Laura Fenn's "accidental entrepreneurship" story is proof that anyone can start a business if they're providing something that people need (and can execute on it).
The founder of Chapel Hill-based The Walking Classroom
, a former 5th grade teacher, now has 15,000 students taking regular 30-minute walks while listening to educational podcasts that meet common core standards. The nonprofit institute was inspired by her own experience—Fenn's students were cooped up inside when recess time was slashed from budgets. Their attention spans, and grades, suffered. She's won numerous awards and grants for the innovative solution.
Fenn shared her story at the first Triangle Startup Weekend Women
, happening this weekend at HQ Raleigh. Her advice for the more than 60 new entrepreneurs (80 percent are women) gathered is to work in an area that you know, build something people need and do it passionately.
In the hour that followed, nearly two dozen new business ideas were presented. Teams are now forming around those ideas and by Sunday, they'll be whittled down to around 10. Here are some of the highlights of tonight's 60-second pitches:
An app for college students to upload and share digital textbooks and notes.
A platform for musicians, producers and consumers to collaborate to create new (better than mainstream) music that can be shared and edited using creative commons licensing.
A tool that uses data mining and machine learning to vet people online before they make a transaction on sites like eBay, Etsy, Airbnb and Craigslist.
An app for single moms trying to finish school and manage all the costs and details of raising children at a young age.
GoToAssistants.com, a one-stop shop to find affordable, reputable, educated, endorsed and evaluated personal assistants for yourself or others.
A psychology toolkit for psychometric therapists that acts as a sort of dashboard for clinicians with a menu of measures and cognitive practice tools.
A motivational app to help injured or unmotivated individuals work around injuries or meet fitness and diet goals, with help from a community of supporters.
My Family Cloud, a tool to ease the stress of every day life by aggregating all of the apps that families use to organize their lives and manage and schedule services.
An app that helps you pack for travel, factoring the destination, time of year, length of trip, style and any traditions that affect your attire. It's a tool to save travelers time, reduce stress, eliminate overpacking, ensure style and eliminate embarrassment.
A downtown Raleigh bookstore with cafe, programs and other goods.
An app that brings together undocumented immigrants so they can share their challenges and tips for finding colleges or work or other resources in the U.S.
Karaoke Genius, an app that determines the range of your voice to give you suggestions of the songs to try during karaoke. Yes, this involves recording yourself singing low and high. And, the kicker—it was suggested by a Harvard Law graduate. We all now know what lawyers do to blow off steam.
An app for tracking business cards and recording audio of the context behind those meetings, and providing access to the data later.
An app for restaurants to load recipes or potential allergy issues with their dishes, and for diners to easily see what foods are safe for them to eat.