This weekend marked entrepreneur Lauren Conrad’s 29th birthday. In some ways, it feels like we’ve grown up with Conrad. We watched her on Laguna Beach and then The Hills (and then this summer we watched the reruns every morning when we got up, or was that just me?) and now we get to see all the work she’s doing with LaurenConrad.com and her new company The Little Market.

We’ve watched Lauren Conrad evolve from drama queen teen (sorry LC, we know it was encouraged) to a smart, young professional woman with a great head on her shoulders. She’s managed to go from a reality star to running an empire with her many books, fashion lines, crafting, and advice columns for various magazines and web sites (including Forbes.com), as well as major sponsorship from companies including Old Navy, AT&T, and Avon’s Mark cosmetics.

She’s done a few television appearances here and there, but she’s stayed away from making that a part of her career. She didn’t want to fall back on her celebrity status, and in fact, Lauren had to work extra hard to prove she was more than just a celebrity. She told Lucky Magazine last year:

The TV show did not help my reputation very much. It was difficult to be taken seriously, but I think the fact that I went to school to study fashion and worked in the industry helped me. I think it’s a good thing to feel like you have to prove something, because you’re always going to have to work a little bit harder.

Clearly her hard work has paid off. Lauren’s now a well respected designer, author, and entrepreneur. She’s even been compared to Martha Stewart, in terms of marketing her skill sets, creativity, and personality. In a recent interview with Stylecaster she said, “I think the thing is that I’ve been very fortunate in my career. There’s not a business or a master plan as far as I’m concerned. I take it week by week, and I don’t think you ever expect to be able to do the next thing. At the moment, I think we’re really lucky. I get to do a lot of things that I really love. I work really hard, and it’s important I enjoy doing all of them.”

Here are 7 reasons we admire Lauren Conrad and her career:

1. You can’t say Conrad just dabbled in writing with eight books under her name.

2. Yes, not many interns had camera crews following them, but Lauren had to work as an intern for a long time. “Having a few internships under your belt before making any major career decisions is crucial. I cannot stress that enough,” she has said.

3. Instead of going with a high-end boutique, Conrad went to Kohl’s. She made her clothes affordable and accessible, which has always been her style.

4. Unlike many of her castmates, Lauren is not trying to get back on TV. She used TV as her leveraging point, not her career. “I hoped I didn’t [have to stay on TV],” she told Marie Claire. “Everybody told me to stay on TV. Nobody wanted me to leave.”

5. Conrad is a social media branding genius. She has three million-strong Twitter following, three million Instagram fans and 907,990 Pinterest followers.

6. Last year Lauren and her friend Hannah Skvarla opened a wonderful company called The Little Market, which features the goods and designs of female artisans across the globe.

7. From answering questions on her web site, to her fashion lines, her books, her articles for Forbes on being a female entrepreneur, etc., she is focused on helping women.

Photo: Christopher Polk / Getty Images