 Top Fastest Growing Companies” list.