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Students part of winning team at Startup Weekend

October 14, 2014

Two Stephens students are now part of a company formed after their team took third place at Columbia’s Startup Weekend event earlier this month.
Juniors Brianna Jackson and Hannah Bilau are working with The Wandering Turtle, an app that helps people discover new vacation destinations based on their personal interests.
Startup Weekend allows community members and college students to pitch business ideas. All participants then form teams to help develop the winning pitches. The Wandering Turtle was the brainchild of local entrepreneur Anna Swacker who chose Jackson and Bilau to be part of her marketing team. During the 54-hour event, Jackson helped with data collection and research, set deadlines for the business plan and wrote the final presentation. Bilau designed the green turtle that is now the company’s mascot.
The Stephens duo was recruited to participate in Startup Weekend by alumna Natalie Stezovsky, a vice president at Influence and Co. in Columbia.
“For me, it was nice to work with professionals and get a feel for working with different mindsets,” Bilau said.
It also gave her experience with collaborating as a part of a team and designing on a deadline, she said.
Both agreed Stephens and being part of Creative Ink, the student-run marketing firm, prepared them for the event.
“I’ve worked with clients before, so I was calm,” Bilau said. “I never felt overwhelmed. I knew I was capable of the work.”
Jackson, who is Student Government Association president, said she already had experience with business plans, creative briefs, event planning and other skills needed for the competition. She was also able to anticipate questions from the competition’s judges so the team would be prepared.
“Everything Stephens has taught me has made me able to think fast and critically,” she said.

The third-place win gives the company space at a local business complex, where The Wandering Turtle will continue to meet and work out details of the business. Jackson is assisting with social media, which now includes a Twitter and Facebook account.

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