On the eve of Tuesday, January 13, 2015, over 130 guests stepped into the brand new second floor of ecce art studios for Emerging Prairie’s inaugural 1 Million Thanks event.
This was a night focused solely on thanking the local community for their continued support, celebrated with awards, hors d’oeuvres provided by Z!ng, live music, Fargo Brewing Co. beer, and a marshmallow-topped champagne toast. But most importantly, it was celebrated through the gathering of people who care about this community.
“We wanted to create an event to celebrate the folks that make our community special,” said Emerging Prairie co-founder and co-organizer of the event, Greg Tehven. He and Emerging Prairie event planner Annika Nynas began brainstorming for the event in late summer of 2014.
“1 Million Thanks was designed to bring together our vendors, entrepreneurs, and those that support the entrepreneurial ecosystem in hopes of recognizing them for their important role in supporting our region’s development,” he said.
“It’s a give back event,” Nynas added. “Just to say thanks.”
Tehven emceed the event, which featured a video created by the Emerging Prairie team and a talk from 1 Million Cups founder Nate Olson (he was also a speaker at 1 Million Cups Fargo yesterday morning). He spoke about the things he loves about Fargo; like how people are so ready to give hugs, and how the community has created “a playground for entrepreneurs.”
“Fargo has mastered the art of making some place awesome,” he said.
Then, it was time for the awards.
The decision for what these awards would be and who they would go to took much deliberation from a carefully chosen panel of event planners. In the end, here were the final decisions:
Rookie of the Year Award: Blaine and Amanda Booher. Blaine Booher was once referred to as a “unicorn” for his ability to magically appear and make some amazing things happen – like Hackathon – even after only living in Fargo for one year. He and his wife Amanda moved to Fargo from Cincinnati and immediately became involved in the community; starting a Kickball League, joining in Startup Weekend, and becoming regular attendants of local events. Their willingness to take initiative does not go unnoticed.
Belief Award: Dr. David Wells. Any 1 Million Cups attendee can attest to Dr. Wells’ persistent encouragement to engage the local college students in innovation and entrepreneurship. He goes out of his way to encourage and invest in these students, in any way he can.
Team Player Award: Myriad Mobile. Myriad is not only one of the fastest growing startups in Fargo, having been featured as one of Entrepreneurs’ Top 30 Startups to Watch and recognized in various other media outlets, but is also regularly involved in the F/M community. They have sponsored Startup Drinks, helped plan the Mobile Tech Meet-up, and their leadership is actively engaged in other startup ventures in town. They are truly a team player in this community.
Champion Award: Dr. Susan Mathison and Jim Gartin. Often joked as the “Mom and Dad” of the startup community, these two prominent community figures are gold-star supporters of Fargo’s growth as a startup community. They have served as mentors to fledgling entrepreneurs and community builders, and continue to guide our leaders as we grow the local community.
Entrepreneur of the Year: Courtny Evanson. Miss Evanson won North Dakota’s Women’s Startup Weekend in 2014 with her idea for Nevaeh, a product that helps new moms with breastfeeding. She’s a single mom that continues to grow her company and has seen a large amount of success over the course of 2014 (Read more about Miss Evanson here.)
Each of these recipients was awarded with a “trophy” created by local artist McCal Joy Johnson – a railroad spike covered in gold paint with artistic designs. You’d never guess a railroad spike could be made to look so regal.
The event concluded with a champagne toast, topped with marshmallows flaked in 24-carat gold (because if you’re going to be classy, you might as well go all in right?). We raised our glasses to Fargo, and to continued growth in the community.
Annika Nynas, lead organizer of the event, said she thought the event went “awesome.”
“So many people have come up to me to tell me how they enjoyed the event,” she said. “We had no idea what the outcome would be, with this being the first time, but I think it went really well. I remember looking around last night and seeing so many smiling faces, and so much laughter.”
Guests seemed to agree, using the hashtag #1MThanks to tweet and post about the event.
Nynas said she hopes the recipients will take pride in their awards, and that the event will become something people look forward to every year. Some changes we might see next year is moving the event to a larger space, as this year there were so many people that it was over capacity.
We look forward to another great year this 2015, with continued growth and gratitude for this community.
Thanks for being a part of it.
Photos courtesy of Twitter and Brianne Lee with Studio Bri.