It all started in a San Francisco living room in 2005, where Lisa Sugar, CCAS ’98, began fueling her passion for celebrity, fashion, and beauty by writing a blog. At first, the blog was a secret, shared only with a handful of online followers. But when her fan base started to grow, both she and her husband identified her blogging success as a potential business opportunity. In April of 2006, they incorporated Sugar Inc., and POPSUGAR was on its way to becoming a reality.
Today, POPSUGAR, a well-known lifestyle media brand for women that delivers content on subjects such as celebrity, fashion, beauty, fitness, food, news, and parenting, garners a staggering 1.5 billion global monthly content views across video, social, and mobile.
“When I started writing in 2005, I was working in advertising and media, studying magazines,” says Lisa, now president and editor-in-chief at POPSUGAR. “There wasn’t much to read [about pop culture] online, and what was there wasn’t getting updated enough.” Within a year of starting her blog, she had a million readers, which gave her the confidence to leave her established career and start a company of her own. She was also pregnant with her first child, Katie, who was born three months later.
And yes, Lisa’s last name really is Sugar.
“Brian doesn’t even like desserts,” Lisa says of her husband and business partner, Brian Sugar, whom she met the first week of her freshman year at GW. “But I’m a total candy fanatic!” She loved the name, but she also loved the guy, and the two have been together ever since.
Beyond meeting her husband, Lisa describes her time at GW as “amazing,” and attributes her love of writing to some of the writing courses she took as a student. Majoring in psychology, she had initially anticipated she would pursue a career that involved psychological testing and an exploration of how the mind works. And even then, she assumed she would be running her own business by establishing a private practice.
“Graduating from GW is something I’m proud of,” she says. “It has well-equipped me to go out into the world. I didn’t study business, but I would encourage anyone to realize that a liberal arts major can also start companies.”
Liberal arts majors can write books, too, and Lisa has recently completed her first work of non-fiction. POWER YOUR HAPPY: Work Hard, Play Nice, and Build Your Dream Life (Dutton, September 20, 2016, $27), chronicles the story of how she and Brian built the POPSUGAR empire from the ground up, and how other people might use what she’s learned to chart their own career paths. On each page, Lisa shares the inside scoop on her pursuit of a happy and well-balanced life, while offering insights as to how readers might do the same.
“I’m always excited to give people answers,” she says about what motivated her to write the book. “I like helping people discover tools to be happy in life. I often get asked for career advice from 20-somethings who have just graduated, and I enjoy speaking to them about how to find their own happiness.”
Written in a friendly, engaging style, Power Your Happy encourages readers to explore multiple career options and to be okay with not knowing immediately upon graduation what the next step will be. “I hope my book helps people learn how to figure out what they want to do,” she says. “It wasn’t until I started experimenting in different fields that I learned for myself.”
The book offers tips on job hunting, advice on how to stay healthy, and guidance on gaining clarity about one’s true calling. For example, at the end of chapter one, Lisa challenges the reader by asking: What are you willing to wake up early for? What do you never get sick of talking about? What do friends come to you for advice on? What weird hobby did you have as a kid? Thought-starters like these are strategically placed throughout the narrative to help readers incubate new ways to look at the world—and themselves.
Clearly, Lisa gravitated toward her favorites things—psychology, writing, and pop culture—when she crafted her own dream life. And by building a career around what she loves to do, she has touched the hearts of many. “Once you write about things that make people happy—that they can relate to—you’re speaking a universal language,” she says.