1 Million Cups Fargo: Where Are They Now? Ashley Ham with Dear NICU Mama

We reached out to past 1 Million Cups Fargo speakers to reconnect with them on their time since speaking at 1 Million Cups. When 1 Million Cups began in Fargo, this event took off and was a primary way for entrepreneurs to expand their connections while also collaborating with others. After six years of consecutive gatherings, 1 Million Cups concluded their time in Fargo, although you can still tune in to 1 Million Cups events across various cities in the country. Shortly after 1 Million Cups left Fargo, Emerging Prairie had the idea to curate StartupBREW Fargo, which is what we know today! Read about Ashley Ham’s journey with Dear NICU Mama after 1 Million Cups Fargo! 



The Transition from 1 Million Cups Fargo to StartupBREW Fargo

1 Million Cups was formed by the Kaufmann Foundation; a Kansas City, MO based non-profit that focused on education and entrepreneurship. The idea was to familiarize the communities where 1 Million Cups was chaptered with local entrepreneurs, as the individuals of the Kaufmann Foundation thought that there were not many networking opportunities for entrepreneurs and a place to share their accomplishments. When 1 Million Cups was brought to Fargo, they met weekly and eventually after six years of consistent efforts, 1 Million Cups wrapped up their time in Fargo in 2021. Shortly after, Emerging Prairie announced the launch of an event that we all now know and dearly love, StartupBREW Fargo! StartupBREW is a weekly event hosted by Emerging Prairie that focuses on engaging entrepreneurs and connecting them with the Fargo/Moorhead area, as well as fueling the minds of aspiring entrepreneurs or any member of the community interested in entrepreneurship.



About Dear NICU Mama

“Nearly 60% of parents who have had children in the NICU are diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) following their stay. Stigma and access often prevent these mamas from pursuing mental health support or sharing their experiences with loved ones. And now more than ever, NICU mamas past and present are experiencing isolation and stress due to the residual effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

THIS is where Dear NICU Mama steps in. Our free, community-based and trauma-informed support offerings give NICU Mamas the chance to heal at their own pace. Although peer-support is not a substitute for professional medical or mental healthcare, it’s a vital part of trauma-healing. As renowned trauma expert Bessel van der Kolk writes, “Traumatized human beings recover in the context of relationships.” Our Sisterhood provides validation, support, encouragement, and unconditional love for NICU Mamas in need.”


What has been the biggest success of your journey since speaking at 1 Million Cups Fargo?

“Two come to mind! One was that we had our most successful Giving Hearts Day to date. I think that was largely in part to being able to share about our mission and organization in front of the StartUp Brew Community. Secondly, we onboarded two new Board members that we were able to connect with after Startup Brew! These two members are incredibly skilled and gifted in their fields, and it’s an honor to have them on our Board of Directors.”


What is something beneficial that you were able to take away from speaking at 1 Million Cups Fargo?

“Just how remarkable our local community is. Not only is it full of innovative and brilliant entrepreneurs and creatives, but it’s also a community that truly exists to support and uplift each other. “



Do you have any advice for future entrepreneurs?

“Don’t check Indeed or LinkedIn for a new job when you’re in a valley or setback as an entrepreneur. Ha! It may seem like silly advice, but in my 10 years of entrepreneurship, each setback has taught me an important lesson and made me a stronger and better business owner. (Even when it felt like it would be easier to just quit and find a new job.) Take a mentor out to coffee and surround yourself with people who can uplift you on the journey. Entrepreneurship doesn’t have to be lonely! In fact, it’s SO much better when it’s done in community.”

What are you currently accomplishing within your organization, any wins?

“For Giving Hearts Day, we launched our new Walking Letter of Hope Initiative which delivers merchandise to mothers in the NICU. In March we were able to deliver over 200+ pieces of merchandise to our local Fargo NICUs! We also just facilitated our annual Mother’s Day Outreach which delivered nearly 6000 personalized Mother’s Day cards to current NICU moms in all 50 states!”


What can our community continue to do to help energize your organization?

“Share about Dear NICU Mama and connect NICU families that you know with our organization! Dear NICU Mama exists for moms both in and out of the NICU, and this community exists to support NICU families on their healing journey.”



What are you grateful for today?

“I’m so grateful to be able to do the work that I do. Supporting NICU moms, hearing and sharing their stories, and being able to connect them to our NICU community is such a gift to me. I pinch myself daily that I have the opportunity to do this!”


Readers can learn more about Ashley and Dear NICU Mama by visiting her Linkedin profile or the Dear NICU Mama website!


Carly Pfennig

Carly Pfennig is from Bismarck, North Dakota currently studying at Minnesota State University of Moorhead for both Communications and Marketing. Carly is very passionate about forming connections within both the community as well as being the helping hand for people in need!