Last weekend, I participated in the first Startup Weekend Little Rock, and my first Startup Weekend ever. I joined this event with some trepidation: I am a bit of an introvert and I knew this was going to be a weekend that would require me to meet new people and form instant rapport to be able to work together for 54 hours. I also worried I wouldn’t have much to contribute to a group since I am not a designer or a developer. However, I am intensely curious and am passionate about technology, innovation and learning from people smarter than me. And I do know marketing and communications, can create order from chaos and problem-solve pretty efficiently. So I entered the event on Friday night, still not sure how or if I would participate for the rest of the weekend. I ended up staying all weekend, working on a fantastic project, making new friends, learning a ton and claiming second place with my team for the project we built.
Startup Weekend Little Rock was one of the best experiences I have ever had. I might even go so far as to say it was life-changing. Let me tell you why.
I learned to think differently. So often, we get into our comfort zones and routines. We work with the same people every day. And I work with a lot of talented people every single day and we produce amazingly creative communications for our clients. But because we have our routines and know each others’ strengths and weaknesses, we tend to not push each other as far as we could, or learn new things as often as we could. It happens to the best of us. An event like Startup Weekend removes all of that knowledge and forces its participants to fill gaps by learning on the spot and get even more creative because resources are scarce and time is scarcer. The outcome is not a perfectly polished product or idea. The outcome is a better version of yourself.
I made new friends. Had I not been brave enough to enter the room and participate in this event, I likely would have never crossed paths with 75-percent of the people that were in attendance. And everyone I met this weekend has added value to my life in some way. By learning their personal stories, learning about their skills, learning from their knowledge, being inspired by their passion: everyone had something to contribute and we bonded over the experience. I know for sure that I will stay connected to my new friends.
I stumbled into a really great business idea. And if that business idea becomes a real product, one day I’ll be able to say, “I was there and I got to help!” Our team leader had a great idea. I loved his idea. But he had no team. For a while on Friday night, the team was just the two of us. And we both shrugged and said, “let’s try to do this.” By Saturday afternoon, our team was seven people because the idea really was a great one. It just took longer for others to realize it. I am super proud that Jody had a great idea and we were able to help him take it to the next level. I believe he has the passion and the energy to take it and make it. His energy inspired me and if he needs my help, he has a friend in me that he can call any time. And I’ll be able to say “that’s my friend and I got to help!”
Yes, it is a bold statement, but Startup Weekend LIttle Rock changed my life in a great way.