Alumni couple creates social media network for millennials
If sites like Buzzfeed are Internet candy, PowerCirqle is striving to be a four-course Internet banquet.
The project of UCF alumni David Noel and Sakena Whilby, PowerCirqle is a contribution-based online news source featuring stories concerning issues relevant to a college-age audience. More filling than Internet candy — what Noel and Whilby call mindless articles and lists that don’t necessarily teach the reader anything but are entertaining — the site launched Feb. 22.
“The motivation behind it came from being around so many people that wanted to have these conscious conversations that didn’t have a platform to do so,” Noel said.
Noel graduated in 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in economics, while Whilby graduated in 2015 with bachelor’s degrees in psychology and business administration. The two met through the business fraternity Alpha Kappa Psi, of which they were both members, and began dating shortly thereafter.
Unsatisfied with their selection of Internet candy, the duo hoped to present content that is anything but mindless. The articles published on the website are meant to be entertaining as well as educational, in order to leave their audience more informed and inspired after reading.
In the works since late-2015, the site was opened up to the public Feb. 22 and currently features contributing writers who are either college students or recent graduates.
Whilby explained that she and Noel wanted to have a community for readers to learn about these authors and what they’ve experienced, as well as learn about themselves through relating to the lives and ideas of others.
“We wanted everyone reading it to have a vicarious experience,” Whilby said.
Co-founder and communtiy manager, Whilby manages the site’s publicity and contributors. She’s currently trying to foster a mutual identity between the readers and authors of PowerCirqle.
One of PowerCirqle’s “offline” goals is to create a community of people who meet through the website. The idea is that this community of millennials will be able to have meetings while empowering each other and breeding unconventional ideas.
Toting more of a developer role, Noel set up the actual website and monitors the day-to-day operations.
Jazmyne Hankerson, a 2015 alumna with a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism and the former sports editor of the Central Florida Future, is a contributing writer for the Health and Fitness section of PowerCirqle. She explained why the website is pertinent to its audience.
“You’re not reading an article written by some 40-year-old who hasn’t been in college for 20 years; you’re hearing this from a 22-year-old recent graduate who has student-loan debt just like you,” she said.
Hankerson also described the site as something unique for its contributors.
“I like to write for PowerCirqle because the tone is different from news writing,” Hankerson said. “You can get sarcastic and show your unique style while still writing about your passion.”
Recently, the creators published an article written by someone with ideals that differed significantly from their own.
“We were concerned at first if it was something that we should publish, and our conclusion was: absolutely we should,” Whilby said. “Someone is going to either recognize what that person is saying or they’re going to completely disagree — and that’s what we want, that organic conversation.”
The two hope to include more contrasting viewpoints in the future and would like to see the site grow to include followers from varying backgrounds, who will then contribute their own thoughts.
“Our No. 1 priority is to have high-quality conscious content, no matter what perspective that is,” Noel said.
The personalization included in each article serves to further connect readers with the authors themselves. There are currently 15 to 20 writers actively contributing to PowerCirqle, all of whom are unpaid.
Whilby and Noel greatly encourage anyone who feels he or she has something to say, to submit to the website. Their audience is only growing, and they think that they’ve figured out why.
“We were concerned with how to get people excited enough to want to write for our publication for free,” Noel said. “We’ve now seen though that when these millennials identify with what the site stands for, they’re lining up let the world hear what they want to say.”
Anna Johnson is a Contributing Writer for the Central Florida Future.