The weekend starts off tentative, expectant. Members of the Women’s Startup Weekend team greet participants and direct them to the taco bar (every good Startup Weekend begins with tacos, it seems.) Groups gather at the tables, often strangers to each other, each curious about what will happen next.

“I have an idea, but I don’t think I’ll pitch,” says one woman to another. “Yeah, I have no idea what this is going to be like,” says another.

WSW 2015

The atmosphere is similar to that which event co-organizer Sue Gartin described last year – many of the women seem hesitant to get up and share their ideas. But once the pitches start rolling, the excitement almost tangibly beings to build.

“I love watching people get the courage to go up and pitch,” said Dr. Sue Mathison, co-organizer (and second half of the “Power Sues” who brought Women’s Startup Weekend to North Dakota). “Ideas spark more ideas and and ‘I can do it too’ mentality.’ All things seem possible. And they are, by the way.”

From hesitance to confidence

Among many other things, this was one of the most inspiring qualities about Women’s Startup Weekend; seeing the difference between that first day to the last day, 54 hours later, when the hesitancy is replaced with confidence, the strangers now friends.

On Sunday evening, after a long weekend of interviews, phone calls, research, developing, designing, shirt-making, and team-building, seven teams presented their ideas to an esteemed panel of judges.

WSE 2015

The Judges are ready.

The ideas hit a wide range, from a gardening app that tracks what you plant each year, to a system that lets you only communicate with nonverbals. While judges deliberated, attendees and guests enjoyed meatballs, roasted peppers, and gourmet cheese by Harvest Co. Catering, with fresh crepes by Fargo Hotcakes as a dessert.

WSW 2015

The Winners

First place went to Outside The Grid, a lifestyle and clothing website that can be used for mapping adventurous discoveries. The idea is the brainchild of Alayna Holkesvig, who camped at a concert in Minneapolis but can never remember the exact location to share it with friends. Outside The Grid, or OTG, allows one to keep tabs on those hidden gems.

WSW 2015

Aden, Holkesvig and Gilbertson present their work.

The website, (which is quite beautiful and covered in wanderlusty quotes) was designed by Lydia Gilbertson. All three members of the team sported custom OTG t-shirts at the final pitch night, designed by the team’s designer, Rukia Aden. The team plans to sell the shirts to sponsor the creation of an OTG app in the future.

Second place went to MisFix, a website that pairs women with other women in maintenance fields, and third place went to Reaching Up! a non-profit that aims to give women in difficult financial situations the tools to create durable baby clothes, and market them to the community.

People’s Choice award went to Community Cafe, a cafe with a goal of providing a comfortable, communal atmosphere for individuals with social, economic, or physical disorders. Full stories to be seen in the near future – stay tuned!

What now?

Some things Mathison hopes to do for next year’s event is increase the administrative team and build the publicity.

“I would like to get the word out even more so that women,… can have this awesome creative and productive experience,” she said.

But as for right now, she has a few words of advice to each team that has just laid the groundwork for a business.

“All of the teams have ideas that are viable,” she said. “Don’t stop! Carve out time every day to make things happen. Meet with your team every week and create action steps for the next week, DO them. Rinse, and repeat!”

Women's Startup Weekend 2015

Photos courtesy of  North Dakota Women’s Startup Weekend.

Read more about the Weekend, here!

Posted in

Marisa Jackels