My First Startup Weekend- by Molly Strawn

I woke up hung over a few Mondays ago. No, not from drinking too much, but because I launched a company with six people over the course of 54 hours at Startup Weekend Conejo Valley 2016. Not to mention won second place.

Now, to be clear, I am not an entrepreneur by trade. My future goals include a stable 9 to 5 job working for the media man, a white picket fence, two dogs and maybe a few children running on a green lawn my husband just cut. Yet, for some horrible reason I can’t fathom, I am addicted to the intellectual and emotional highs and lows of being an entrepreneur.

I have watched many weekend events like Startup Weekend come to fruition on pitch day. As the content creator at Hub101, it’s my job to report the outcomes of such events, with highlights from the contestants about their experiences, if they will continue with the company and so on. As much exposure as I did have, none of it could have prepared me for an event like Startup Weekend.

Someone wiser than me once said if you say you can’t do it, you’ve already failed, and that saying you will succeed is half the battle. So when Greg Monterrosa said I’ll let you participate for free, I would have been an idiot to turn it down the opportunity.

“What should I bring? How should I prepare? Any tips?” I asked him. “I’ve never done this before.”

“Just bring yourself around 4:30 and you’ll rock it,” he said.

Not a very helpful reply for an chronic overachiever like myself.

I showed up Friday night not knowing what to expect. I got up there, pitched my business idea I had bouncing around in my mind for a while with a class partner and actually managed to get a team of six focused around the concept. Suddenly, people with double my lifespan of intellect and experience were calling me “Boss Lady” and “Fearless Leader.” It was a tad overwhelming.

It’s true what they say, that you’ll get 5 hours of sleep the entire weekend, feel like you were hit by a train, fight with a few people, help a few people and feel the stress of a thousand worlds on your shoulders. For some insane reason, I loved it.

More than the process, I loved my team. To earn their respect and partnership was worth more than a piece of paper stating we won second place. It was an amazing experience to bond so closely with strangers two days prior and come out as friends.

I even went so far as to make them cupcakes the day of pitches. Even though they called me a sap and didn’t believe me when I said it, in my heart that morning, we’d already won.

Startup Weekend goes beyond launching a business. The memories that I hold closest are of laughing with other teams while trying to help make their horrible design programs function. It was having breakfast each morning with my team and getting to know their backgrounds. It included being amazed that six completely different people from all over the world could end up at one table together. It was talking about this amazing company that I didn’t even think was mine anymore, but reflected the love of everyone who helped make it shine brightest.

I learned not just about a business model canvas or validation, but how to be a leader, a team member, a listener, a teacher, a disciple and a better person.

Hub101

Would I do Startup Weekend again? I would prefer to say absolutely not, but I know that probably isn’t the truth. Events like this hold an addictive quality that no one who has gotten a taste can stay away from. From one non-entrepreneur to another, participate in a Startup event some time in your life. I guarantee you will discover things you never knew about yourself.

Operated by Cal Lutheran University in Westlake Village, CA, Hub101 offers coworking, incubation and community for entrepreneurs and small business owners to start, grow, and scale their startups with the help of mentors, coaches and service providers. My First