Photo: James Oliver

Photo: James Oliver

Before this weekend, never in my life had I participated in a Startup Weekend. I’d seen the Tauranga one being promoted for a number of years now and every time I saw it I was interested but for every reason under the sun, I’d never shown up to one.

Until this year.

You know that feeling of nervous excitement you get before starting something new, walking into a room by yourself full of strangers and just praying that someone adopts you as their friend? Well, walking into TGASW very quickly became like walking into a room of my kind of people. Curious, risk-taking, intelligent and open.

I was blown away by the incredible diversity of the group, all ages, stages, ethnicities, genders and a huge range of skills made for an epic atmosphere for creating change.

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) were used to focus the groups for our work over the weekend.

For those of you that are curious about SW, here’s how it all goes:

  • Meet epic people
  • Pitch your idea in 60s (if you have one)
  • Vote on your favourite pitches
  • Form teams around the top pitches
  • Spend the next 50 odd hours creating a viable business solution to an SDG aligned problem
  • Eat delicious food
  • Imbibe way too much caffeine (optional)
  • Pitch your epic idea to a panel of judges
  • Celebrate survival, entrepreneurship and creativity

Not having pitched an idea myself, I wandered the ideas and two resonated. One starting out as a hair product to support worm farming and another around more sustainable dairy production. Haunted by group projects from university, I ended up going with the dairy group as it was slightly smaller and I knew we’d be able to move faster when it came to making decisions. Our team was made up of Josephine, Jackson, Isabelle, Natashia and myself. The perfect combo of ages, experience and curiosity.

I’m not the kind of person who loves going in circles for long periods of time. Speaking of which it took me only until around 10am Saturday to have my first HOLY COW moment. My head literally spinning after hours of talking the night before and then coming in fresh but still not getting any closer to the problem we were trying to solve. For my ‘lets move forward’ brain, it was a tough moment. Deep breaths and a walk away from the table were needed. I have been assured that this is a totally normal component of SW.

Insert help from the Mentors. The great thing about SW is that it's supported by an incredible group of mentors who voluntarily give up their time to help the teams validate and move their ideas forward. We got help from Jo, who sat with us until we pulled the next steps out of our heads and put them into action points. The mentors roam the place helping us by asking questions and pushing us to find that solution. And sometimes you actually just want them to go away (I mean this with love of course) because you can be happily going along the track and then BAM spanner in the works, brought to you by a mentor. Sometimes that means back to the drawing board or a big reshuffle which can cause a lot of pain for a group who thought they were onto something.

We eventually reached the pointy end of our problem was that with all the bad press about the dairy industry in New Zealand, those farmers that are actually doing a good job of looking after their land aren’t being recognised for their efforts.

Throwing ideas around like starting our own dairy brand, building our own full dairy factory and more, eventually, we settled on a podcast series which highlighted and heroed those doing farming well.

But this is not the place for you to hear our pitch. This story is about an experience.

This was the first time I’ve used a Lean Canvas process for starting a business. In this high-pressure group situation you need these guidelines to avoid debating solutions and customers for hours on end. Follow the process and gradually you’ll get results.

Classic Startup Weekend points included:

  • Practice pitch one going a bit like a train wreck and considering throwing the whole idea away at 9pm Saturday night
  • Long hours. Our team was the last to leave on Saturday due to said bad pitch
  • High points of enthusiasm from all team members and totally enjoying the ride
  • Low points of doubt where we sat in complete silence
  • Success by the time the 3rd practice pitch came around
  • Panic to create the slides in time
  • Nerves pre-pitch
  • Post-event feels for everything that everyone created collaboratively

Monday morning I woke with a feeling of existential crisis. Having been in the midst of people wanting to change the world, Monday reality hit hard. Having been assured that this too was also normal, I decided that to keep making a difference in the world I needed only to improve what I do every day. Just 1% at a time.

So I sit here with tea in hand, reflecting on what can be created in 54 hours. That we, as humans, have so much potential and have the ability to change so much in our lifetimes.

And that the best thing we can do is to start.

Guest Blog by: Chloe Wickman

Instagram: @chloewickmanbizcoach

Linkedin:    Chloe Wickman


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