CYstarters Spotlight: Ella Schulte

By Lindsey Murray | ISU Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship

CYstarters Spotlight: A 14-part series highlighting student entrepreneurs pursuing their business ventures as part of the CYstarters 2024 summer cohort. Through this program, students have the unique opportunity to prioritize the development of their own startup or business idea. Each individual receives $6,500 and access to resources such as mentorship, networking opportunities, and educational sessions on entrepreneurship and business startup.

Ella Schulte: Redefining Representation in Media with ‘You’

Imagine a space full of perfectly curated pillows. Rows and rows of them. An endless variety of textiles and patterns to choose from to satisfy any aesthetic. Next to the pillows are shelves full of vases and place settings, and beyond that, any other styling prop you can dream of to stage a beautiful interior for an in-house magazine photo shoot.

This setting is one that captured Ella Schulte’s imagination from a young age. Now a graduate student in journalism and mass communication at Iowa State University, Ella’s path has been inspired by a lifelong desire to pursue creativity and, more specifically, a career in the magazine industry. As she prepares to graduate in December 2024, her new business venture, “You,” stands to make a significant change within the digital media landscape.

Ella’s creativity has taken center stage in almost every aspect of her life for as long as she can remember. Growing up, she dreamed of working at Meredith Corporation (now Dotdash Meredith) after hearing rave reviews of the company from her family, who knew this would be a workplace that checked all her boxes. The aforementioned rows of staging props and pillows, in-house shoots, and endless opportunities for creativity captured Ella’s attention, planting the seed for her future career.

Following in her sister’s footsteps as a Cyclone, Ella attended Iowa State University, embracing the vibrant campus life while pursuing her goal of obtaining a spot in the Meredith Apprentice Program offered by the university. In the fall of 2022, Ella’s work paid off as she was selected to participate in the program. She would have the opportunity to connect with some of the most respected brands in the media industry.

After graduating in the spring of 2023, Ella was asked to stay on as the assistant editor for Traditional Home, a luxury home décor magazine at Meredith. She continues in this role today and is simultaneously pursuing a graduate degree at ISU.

Transforming a Class Project into a Viable Business Idea

Ella’s passion for writing and magazines culminated in the creation of a project called “Your” that she developed in JLMC 316 (Visual Communication Design). What began as an academic assignment evolved into a viable idea, thanks to the encouragement of her instructor, Sherry Berghefer. Sherry pushed Ella to continue working on this project as an independent study and eventually encouraged her to take the next step in her entrepreneurial journey and apply for the CYstarters program.

Ella’s product, officially renamed “You”, is a personalized digital publication that aims to represent those often overlooked by mainstream media. When utilizing the platform, users can select different categories of content that align with their interests to curate a personalized digital magazine. Ella hopes to create a space where each person can see themselves reflected in the content they are viewing. Whether it’s fashion, sustainability, or any niche interest, “You” curates diverse subjects into one cohesive, customized experience.

As she spends the summer focusing on developing her product, Ella shared how grateful she is for the opportunity to be a part of the CYstarters program. “It might sound silly, but part of why I stayed at Iowa State and went to grad school was so that I could have another shot at CYstarters. I missed applying as an undergrad and was excited to hear that grad students could be accepted to the program. I’m a person who, when I set my mind to something, I’m going to do it. So, I stayed another year with the hope that I would have this opportunity, and I’m so glad it worked out,” she reflects.

Entrepreneurship, for Ella, is about more than just business; it’s about combining grit with passion. She understands that creating this beauty requires hard work and determination.

Ella’s vision for “You” is to create a space where everyone feels seen and heard. She hopes to partner with existing publications to host their content on her platform, making it a comprehensive resource for diverse audiences. One goal for her publication is to challenge the stereotypical portrayal of beauty in the media—a portrayal that she often saw as damaging to herself and the people around her when she was growing up.

The challenges Ella has faced in the development of her business have been diverse, from breaking down her robust idea into manageable tasks to securing funding and resources. Through CYstarters, Ella has learned that she can bootstrap her project and that endless resources are available if she is willing to ask for help and open to receiving feedback.  By the end of the 11-week accelerator program, she aims to have a prototype of “You” ready to launch, starting with local content, and eventually expanding nationally.

Ella encourages others to dive into entrepreneurship wholeheartedly. “Do it 110%,” she advises, wishing she had known about the opportunities with the Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship earlier. Her story is a reminder that with passion, grit, and the right support, students can turn their innovative ideas into reality.

As Ella Schulte continues to build “You,” she is actively reshaping the digital media industry and creating a space where everyone can find something they love.