During high school, Natalie Dickinson started a Tumblr blog called “We Are the Kids” where she wrote about her effort to make connections and get internships in the music industry. She’s since amassed a loyal following—some 55,000 readers and counting—and now is a communications studies major at Northeastern, where she’s developing a business plan for the blog with guidance from faculty and IDEA, Northeastern’s student-led venture accelerator. We asked Dickinson to describe this journey and what lessons she’s learned along the way.
What made you start your blog, and how did you get to where you are now?
One of my inspirations for We Are The Kids was and still is a website/community/philosophy called “Earn It Yourself”. A few years back, its founder Sarah Saturday was hosting “EIY Meet-ups” during each date of the warped tour across the country for people in a city to discuss the current state of their music scene, while getting input and advice from music industry mentors on the tour. The connections and advice I received from attending one of these meet-ups drove me to create a meeting ground for all of the other youth who are trying to come up and make names for themselves. Over time, the site grew through word of mouth. Now, the tumblr editorial staff is featuring it, and my audience has grown exponentially.
What were the biggest lessons you learned while trying to build your community?
This may sound simple, but through making We Are The Kids, I have been able to forge a path for myself in the music industry. This work has helped me get jobs at local music venues and on tour, along with making valuable connections through my site. Looking back at what I’ve accomplished so far, I realized that one of the best ways to break into an industry is to make a job for yourself, if there isn’t one already. I like to think of We Are The Kids as a path or job that I made for myself, even though I didn’t know it at the time. Now I encourage others to do the same and follow their interests, because you never know where your ideas will take you.
How has Northeastern helped you along the way?
Northeastern has opened up my eye to a world of possibilities for the future. We Are The Kids was always something I did outside the classroom—and it wasn’t something I ever talked about much in school. Once I became vocal about the site to a few professors things snowballed. I realized that people are legitimately interested in my project, and also genuinely passionate enough about my site to want to help me. In particular, Bob Lyons, a visiting faculty member in the College of Arts, Media and Design, has become a really strong mentor for me. We meet almost every week, and he’s helped me to evaluate the main purpose of We Are The Kids, and how I can take it to the next level and even build a business model around it. Dan Gregory in the D’Amore-McKim School of Business has also been spotlighting We Are The Kids with the IDEA program. I don’t think many schools can zone in on such a specific project that one student is doing, take such a strong interest in it, and then actively help that student move that project forward.