When Catherine Cook and her brother, David, were growing up in New Jersey, they used to set up little libraries in their house and rent out books to their parents for a small charge. By the time they were in high school, they had launched the social networking site myYearbook.com with a $250,000 investment from their older brother Geoff.
Today, Catherine is a 20-year-old junior at Georgetown University in Washington, DC and myYearbook.com has over 20 million members. Between studying marketing, operations and information management, and psychology, Catherine finds time to take the train up to myYearbook’s HQ in Pennsylvania a few times a month.
There, eighty employees are working hard to make myYearbook the premier way to meet new people online through ice-breaking games and features. It’s working: myYearbook is ranked in the top 25 most trafficked websites in the United States according to comScore and it pulls in 20 million dollars in yearly revenue.
As co-founder, Catherine Cook keeps busy developing new features and leading myYearbook into the future of social networking. She’s also an active myYearbook user and every new member’s first friend.
The following is a short excerpt from 50 Interviews: Young Entrepreneurs (Volume 1).
Q: What drove you above and beyond, towards entrepreneurship?
A: A big part of it was the way that my parents brought us up. We were always taught to be leaders. For instance, if we didn’t know what a word meant, we had to look it up in the dictionary. Our parents weren’t going to just tell us. It’s that kind of thing: do it yourself and find your own path.
One of the things that drove us directly to entrepreneurship was seeing our older brother do it. Geoff, who’s 11 years older than me, started a company at Harvard during his sophomore year.
At the time, Dave and I were 9 and 10. Seeing him have a company, watching it grow, and living with him over the summers in California – it was just such a different environment than our parents’ work. The energy was a lot cooler. It was just better. Later, Geoff became our first investor and he stepped in as CEO.
Q: How have people around you reacted to your success?
A: It’s not like I try to keep a cover, but I don’t really talk about it. If I bring it up in conversation, it becomes the conversation. Of course, I love to talk about it. But I don’t want to feel like I monopolize the conversation.
My freshman year of college, no one knew except for my best friend. She didn’t realize how many hours I put into the site every night. I’m on the site late at night and I also tend to be an early riser. So, when we started living together, she was like, “You never sleep!”
There’s a guy who works at our cafeteria, swiping students in. He sees me every day because I eat at the cafeteria. Somewhere around November, he’s like, “You’re the girl who created myYearbook, right?” Apparently he’s a member. It’s fun to meet people who use the site.
I made all of my friends in Georgetown get accounts. C’mon – they’re my friends, so they have to support what I do! Now they’re on the site all the time. The casual game section is really big with them and at least one of my friends gets on the high score list every week. I can never get onto the high score list! They’re really good at it.
Q: Anything else you would like to add?
A: If you’re first idea doesn’t work out, just try something new. Tweak the idea a little bit and it could make a world of difference. Go for your goals. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it. Lots of people told us that we couldn’t: “Three million members? You’ll never get that.” Now, we have 22 million members. If you have a gigantic goal, you don’t have to get all of the way to it to be a major player.
This is an abridged version from Catherine’s interview in our latest project, 50 Interviews: Young Entrepreneurs. I told my entrepreneurship class full of high schoolers that I was going to be interviewing Catherine and they were like, “No way!” One girl preceded to tell all of her friends over the next week, and they were equally impressed. Catherine’s entrepreneurial journey is truly remarkable and it’s just the beginning. Find me on myYearbook!
Catherine Cook’s Top Quotes
“To any entrepreneur: if you want to do it, do it now. If you don’t, you’re going to regret it.”
“If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not making decisions.”
Want even more inspiration?
Don’t miss 38 more inspirational quotes from crazy-young kids like Catherine:
40 Entrepreneurship Quotes You’ve Never Heard >>