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Alina Rafikova is a Fulbright Scholar from Russia. Here’s what she had to say about Startup Weekend Creative:

My recent move to the windy city has definitely opened new doors for me, and more than anything, I was intrigued by the city’s spirit of entrepreneurship. Everyone around me has been either in the process of launching his/her startup or has had an experience with running one. What a better way to try it on your own might be other than visiting a startup weekend and try hands-on what it takes to make an idea come to life. Moreover, what a better theme for young creative minds might be if not a mix of arts and technology – the main theme of the Startup Weekend Chicago at Columbia College on March 31, 2017.

If you are hesitant whether to attend such event or not, let me describe you the whole experience. And, let’s start from the day one. It’s Friday evening, people start gathering at Columbia College, some being impatient to finally pitch their ideas and bring them to life, some hesitant – to pitch or not to pitch (“Is my idea worth sharing at all?”), some just wandering around, not knowing how it all works and with an interest to learn more what this weekend may bring.

Pitches start. The line of prepared and eager individuals starts to form – these are the ones who have come here to accomplish, to make THEIR ideas stand out, chosen and developed into something bigger. The second call – for those who were hesitant to go and stand in front of a crowd, third call – those, who, probably, just thought of an idea while listening to others. From 33 pitches and 14 ideas chosen, ten continued their journey, teams have formed and the weekend began!

Saturday – busy bees start their work, a plethora of discussions and those Aha! moments in your own team and teams around. Ideas change, transform, convert the whole initial plan from top to bottom – and back. You walk through the hall and you just absorb all the energy that’s coming from each corner, every person is on the peak of his or her creativity.

Sunday – sleepy creators start gathering in the room, the demand for coffee is growing. It’s quiet, everyone has his/her own task and works towards the goal to have everything done by the end of the day. Sunday midday: can anyone please bring more coffee? And please make the time stop? A couple of hours left till the presentations of the three-day work process. People running, preparing, rehearsing, writing. Time to clean a chaos on the table that served as a main spot for your team. Even though there is a competitive part in the event, the is no sense of competition between teams. Everyone is open to help, share expertise, give advice or just talk to you about the way you feel.

If someone were to ask me whether to participate in the event like this, I would strongly encourage to do so. I am sure everyone can benefit from it, learn something new from mentors, teammates and anyone around. We all think differently, so sharing opinions, own knowledge and perceptions is extremely essential. No matter what your background is, you can help others and learn from them. It is definitely worth trying – go, get out of your comfort zone and spend the weekend in a different beneficial way! Explore a new world of people, ideas and resources!

~ Alina

Melissa Jimenez