Carey Flack is not your average college student. While studying at the University of Oklahoma, she created Room Swap, a nationwide mobile housing platform that allows students to offer up their housing leases or find roommates for off-campus living. The void filling business she launched inside her dorm provided a service that college students literally couldn’t live without. As a result, the entrepreneur was featured in the May issue of Seventeen magazine! She took a quick break from housing college students in nearly every state to chat with us about her new and booming business, and the seeds she planted to watch it grow.
What inspired you to create RoomSwap?
I started Room Swap after coming back from my first internship with Country Living. I'd never lived off of campus before, and I had absolutely no idea where I should sign a lease. When I posted on my university's housing page looking for a place, I found so many people who were stuck in their lease and desperate for me to sublet their room! I loved the feeling of helping a campus peer who needed out, and also meeting my roomies before ever moving in. What I didn't know until after starting Room Swap was the number of financially independent and first generation students who would depend on my website. My clients inspired me to make this website happen.
As a college student, how did you juggle school, a social life and launching a business?
It's definitely a challenge sometimes! There were many moments where I skipped parties or social outings because I'm just so busy! These days, I try to make as much as time as possible for fun as I do work. Life is meant to be enjoyed at every stage, and it takes is a little balance and time management. I find that keeping myself on a schedule and staying on top of school work keeps everything else in sync for me.
At what point in your college career did you decide that you wanted to leave your pre-med major and focus on entrepreneurial possibilities?
When I got the opportunity to intern with Country Living Magazine in New York, I realized that pursuing a career in medicine, although very prosperous, was just not a good fit for me. At the time, I already had years of experience in photography, and had even gone to art shows for my work. I think one day I just woke up in my dorm and realized that it's okay for my life to be centered around creativity and media, instead of science and math.
We can do work that is just as valuable, impactful, and important in our chosen field if we try hard enough; thankfully more young people are beginning to feel that way.
What advice would you give to other high school or college students who want to become an entrepreneur, but are unsure?
I'd say just go for it. If you're unsure of what to pursue, think of problems in the world or in your community that you'd love to solve, and then start the brainstorming from there! Having a great team also helps in pushing the idea forward and holding yourself accountable. But definitely do what you love and the rest will follow!
If you had not created Room Swap, what else would you have wanted to create?
I consider myself very lucky because I've had the opportunity to explore so many different creative mediums. If I hadn't done Room Swap, I would've probably dug deeper into documentary-style photography (think Humans of New York) or maybe even filmmaking. I also love to paint too. I know I would've found myself tied up in some sort of creative project or endeavor!
What was it like working with Elle Magazine and being featured as Seventeen Magazine's "Power Girl"?
Interning with ELLE Magazine was life-changing. When I first found out I got the internship, I screamed! And then called my sisters right away.
I loved playing a part in making the ELLE issues come to life. Because I interned in the photography department, I had the opportunity to gather images, which often meant sifting through New York and Milan Fashion Week trends and reaching out to high profile publicists. I organized model profiles, curated vision boards for spreads, and even arranged travel! The whole experience was really cool. And to top it off I had great bosses who exposed me to exciting aspects of the industry.
Growing up, Seventeen was my go-to magazine. It was where I went for dating advice, back-to-school fashion, and life inspiration. To see myself within the pages of a magazine that I loved for so many years is humbling. It still doesn't feel real! I hope my feature inspires other girls of all backgrounds to follow their dreams and know that they can really do anything. All you have to do is make that first step.
In your opinion, how much does a healthy lifestyle contribute to a person’s overall success?
Staying healthy is so, so important. Between school, business projects, and a social life I've found myself strapped for time more often than not. And when you're always busy, you're almost always stressed. Packing healthy foods to snack on in between classes, and finding time to workout or just enjoy the fresh air has helped me stay far so much more productive and motivated.
What are some fun ways you like to stay active?
My favorite (and quite frankly funniest) way that I stay active is riding bright red, my scooter, to class! Not only do I break a sweat but I get a nice little energy boost, and tons of smiles from my light-hearted peers on the way. It's definitely a great way to stay active and build up those endorphins!
What was the first healthy meal you ever learned to make?
My favorite meal is always breakfast. I grew up cooking it for dinner all the time and when I got to college - nothing changed! I love combining eggs, sausage, avocado, and cheese into a pita bread sandwich. It's super filling and easy to eat while walking to class!
What book are you currently reading?
Lately, I've been reading the classics. I just finished Catcher In The Rye, which was really, really nice to read again. Frederick Douglass's autobiography was also really moving for me. I'd recommend everyone to read it! He was such an interesting and inspiring person.
If you had to write a book based on your life, what would it be titled?
Oh man, that's a hard one! It'd probably be titled "The Girl Who Flew". Super cheesy but my friends always tell me that I'm really happy and free-spirited, and I feel like based on how I live my life, this title fits me perfectly!
Where do you see yourself in five years?
To be honest, I'm not sure where I see myself in five years. In the last year - and even in the last six months - my life has changed drastically! I would say though that staying creative, constantly learning, and empowering others will always be important to me! And I hope to continue creating brands and missions that support that.
Also, most people don't know this about me, but I'm a writer too. I'd love to have a poetry book or short series published by that time!
What is one motivational quote that you live by?
"The world of reality has its limits; the world of imagination is boundless" this always inspires me to stay creative in whatever I do, and to help push for a world that not only changes lives, but makes opportunity, and surprises, possible.
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