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The Huntington News

The independent student newspaper of Northeastern University

The Huntington News

The independent student newspaper of Northeastern University

The Huntington News

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How a Northeastern student’s inclusive start-up aims to redefine the workplace

Shirley+Wang+poses+for+a+photo+while+tabling+at+a+networking+and+holiday+marketplace+event+in+fall+of+2023.+Wang+founded+Hackrah+Media+as+an+inclusive+Gen+Z-led+marketing+agency.+Photo+courtesy+Shirley+Wang.
Shirley Wang poses for a photo while tabling at a networking and holiday marketplace event in fall of 2023. Wang founded Hackrah Media as an inclusive Gen Z-led marketing agency. Photo courtesy Shirley Wang.

When Shirley Wang started her business, she had very specific goals in mind for her colleagues: She wanted them to come together, embrace their identities and grow their skills. A self-described proud Gen Z entrepreneur, Wang knew her budding business could be a safe space for young, diverse individuals to explore their interest in advertising and find success in the business landscape. 

Wang is the founder of Hackrah Media, a Gen Z-led marketing agency that works alongside businesses that share their values and goals for their community. The company works internally to support environments that are inclusive and accessible, and the integration of Black people, Indigenous people and people of color is at the forefront of its business model. 

When Wang, a second-year business administration major, moved to the U.S., she hoped it would be an opportunity to expand her horizons and dream big. But it wasn’t that simple. Wang struggled when her identity and background became an obstacle in an exclusive, and at times discriminating, work environment. 

“Coming to the U.S. as an international student and as a woman of color left me feeling very isolated on my school campus and throughout the community,” Wang said. “I then saw that a lot of my peers and friends, people from underrepresented communities, also felt the same way.”

Wang’s experience inspired her to create a diverse, supportive community that helps other initiatives get off the ground.

“For me, I found it to be such a rare opportunity to join a Gen-Z impact marketing agency made up of BIPOC team members,” said Elaine Chang, Hackrah’s COO, and a third-year business administration and psychology combined major. “Everyone is extremely knowledgeable, driven and open-minded; I’ve been able to learn so much despite only having been part of Hackrah for a few months.”

Hackrah Media offers several services like social media management, content creation and brand strategy. A unique aspect of the business is its focus on “impact marketing,” which its website describes as highlighting a company’s positive impact on its community or industry.

“I built this team from the ground up and it was all about finding people who were, first of all, dedicated to our mission,” Wang said “We have impact screening criteria because we are not just any marketing agency, we specifically and only help mission-driven, impact-first organizations — so people that look like us and founders who look like us.”

Wang pitches Hackrah Media at the Women’s Interdisciplinary Society of Entrepreneurship WeLaunch PItch Night in fall of 2022. The business has put a strong focus on impact marketing. Photo courtesy Shirley Wang.

Hackrah Media harbors an inclusive workspace community, aiming to create a “nurturing safe space for Gen Z talent,” according to its website

“Hackrah Media’s values and purpose hold high significance for me as my parents are immigrants who owned a small business—the first Japanese restaurant in my hometown,” said Chang. “Growing up with this background has made me passionate about supporting businesses of underrepresented founders, especially ones that aim for a purpose beyond profit, whether it be through music, education, or even food.”

The name “Hackrah” comes from an original fictional character from an unpublished story Wang wrote. The name “represents a young individual with a knack for creative mischief. It was a clear embodiment of Hackrah as a creative agency: bold and unafraid to break the status quo,” according to the company’s website.

Currently, Hackrah Media is partnered with seven local businesses, including Yi Fang Taiwan Fruit Tea, Y+ Bar & Cafe and Wally’s Cafe Jazz Club. The advertising company works to highlight these businesses’ unique perspectives and backgrounds by creating brand identity.

“Their innovative approach to connecting people and fostering meaningful interactions sets them apart, making them a standout in the social media landscape,” said Frank Poindexter, the General Manager of Wally’s Cafe Jazz Club in a statement to The News. 

Wang said that the team is excited to “give back” to the local community and support diverse businesses. Their mission is reflected in their clients’ range of backgrounds — one of their first clients, Wang said, was a Black-owned business. 

Wang’s ambition is not limited to the greater Boston area. She hopes to expand nationally, bringing young and diverse perspectives to businesses across the U.S.

“[We want to be] able to expand nationally and connect with more businesses and organizations — Hackrah wants to tell their stories,” Wang said.

This story was updated at 1:15 p.m. Feb. 16 to correct the title of Elaine Chang from CFO to COO of the company.

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