We love hearing about startup stories from attendees of Philadelphia Startup Weekend. Check out Cassie Aran’s PHLSW 2012 experience and how it inspired her to start her own business:
PHLSW: Tell us a little about yourself and how you got into the startup scene.
CA: I became interested in entrepreneurship Freshman year of college when my school encouraged me to attend Startup Weekend events. It opened my eyes to all the different components and people a business needs to work. I graduated college a few months ago and used this knowledge to start Cookie Munchers, a late night cookie delivery service for Rowan students and homes in Glassboro, NJ.
I started a cookie delivery service because I thought it was something I could really have fun with. Since opening five weeks ago, we have sold over 900 boxes of cookies and made four behind the scenes video blogs for my YouTube channel “KICKINwithCASSIE” The videos show the real life struggles and triumphs I’ve faced while launching my first startup. You can also find us on Facebook and our website:
PHLSW: What inspired you to go to Philadelphia Startup Weekend? (How did you find out about it?)
CA: Rowan University has a great entrepreneurship program and they email you about all entrepreneurship events in the surrounding area. I was taking a class in entrepreneurship that encourages students to go out and attend events around startups. The class offered to pay for any students that wanted to attend for the first time. I took them up on the offer and since then have attended two more startup weekends. These weekends connected me with friends from various backgrounds who all wanted to start businesses.
PHLSW: Do you remember how you felt the first day of Philadelphia Startup Weekend?
CA: As an 18 year old freshman, I was definitely nervous when I saw how many people were there and all were older than me. Originally I was way too scared to pitch an idea. However, last minute I decided that it would be a cool experience, so I tried it. It was nerve racking and my idea didn’t make it through, but I joined another team that ended up being perfect for me.
PHLSW: What was your role and responsibilities on your team at the PHLSW event?
CA: Although I am a business major, I have a background in design, so I did all the graphic design needed behind the idea. Being a freshman in college, my business knowledge wasn’t fully established yet.
PHLSW: What was the most important lesson that you learned from your Startup Weekend experience?
CA: I learned to just take a chance and try new things. Although my idea wasn’t chosen, I met some amazing people and learned about all the components needed to put a successful business together. I learned just taking a chance can really change your input on life and entrepreneurship.
PHLSW: Can you share your top 3 tips to attendees going to Philadelphia Startup Weekend this year?
- Try pitching an idea. Even if it doesn’t get through, it will take you out of your comfort zone and help you become more comfortable in front of a crowd.
- Get names and numbers of the people you work with and stay in touch. You are all from different backgrounds and will be able to help each other in the future, its guaranteed!
- Even if the idea doesn’t end up being executed, put all your effort into it so you can get the full experience of putting the business together. And don’t be afraid to ask questions if you don’t understand what everyone is doing. Everyone is there to help and learn!
Thanks for sharing with us Cassie! We hope you find Cassie’s story inspiring like we did.
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Wow. The PHLSW organizing team is STILL recovering from the whirlwind that was Philadelphia Startup Weekend. After a weekend of customer validation, brainstorming, and business planning (accompanied by delicious tea and food) we were exhausted!
Our organizers (most of which were first-time organizers) – Matthew Grande, Alisha Neva (that’s me), Bill Hargenrader, Jon Wagner, Liz Brown, and Tracy Katz came together to rock a successful weekend. And thanks to our facilitator, Nate Allen, the weekend went off without (okay, practically without) a hitch.
On Sunday evening we had 13 (!!!) teams present their amazing businesses after spending the weekend with coaches and mentors – Jon Wagner, Ravi Bala, Matthew Grande, Bill Hargenrader, Daniele Hargenrader, Tracy Welson-Rossman and Chris Baglieri.
The first place winner – shouldI – is an app to help people make decisions in real-time. Users post a question – such as “Should I eat turkey on Thanksgiving from McDonalds?” and other users get to vote yes or no. It’s that simple. And it’s beautiful. This can help you from deciding where to buy your socks to who to manage your financial portfolio. And the judges saw this beauty in action…and loved it.
The shouldI team received a membership at ic3401, free classes at Girl Develop It Philly, a web design and dev evaluation from WebJunto, the first company profile on started.in Philadelphia, and a bonus prize from Chris Baglieri – who offered to aid in the development in the app.
Runners-up and other teams
The other teams are all featured on the f6s website including Food Connect – a startup that helps to donate food from catered events to those in need which they started doing at PHLSW.
For such a great weekend filled with inspiration and butt kicking to all of the organizers, sponsors, coaches, judges, and of course participants!
Looking forward to seeing everyone at the next event – stay tuned for details or sign up for our mailing list to get details in your inbox (we promise not to spam you – nobody likes spam…except maybe these people).
We at Up Philadelphia recently had our most successful event ever, and I attribute a good portion of that to an increased participation from designers. As a designer myself, I was a participant at the previous event in October 2011 and instantly became hooked, evangelically telling every designer I could get near about what a fantastic opportunity it is. Even after pouring my heart out, quoting Fast Company articles about designer founders, and explaining how as a result of Startup Weekend I was given an amazing job opportunity that allowed me to leave my miserable corporate job of a decade, these designers weren’t rushing to sign up.
But why is that? Do most designers lack that entrepreneurial spirit? Do they fear they’re going to exhaust their creative gas tanks? Are they intimidated by the amount of work involved? Why is it so difficult to encourage designers to participate in what is actually a highly creative and inspiring event?
Thankfully, due to persistence and badgering, we had over 20 designers register for Philadelphia Startup Weekend 3.0, and it was obvious in the aesthetic quality of the work presented on Sunday evening. Participants included Sharon McMullen, Interactive Designer at Anthropologie, and Amy Reyes, Senior Graphic Designer at US Airways. This was their first Startup Weekend event.
“I signed up to step out of my comfort zone,” Amy says. “To shake things up, learn something new, and see how far I could push myself.” The idea of creating an app can sound scary to a designer. They might feel as if they need to know how to code or must have experience with app development. Not the case. Creating the brand, making interface mockups, and formatting the final presentation are all tasks that benefit from the help of a designer. Not to mention, it’s advantageous for any Startup Weekend team to have a member who can offer up a different perspective in regards to creative problem solving.
Because designers are scarce at Startup Weekend events, they are hot commodities. Every team wants one and values the skills he or she can bring to the table. Sharon explains, “They appreciate you! I don’t think I’ve ever received so much positive feedback and confidence in my choices and development of an identity. With such a positive atmosphere it pushes you to make it the best it can be and it’s so rewarding.” The other attendees understand that good design can make or break a product and having a designer on their team is like having a secret weapon. She also adds that she liked how everyone enters the room as equals. “I felt like I walked in with a clean slate and no one judged me either way. It was amazing! I got to prove myself with the work I did THAT DAY.”
Of course, building a startup in a weekend doesn’t come without its share of challenges. Designers typically like to take their time with projects, patiently waiting for creativity to strike, but as Amy realized, that’s not an option. “Perfectionism is a road block to momentum, and there’s not really any room (or time) for it. You have to manage your time, and you have to be fast. Period. That was hard.”
But in the end, it’s more than worth it. When asked if she’d participate again, Sharon responds, “HELL YES.” That pretty much says it all. She adds, “The rewards you get from taking a weekend away and designing for some amazing new companies is priceless.” Amy’s reaction was quite similar. “Yes. In a heartbeat.” It’s definitely addictive, especially for a designer that might be working in the corporate world where they work with the same brand every day. You leave Startup Weekend with an incredible sense of accomplishment. As a designer, it’s easy to fall into a staleness, where you aren’t challenging yourself or learning new skills. Startup Weekend is like a creativity boot camp that recharges your system. Amy says, “I feel like I can take anything on and have been running strong all week. It totally re-ignited my passion for what I do.”
In addition to leaving recharged, you might walk away with some great contacts and possible future opportunities as well. Sharon received eight freelance requests from the weekend. “I highly recommend going and staying late at the very last happy hour celebration. I made most of my connections there because people could pin you with your work. And the drinks didn’t harm either,” she shares.
Still on the fence? Here’s Amy’s take. “On one side of the fence is this amazing opportunity to totally reenergize your career, meet new people, step outside your comfort zone and make something wonderful. On the other side of the fence is the same weekend you had last weekend…which, I’m sure was awesome…but not THIS awesome.” Couldn’t have said it better myself.
What better way to learn how to win Global Startup Battle than by researching last year’s winners! Check them out, watch their videos, research their teams, and find out what made them rise to the top of the world!