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Today’s guest post is by Conner Scott, a junior at North Dakota State University.  Conner recently became involved with Emerging Prairie and Fargo’s entrepreneurial community.

Courtny EvansonCourtny Evanson went in to the North Dakota Women’s Startup Weekend with an idea, and emerged as an entrepreneur. Last January’s competition awoke Evanson’s passion to create a product that innovates the market and promotes a better experience for nursing mothers. This innovation is called Nevaeh, a massage table that also performs as a breast pumping station to provide mothers a more comfortable alternative to the standard breast pump.

Courtny and her team created the Nevaeh table during last January’s Startup Weekend at the Dakota Medical Foundation. Throughout the competition, over 60 contestants in 7 teams were challenged to create a “minimum viable product” for a business idea in a total of just 54 hours. This intensive competition uncovered Courtny’s passion for entrepreneurship.

Not all entrepreneurs are born; some are made. Before the event, Courtny didn’t know if she had the makings of an entrepreneur: “I had never dreamed of starting my own business,” Courtny remarked. “I just had an idea. I had no idea what I was getting into or what the whole Women’s Startup Weekend was about and I had never even heard of a startup weekend. I had never thought about becoming an entrepreneur, it just happened.”

When she arrived at the event and saw the Escalades and Cadillacs parked outside, Courtny felt like she was out of her comfort zone. After signing in and sitting down, she was relieved to find she was sharing a table with some familiar faces from her alma mater, West Fargo High School. Shortly after this confidence boost, she found herself relishing the spirited applause that her business pitch deserved.

What happened next is the birth of an entrepreneur. Courtny and her team created a promising new product idea and business plan. The Nevaeh table provides a surface for the nursing mother to lie face down while pumping breast milk. Depressions on the surface of the table accommodate the lactating breasts, and will include heating pads and massage rollers to help prevent clogged milk ducts and mastitis (breast inflammation). The table will also be decked out with an alarm clock, stereo system, cup and phone holders, and a control panel. With adjustable height and wheel attachments, this lightweight table can be easily stored.

The patent-pending table would pump milk through standard breast pump suction cups placed inside the depressions of the table. One end of a hose would be attached to the suction cups, and the other to a bottle. After the pump is turned on and the alarm is set, the woman can lie down on the table to relax.

Women Startup nwm-16Courtny drew inspiration to create the Nevaeh table from her own experience as a mother. Shortly after she had her son, she found breastfeeding and baby formula were not available options. She turned to breast pumping 8 to 12 times a day for a half hour each, forcing her to lose sleep. Courtny realized none of the breast pumping products currently on the market allow the woman to sleep and thought, “There has to be a better, more comfortable way to do this.”

Because of the Fargo Women’s Startup Weekend, there is now a better way. Courtny plans to take the Nevaeh table to businesses as her primary buyers. “With Obama recently passing a law that requires all businesses with 50 or more employees to have a nursing room, that’s where my market lies right now,” Courtny explained. “From there I hope to take my product into women’s homes.”

Expect more success stories like Courtny’s to come out of Startup Weekend Fargo 2014, which was recently held on March 7-9.

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Matt Gantz