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Participants of Startup Weekend Girls play an icebreaker game to get them thinking about what makes a good startup on Jan. 22, 2016 in Lake Washington Girls Middle School in Seattle.
Startup Weekend Girls participants play an icebreaker game to get them thinking about what makes a good startup.

It was like any other Startup Weekend, except the participants were a bit shorter and a bit younger.

More than 50 girls set up shop at Seattle’s Lake Washington Girls Middle School this past weekend during a 54-hour Startup Weekend Girls Edition designed specifically for fifth to ninth grade girls.

The ‘girlpreneurs’ spent the weekend working together to launch six different startups. They learned how to create social media accounts, websites, and logos, and even presented a demo of their product on stage to three judges: Rebecca Lovell, Director of Entrepreneurship and Industry for City of Seattle, Zach Smith, a partner with Social Venture Partners, and Bryan Lhuillier, founder of Shiftboard.

Metamorphus, an environmentally-friendly fashion line that turns worn clothes into new accessories, won first prize under the guidance of the PhotoPad founder Diane Najm. RePlate, a program that connects places with excess food to people in need, came in second; Wait Time, an app that suggests edits to social media posts, won best user experience.

7. Elyse works with a group of other participants to develop elevator pitches for a startup that would have a social impact or make positive change.
Elyse, center, works with a group of other Startup Weekend Girls Edition participants to develop elevator pitches for a startup that would have a social impact or make positive change.

Before the judges arrived on Sunday, buddingSTEM founders Jennifer Muhm and Malorie Catchpole — who won Geek of the Year honors at the 2015 GeekWire Awards — joined Jody Hall, owner of Cupcake Royale, to give the girls a few words of advice and inspiration.

“Women have natural entrepreneurial skills,” Hall told the attendees. “You guys are part of the future, so go get em.’”

Six teams formed on Saturday morning after Kacey Wherley, a marketing manager at Techstars Seattle who facilitated the event, gave participants a quick rundown of what makes a good pitch.

“If you are going to grow up and rule the world — which you will — what would it look like?” Wherley asked the girls before telling them to identify and solve a problem they are passionate about.

About 35 girls wrote and presented an elevator pitch for a startup that had a social impact or made positive change. Then, the girls voted for their favorites of the bunch. WalkSafe, Cloud Care Shelter, Wait Time, Re Plate, Uplift, and Metamorphus came out on top.

“It’s not like a huge deal, but it’s a box that makes them feel better about themselves,” Vivian Miller, 13, said of her startup Uplift, which creates care packages for teens struggling with mental illness.

A startup that supports youth mental health may not be what you expect a group of kids to come up with during a Startup Weekend, but in fact, a majority of the pitches revolved around relevant problems related to health, homelessness, environment, and public safety.

Kate Jacobs, 11, came up with the idea for Cloud Care Shelter.

Kate Jacobs, 11, pitches her startup Cloud Care Shelter, a site that partners homeless pets with temporary care. Jacobs idea was selected as one of six ideas the girls worked to develop throughout the weekend.
Kate Jacobs, 11, pitches her startup Cloud Care Shelter, a site that partners homeless pets with temporary care.

“People go homeless and they have to get rid of their pets,” she explained. “We wanted a better way, which is a website that matches animal lovers to homeless pets.”

startupweekendgirls11One local tech professional was assigned to coach each of the six teams. Nishant Dani, an entrepreneur whose latest projects include creating iPad apps that assist students in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) classrooms, was one of them.

“STEM particularly is really important,” Dani said. “More people are getting more aware of the need for girls to get into STEM classes.”

Getting girls interested in STEM and entrepreneurship is the goal of a Startup Weekend Girls Edition. The host, Lake Washington Girls Middle School, seeks to do the same, empowering girls to get involved in fields where they’ve historically been underrepresented.

“You are at the perfect time in your life to become agents of change,” LWGMS Head of School Patti Hearn told the girls just as they begun their work.

Here’s a quick rundown of the six companies that formed over the weekend, and some more tweets from the event:

  • WalkSafe: an app that helps night-walkers find safe routes and areas that are well-lit
  • Metamorphus: an environmentally friendly fashion line that turns worn clothes into new accessories
  • Uplift: A website that helps teenagers with depression by providing them care packages
  • Re Plate: Connects places with excess food to people and places who need it
  • Cloud Care Shelter: Shelter for the pets of people who become homeless and can no longer take care of their pets
  • Wait Time: an app that will suggest edits to social media posts
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