Last fall, Hannah Gallagher, C'15, won both first place and the social entrepreneurship prize at The Sewanee 2014 Entrepreneurial Challenge (S4EC), a pitch and business plan competition sponsored by the Babson Center for Global Commerce. But she didn't let her start-up aspirations end there. She has continued building on her idea, and in the spring she attended the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Foundation Ignite Summit and won the pitch competition there, as well. She received funding from the Babson Center for Global Commerce and the Sullivan Foundation to spend part of her summer at 51 kăt′ l- īz′ er, a women's entrepreneurship bootcamp with Leadership ExCHANGE in Raleigh, North Carolina. Read more about her experience below.
During the past year, in addition to being a full time student at Sewanee, I've been working on my own start-up company called Zabi. It's a mail order birth control system with a valuable social cause component, and I would LOVE to talk to anyone who wants to know more about it...but that's another story. Because of my desire to launch my own venture, I wasn't looking for a standard summer internship, rather something where I felt there would be a direct application to my current work. So I decided on 51 kăt′ l- īz′ er, a program powered by Citrix, e51, HQ Raleigh, and Leadership ExCHANGE in Raleigh, North Carolina.The purpose of 51 kăt′ l- īz′ er is to empower young women by developing the skills, framework, and female peer group in order to gain the knowledge and spirit to succeed in their own ventures. Although women make up 51% of the population, we are still a minority in the business world, and 51 kăt′ l- īz′ er seeks to remedy that statistic. Most of our sessions were held at HQ Raleigh, a co-working space in downtown Raleigh dedicated to serving start-ups, and one of the most high-energy places I've ever experienced.
In addition to working at HQ Raleigh, we were able to live at the ThinkHouse, a co-living space designed for entrepreneurs by entrepreneurs. As a result, I spent all day, every day with motivated, creative people who were eager to share their ideas and listen to mine.
We had classes exploring the theme of power and its unique relation to women, statistics on women in leadership positions, and how women can use their leadership styles to affect positive social change. We also spent two days at Citrix, a multinational software company that powers Citrix's Startup Accelerator. We were there for an extensive bootcamp on design thinking, where we worked in teams to develop a minimum viable product and pitch. This was a great way to illustrate how problem-solving is a mindset that can be applied anywhere and in surprisingly little time. Throughout the program, all the sessions were interactive and focused on learning through doing--a concept that is very popular in the startup world. These included taking improvisation lessons, which teach you to think creatively on your feet, "speed dating" with some incredible mentors, touring local start-ups, and having several whiteboarding sessions to work through our ideas. While the programming was wonderful, I was most surprised at how deeply I connected with so many talented women in such a short period of time. Being surrounded by them was a tremendous inspiration to me, and that--the most intangible element of all--was truly my favorite part.