Written by: Danyel Mae Schneider
The Sanctuary Events Center was a full house last night as 230 attendees gathered for Emerging Prairie’s third annual 1 Million Thanks event. The evening is dedicated to highlighting members in the community and their unique success stories that made 2016 great for Fargo-Moorhead.
Infusing the arts is always part of an Emerging Prairie event and when Kirk Anton told Greg, “Here’s a thousand dollars. Make the party weird”— it was just that. The night’s entertainment was spectacular. A 10 person, SDSU Bum Band got the party started, followed a Cyr wheel performer in a full mirrored suit left everyone amazed. Then to top it all off, Heather, “the Siberian princess” passed out cookies atop her tabletop dress and received a standing ovation.
Greg Tehven, Executive Director & Co-Founder of Emerging Prairie, welcomed everyone to grab a drink and take a seat. Tehven began by saying, “Emerging Prairie exists to celebrate the entrepreneurial ecosystem. That’s what tonight is all about.”
Steve Garguilo, master community builder, gave a keynote about bias towards action. He explained that if you are going to make progress, make a surge— a ton of progress right away. He said, “The reason why you are the people here today is that you are the people who makes surges in this community.” Garguilo left the audience with this call to action: “My challenge to you in 2017 is to continue to take action. Keep your friends close, but keep your action-oriented friends closer.”
For members in this community to take action, they need a collaborative and creative space. Emerging Prairie’s Prairie Den was rated the coolest co-working space in ND. One of the recent graduates of the Prairie Den is Max Kringen, Founder of Tellwell, a social media agency. Kringen joined the stage to talk about how he found Tellwell’s place at the Den. He explained that the Den is filled with, “People doing bold work for the bold people in the community”. He voiced, “Ultimately, home is a place to belong. Thank you Prairie Den for creating a home for weird ones like us where we can truly belong.”
Greg invited Julie Peterson Klein from Bell Bank to talk about the impact of TEDxFargo. She described TED’s mission: spreading ideas that educate and inspire this community. Peterson announced that in 2016 alone TEDxFargo has had, “Eight conferences, over 5,000 attendees, and over 1.2 million views.”
Everyone at 1 Million Thanks gave a send off to one of the FM’s great community members, Brittany Sickler, as she is preparing for her move to DC to begin her new job. Brittany was heavily involved with community activities such as Startup Weekend, Welcoming Week, and 1 Million Cups. Though she is excited about her new job, Sickler explained that, “Fargo really became a place where I could learn a lot from, and could contribute to. This isn’t a place where you live when you’re here. You live it forever.”
A small sample of people who are making surges in the community were given awards last night, as recognition for their work, time, and/or money they put in. Awards were chosen by a host committee, and winners received a hand-scupted railroad spike award crafted by Paul Ide with a custom tag done by artist McCal Joy Johnson.
The 2017 Award Recipients are:
Social Impact Award
This award goes to a business model that strives to solve social challenges. Folkways, a community organization that nurtures Fargo’s culture creators took home the award for 2017. Founders Joe Burgum and Simone Wai joined the stage. Wai explained that their jobs are fast-paced and ever-changing. When she is in the midst of this she reminds herself of her favorite quote: “If you contribute to other people’s happiness, you will find the true meaning of life. -Dalai Lama”
Rookie Of the Year
Max Kringen, founder of Tellwell, took home this award for his social media agency startup. Tellwell helps tell stories and build social communities around organizations in our community. The startup has gained great success in a short period of time, and now has seven employees. He said that Jake Joraanstad, co-founder and CEO of Myriad Mobile, was the one that encouraged him to make Tellwell happen full-time.
Bethlehem “Betty” Gronneberg, who grew up in Ethiopia and has been in Fargo since 1998 and is now founder & Executive Director at uCodeGirl, was awarded for her deep care for others. Gronneberg said, “I’m just a little girl with a dream. I wanted to come here to make something for myself. I want to help other girls do the same.” She thanked the FM community by saying, “I am just an idea, it’s because of all of you that got me to this point.”
Since there are so many people in the community that are doing what this award implies, it was narrowed down to two winners. The first winner Kirk Anton, Founder and CEO of Heat Transfer Warehouse, is known as a quiet-giver. Anton accepted his award by saying, “I truly owe it to Heat Transfer Warehouse. They kick ass so I can kick ass…Energy is all around us. Fargo is a great city. Fargo is just kicking ass.”
The second award went to Ashley Morken, owner of Unglued: a Midwest handmade gift shop and local craft fest brand. She explained, “I can’t imagine doing it anywhere else. Fargo is the greatest city in the world. At Unglued we really believe that creativity will create culture and community.”
CoSchedule, which provides content marketing calendar solutions, took home this award for their strong team. The two founders, Justin Walsh and Garrett Moon, invited their whole team on stage before they accepted the award. The two founders voiced that they, “hire people who don’t take normal as face value— who aren’t ok with the regular playbook.” Walsh and Moon turned to their employees and said, “We are lucky as founders to consistently find those folks. We love you guys. This is really for them.”
Startup of the Year
National Day Calendar was awarded for their media empire and rapid growth. It is currently one of the top 2,500 websites by traffic in the entire world. There are 18,000 submissions a year and only 30 become approved. It was the top trending item on social media during the event for #NationalPopcornDay. Founder Marlo Anderson claimed his award by exclaiming, “Happy National Popcorn Day! Thank you for celebrating—we brought all kinds of popcorn today.” Anderson discussed the success of his online business and he stated, “I have to thank Fargo. It’s become my adopted home town.”
Greg Tehven closed the evening with:
“We live in a unique place and a unique time. The intersections of artists and entrepreneurs. You are the people who make things great— who are believing in possibility. If we truly are going to make the greatest community in the world… it takes all of us. When I think about why I love this place, I think about all of you.”
As tradition, a champagne toast topped with a gold-dusted champagne marshmallow was raised by all as Tehven said, “Let’s use our resources, use our gifts, and really make a difference. We want 2017 to be the year of action.”
It is undeniable that there has been a tremendous year of growth for Fargo in 2016. 1 Million Thanks to all who helped contribute to another fantastic year.
Photos by: J. Alan Paul Photography