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Adulthood can seem like a sea of china bowls and champagne flutes. As friends get engaged and plan weddings, their loved ones flock to online registries. In theory, these registries are excellent: they cut down on duplicate gifts by listing what each couple needs.

But the goal of these registries — to help engaged couples stock their new homes — is slightly outdated. Cohabitation has increased by nearly 900 percent over the last 50 years. Many of today’s engaged couples already have full cabinets. So, they want registries that are more altruistic.

While living in Senegal, Peace Corps Volunteer Kate Glantz wondered what to buy her own engaged friends. She also saw several development projects that needed support.

before toilet

“What would happen?” she wondered, “if an online platform could connect couples’ wedding registries with global development projects?”

Glantz answered her own question at Startup Weekend DC Women’s Edition 2014. She arrived with the goal to build Heartful.ly — a website that connects wedding registries to specific infrastructure or development projects. She had moved back to D.C. from Senegal that July and wanted to see if Heartful.ly could be prototyped into a real business. She found Startup Weekend DC after searching online for local startup and business contests.

At the time, Glantz no tech or business experience — only the goal to bring her idea to life.

“I went into Startup Weekend with a clear vision, a hopeful heart, and no idea what people would think,” Glantz says. “Fortunately, the concept resonated with the crowd and a brilliant team of developers, designers, and business savvy rock stars formed around me and got to it. My team was so focused and so passionate that we actually created a working demo by the end of the weekend!”

That demo impressed the judges — Heartful.ly won Startup Weekend DC Women’s Edition. Her team beat 13 other projects to win consultations with iStrategyLabs, Overachiever Media, and Springboard Enterprises. But those prizes were just the beginning of Heartful.ly’s journey.

Heartful.ly whiteboard

One year ago, Glantz was wondering whether Heartful.ly could become a real business. Today, she is the brand’s full-time CEO. Heartful.ly’s team of 3 is part of the S&R Foundation’s Halcyon accelerator at Georgetown University — and Glantz says she owes it all to Startup Weekend.

“I learned that hard work and grit transfer into any industry — and so do good ideas,” Glantz explains. “Even though I lacked every traditional credential in the tech world, Heartful.ly still bubbled to the top. Whenever I felt discouraged in the weeks and months that followed, I tried to remember that really smart people who owed me no kindness decided Heartful.ly was a winner.”

Glantz considers herself an accidental entrepreneur. Despite Peace Corps experience in Tanzania and Senegal — and serving as the Department of State’s Public Policy Advisor for their AIDS initiative — she says she entered Startup Weekend feeling like a fraud.

She had never written a line of code or a business plan. She knew that attending meant she would have to motivate a group of strangers who possessed these skills to work on her project — not to mention impress the judges.

Glantz not only persevered, but used Startup Weekend to pivot Heartful.ly into a business. This experience convinced her that sometimes, an idea is enough.

Startup Weekend Winners

“It took a few months and several false starts to believe that I deserved to be at the table,” Glantz explains. “It was liberating when I finally realized that I was the only person holding myself back. I’ve been able to persevere in spite of imposter syndrome because I believe so viscerally in the need for Heartful.ly to exist. It’s okay that I don’t have all the answers. I’m going to do the very best I can and it doesn’t make me weak to ask for help when I need it.”

Despite initial nerves, Glantz cites Startup Weekend as “one of the most hectic, exciting, heart pounding, lesson-learning weekends of my life.” She also encourages anyone — especially women — to get involved and test ideas’ validity.

“[Startup Weekend is] a low-pressure way to see if the idea you always daydream about could be something more,” Glantz explains.” Everyone at Startup Weekend is there to collaborate and work on something interesting. I don’t think I even knew what MVP stood for before Startup Weekend. I was a woman with a plan, but none of the infrastructure to implement it on my own. Startup Weekend showed me that it takes all kinds of people and backgrounds to build something great.”

Startup Weekend DC is thrilled to have Kate serve as a coach for Startup Weekend Flip the Ratio 2015. She will mentor teams throughout the weekend of September 25-27 and give in-person advice. Register here to buy tickets today!

Lauren Maffeo