Never participated in a Startup Weekend before? We've got you covered!

09/19/2014 | By Amy Huffman

This post originally appeared on

Eleanor Ismail

We know it can seem daunting to sign up for a 54 hour event without knowing what you are committing to. While our site and the global Startup Weekend site have a lot of great information the about what to expect, we thought the best way to find out what it's REALLY like to participate in Startup Weekends would be to talk to people who've experienced them first hand, past participants. So we've interviewed two participants from the recent TSW: Health to give us the low-down on what Triangle Startup Weekends are REALLY like and will be sharing their stories with you over the next week.

Today you'll hear from Eleanor Ismail (pictured above), a Sales Engineer for Eaton Corporation and Florida State University Alum.

She first heard about TSW: Health from the Council for Entrepreneurial Development's (CED) e-newsletter, Entrelinks (sign up here), and decided to attend TSW: Health because she, "had been tossing around her idea for over a year and the only thing that was preventing her from moving forward was that she needed a team to help develop the product and business, along with coaches and mentors to better guide the efforts and thought startup weekend could be a good starting point." She also noted that TSW was a "great venue" to test out her idea and its potential and whether it could be successful.

Eleanor graciously answered lots of questions for us, so check out her answers below to learn more about her experience and advice to those on the fence about attending!

By the way, Eleanor has signed up to participate in TSW:Women, so if you are as inspired by her answers as we are, you should sign up so you can have the chance to work with her!

Question: What team did you work with?

Answer: I had recruited 3 women and 5 men who were talented, well educated and excited about bettering the lives of women.  A mix of doctors, engineers, chemists, marketing professionals and web developers. We were called, "Aura".

Q: What was your role on the team? 

A: I was the visionary, motivator and encourager that coordinated and lead the team to work together, think outside the box and deliver a minimal viable product. I was also responsible for pitching to the judges.

Q: What was your favorite part of the weekend? 

A: Being in the middle of all the energy and enthusiasm that was present.  Learning from a great team, the coaches and volunteers.

Q: What was the most valuable part of the weekend for you? 

A: Networking!  The connections I made at THSW is what fast forwarded my idea into a reality.

Q: How did you feel before/during/after the event? 

A: Before: Anxious and very unsure of what to expect.  During: Full of excitement and anticipation.  After: Grateful, I never worked with such a helpful and encouraging group of individuals before.  I gained a lot of knowledge regarding business and saw new areas where I needed to personally grow and develop further.

Q: Did attending the weekend give you a better understanding of what startups can be?  

A: Absolutely.  It can feel chaotic, but you will be surprised what can be done with a team. You have to be willing to take risks and be passionate.  It's more than just having a great idea;  you have to work hard, be willing to take criticism and seek out help from others.  Even if my team had not received the award for best overall team, I would have walked away positive knowing I was leaving stronger and wiser.  If anyone is considering starting up a company, participate in a TSW.  You won't regret it.

Q: Would you participate in another startup weekend? Why or why not?

A: Yes, I never experienced an adrenaline rush quit like I did that weekend.  Was a lot of fun.  I gained a lot of wisdom and knowledge regarding business that will help me in the future.  The possibilities of what else could be learned and helping develop other individual's ideas excites me.

Q: Why should someone participate in a startup weekend?  

A: Starting up a company is not for the faint of heart.  It takes passion, dedication and hard work.  TSW is a great platform to challenge your ideas and yourself.  It's also a great environment for personal growth and development, not to mention networking with other like minded individuals.

Q: How do you work with a group of people you don’t know for 54-hours straight?  

A: Good question: You have to be open minded and willing.  It's good to have a mindset that everyone there is wanting and willing to help.  It's not necessarily all about winning, it's more about learning from each other.  Each person has a unique perspective and each perspective should be respected.  And simply, have fun!!!  Take breaks and spend some time getting to know each other.

Q: What advice do you have for future startup weekend participants? 

A: If you plan to pitch an idea, prepare and practice.  Trust me, you will be glad you did.  Step out of your comfort zone. Don't be afraid and any idea is worth pitching. Even if your idea doesn't get picked, it's still worth being apart of another team and you will feel encouraged. You will learn so much. Be prepared to have fun and allow yourself to be open minded. Be a team player. Lastly, have business cards to hand out to others so you can stay connected with those you meet.

Stay tuned for more advice from another TSW: Health participant, and don't forget to sign up for TSW: Women today!