Recently, I had the honor of participating in Startup Weekend GIRLS (#swgirls) at the Lake Washington Girls Middle School. Together with our Marketing Coordinator, Shawna Proske, I acted as a coach; to help the new generation of entrepreneurs to brainstorm, plan, develop, and pitch their new business ideas for the competition.
This is the second year the event has taken place, but it was my first year as a participant. Several contestants had participated last year but the majority of participants were new. There were 6 groups with different and brilliant ideas, presenting their business ideas for the ultimate award:
- WalkSafe: an app that helps night-walkers find safe routes in areas that are well-lit
- Metamorphus: an environmentally friendly fashion line that turns worn clothes into new accessories
- Uplift: a website that helps teenagers with depression by providing them care when they need it
- Re Plate: Connects places (restaurants and grocery stores, for example) with excess food to people and places who need it
- Cloud Care Shelter: Shelter for the pets of people who become homeless and can no longer take care of their pets
- Wait Time: an app that will suggest edits to social media posts that you may later regret
All teams spent more than 50 hours on their projects during the weekend (which started Friday afternoon), and let me tell you - the atmosphere was INTENSE!!! As I walked around to check in on different groups, I noticed that all these young entrepreneurs were busy with everything from customer surveys to creating business models; from product development to revenue models; from customer segmentations to distribution/deployment. They were focused on anything and everything you would think of when developing a real-world business. These young #GIRLpreneurs were serious with their businesses. I thought it was interesting that many of their businesses were focused on bettering the community or environment, a growing trend in this age of information.
I was assigned as a tech coach to assist the teams with their product development and anything technically related (e.g. websites). I was pleasantly surprised how savvy they are with the internet, SMS/texting and social media. This is such a contrast from the days when I was still in high school, where computer resources were scarce. The value I was able to provide was:
- How to develop a new business from ideas and concepts to up-and-running
- What things entrepreneurs need to consider when starting a business
- How to break down problems into smaller ones to address
For the most part, groups had very few problems on the business ideas and concepts. However, things got a lot more interesting when it came to customer segmentation, business models, product development, distribution models, staffing, etc. For example, I was explaining business and revenue models to one of the teams, and they seemed so fascinated by what I had to say that they were asking very in-depth questions that business undergrad students may not have thought to ask.
During the Startup Weekend, these young entrepreneurs were exposed to concepts that they might not learn in school, but that may have a profound impact on how they may one day change the world. I love the platform and opportunities these Startup Weekends bring, and I am absolutely mesmerized by the enthusiasm, passion, intellect, and caliber of this next generation of entrepreneurs.