Marketing senior Varika Pinnam won two major student awards in September — 2020 Student Entrepreneur at Dallas Startup Week and Collegiate Marketer of the Year from the DFW chapter of the American Marketing Association.
The Startup Week award announced Sept. 3 recognized Pinnam’s startup, Ideate, Decide, Act, which is better known by its acronym IDA.
The DFW AMA award, announced Sept. 23, recognized Pinnam for excellence in collegiate marketing leadership for the work she did in a Perot Museum of Nature and Science marketing internship.
“She does so much, it’s incredible,” said Dr. Julie Haworth, director of the BS in Marketing program. “We’ve got incredible ecosystems [at UT Dallas]. When students come here and get involved, the sky’s the limit.”
Pinnam’s Startup Week winner, IDA, is a subscription-based program that she and her sister, Ghanika, co-founded to connect underrepresented female founders to mentors, funding and other resources to help them succeed in their business goals.
Student nominees in the running for the 2020 Student Entrepreneur title were evaluated based on “the marketability of their product/service, the uniqueness of the idea, whether it was generating revenue of $500 or more, and also the projected success of the company in the market for the future,” said Leah Frazier, State of Entrepreneurship lead for Dallas Startup Week and Think Three Media founder.
Inspiration for IDA came on the job, Pinnam said: “I was working for a PR company in 2018, and we did pro bono work for one of our clients. She had lost everything while trying to run her business. It made me sad, but I didn’t know what I could do about it.”
A couple months later, Pinnam was attending the GalXc Accelerator, a UT Dallas Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship eight-week entrepreneurship program for female students, and co-created the idea with her sister.
“Varika is such a great example of what it means to be a student entrepreneur at UT Dallas,” said Dresden Goldberg, the institute’s director of programs and operations. “She is hungry for knowledge, takes advantage of all the opportunities she can and is active in the startup community.”
One of those opportunities was the Blackstone LaunchPad & Techstars Startup Fellowship, which Pinnam received this past summer. The fellowship gave entrepreneurial students an opportunity to work on their business ideas with a $5,000 grant and an eight-week, self-paced program in which they could develop a plan with goals, accountability and mentorship, according to Goldberg.
Pinnam saw the Perot Museum marketing internship opportunity on Handshake, the University’s career services platform. After being hired last year, she enjoyed working in the museum’s creative environment, researching customer experience and making recommendations, she said.
“My favorite recommendation was the referral program,” Pinnam said. “I learned referrals have five times more conversion than paid marketing and longer lifetime customers. I think [the Perot Museum’s] membership program lends itself well to referrals.”
Pinnam, who is scheduled to graduate in May, will continue to work on expanding IDA as she also begins a full-time marketing position with Microsoft.
“If you have an idea, but you’re too afraid to go for it, you have nothing to lose,” Pinnam says to other female entrepreneurs. “Failing is so much better than looking back and saying, ‘Oh, but what if I had gone for it?’ Just start, because you don’t want to have that regret.”
— Sarah Ganbat