Startup Weekend Charlotte 2013

Unless tequila is paleo, I (do not) regret to inform you that I fell off the paleo wagon.

My reasons were many and convincing (especially after 54 hours with minimal sleep, more coffee than a human should consume, and zero yoga), and honestly they did not only have to do with the fact that I just really needed a drink straight to the face. And a bowl of chickpeas. And a beet burger with goat cheese.

I will gladly tell you all about them in the near future, but for now let’s recap the weekend. (If you’re dying to hear the anti-paleo, Heather has a clear rundown from her point of view here.)

Continue reading

So I’ve been nursing a Startup Weekend hangover for the last two days, and I assure you it has nothing to do with tequila.

From their website: “Startup Weekend is a global network of passionate leaders and entrepreneurs on a mission to inspire, educate, and empower individuals, teams and communities.”

Each year Startup Weekends are held in cities all over the world where budding entrepreneurs gather to try and launch new businesses in just 54 hours. It is nuts and it’s easily one of the coolest things I’ve ever done.

It works like this: On night one anyone who wants to pitch gets 60 seconds to wow the crowd with their idea. No props. No slides. Nothin’. Everyone in the room votes on their favorites and a handful of ideas move on to the next round. Once finalists are announced, remaining attendees select which project they want to work on, and, thus, teams of random strangers form and they work day and night to turn an idea into a viable business. On Sunday night, each team has 7 minutes to pitch their final product to a team of judges and potential investors. The winner gets cash money to keep moving forward, and some pretty impressive bragging rights.

I pitched my idea for Plate Share, a smartphone application that allows you to round up your restaurant bills to the nearest dollar and donate the change to feed the hungry. (You can read more about it here.)

I felt pretty damn good about my pitch and was thrilled when Plate Share was the first name called to advance to the next round.

And that was when it hit me, “Oh holy shit now we have to start a business in 48 hours and I’m only allowed to eat eggs and vegetables and fruit uggggghhhhh paleoooo.”

I don’t know how it happened, but I’m going to go ahead and call it divine intervention that I somehow landed with the best team a budding business could ever ask for. While the assembly is totally random (people just saunter over to the pitch they liked the best), we somehow ended up with an even divide among the skills we needed: tech, design, marketing, management.

I truly can’t say enough about how incredible these people are. They threw everything they had into an idea that wasn’t even theirs and never once complained or lost interest and slacked off. On Saturday night two of my tech guys were cranking out code at my kitchen counter until 4am. (I was asleep on the couch.)

In just 48 hours, these outrageously talented people pulled together gorgeous mockups of the app, website design, a logo, a sick presentation of the concept, market analysis, business plans, and a whole hell of a lot of backend code (that I don’t understand) to actually execute it all.

In the end, we didn’t win. But we kind of knew we wouldn’t, and we didn’t care. Before our final pitch on Sunday night, almost every person on my team had approached me individually to ask if they could stay on the project after the weekend to see it through to completion. So we went into the final pitch knowing that, win or lose, Plate Share was going to keep moving forward. That was a pretty good feeling to have.

This was hands down one of the most incredible events I’ve ever attended. I still can’t wrap my head around the energy and enthusiasm people put into this work. Or how perfect strangers can work together so well. I think I was most surprised to find such support and camaraderie within teams and even among competing teams. I guess I felt like coming into the cutthroat world of startup business as a woman in a male-dominated field and a yoga teacher with a non-profit pitch that things would be, I don’t know, more aggressive. I found the opposite to be true at Startup Weekend.

And I guess that’s kind of the point of the whole event. To bring together like-minded people with different skill sets and connections and throw it all on the table for everyone to access.

I can’t thank Startup Weekend enough for the opportunity. Special thanks to the Startup Weekend Charlotte crew and to Packard Place for hosting us. What an amazing outlet this is.

As for my team, you are some of the most talented, generous, hilarious people I have ever met. Thank you for turning this idea into a reality.

We learned a lot this weekend–about what works and what doesn’t–and were connected to some really brilliant people in the process. We may not have won, but that’s not the point. Startup Weekend is as much about networking as it is creating your concept. We aren’t stopping the momentum we built up over the weekend; our first official Plate Share meeting in our new office space (weeeee!) is Friday night.

Watch out, world. Here comes Plate Share.

From The Observer: Entrepreneurs Pitch Ideas During Startup Weekend

Congratulations to the winning team, Brush Fairy, a subscription toothbrush delivery service. And to all the other finalists:

MinKnow – 60-second how-to videos

RoomMe – a roommate finder

WhizKidDraft – a college prep/recruiting tool for smart kids (pitched by a 10-year-old kid)

Club Hub – lets you check the scene at venues before you get there

Digiceipts – digital receipts

Begintel – a resource hub for startup businesses

HLS: Blogger Safety

Rooooooommates

Any time you attend a conference there will be much chatter (positive and negative) about the venue, the food, the t-shirts, the presenters, the hotel and so on. (I’ll share all my chatter about this specific conference once I’m done recapping all the sessions.) One thing I think everyone can agree on is that it’s the social interaction, the connections, the chance to see old friends and make new ones that keep us coming back each year.

Many of the people I’ve met through blogging have become true, irreplaceable friends of mine in real life. And because this community is so vast and so inspiring and so welcoming, I feel a connection even with those I haven’t met yet. It’s kind of like a big, not-so-secret club and we all know the handshake.

There’s a familiar scene I’m sure we’ve all experienced that I’ve relived a hundred times over since first participating in blogger meetups. It’s that moment at the beginning of the meal when everyone whips out a camera, looks around the table, laughs and says, “I love eating with other bloggers because they don’t think this is weird.”

That moment of understanding and that sense of belonging don’t just happen face-to-face. It’s something that transcends the need for “real life” interaction and leaves us feeling connected to other bloggers we’ve never even met. It’s a tightly knit group.

So when the topic of blogger safety arises, suddenly it’s not only about me or my family or my friends; it’s about all of us. We’re our own little tribe. When one member is threatened, we should all feel threatened. And on the flip side, when one person stands up to fight, we should all feel powerful because there is strength in our numbers.

At the Summit, Monica took on the daunting task of discussing blogger safety. While it’s something that should be on everyone’s radar, the room was mostly empty. It’s not surprising, I suppose. After all, it’s not the most fun thing to delve into, but it is necessary.

As part of this community, I think we all have a responsibility to look out for each other and hold each other accountable when it comes to sharing our lives in an engaging and entertaining but safe way.

Here’s what we talked about:

  • As a blogger you are friendly, familiar and predictable. This leads people to believe they know you better than they do and makes you easy to find.
  • Journalists are among the most stalked people
  • 1 in 12 women will be stalked in her lifetime; 1 in 45 men will
  • Your personal information is easy to find even if you don’t disclose it on your blog. Contact your domain host and request that your information be removed anywhere they provide it.
  • Have a comment deletion policy. Negative or aggressive comments need never see the light of day, but you should make it perfectly clear (on your About page or FAQ) when and why you censor comments so everyone is on the same page.
  • Establish what you are comfortable sharing. Not everyone has to have photos of themselves, recaps of their days or information about where they work. Find what is best (and safest) for you.
  • This is my personal opinion: FourSquare, a service that allows you to “check in” at different locations and share this check in with Twitter and Facebook followers, is a terrible idea. When you check in, you are broadcasting (in real time!) your location and also the fact that you are not at home. Some people say it’s ok to check in after you leave a place. I say never check in on FourSquare. It makes it too apparent which places you like to frequent and, again, lets people know when you’re house is unoccupied.
  • Another note on FourSquare and Facebook places: Don’t check in other people. This is a matter of safety and not everyone wants their information blasted out to the masses. Just don’t do it.
  • Be careful with your photos. That picture of your dog… Could someone read your address on his dog tags if they zoomed in? That quirky little coffee shop? Could someone figure out which one it is based on its unique decor? That company (or school) polo you have on? Even if you don’t share your place of employment, is it now available to anyone who wants it?
  • DON’T SHARE: your favorite running route (ever); specific places you frequent; your school or place of employment; real names of your children or specific information about where they are; photos of or information about people who don’t want to be online
  • Always ask permission before putting someone else on your blog. This is your life and maybe you’re comfortable with sharing a lot, but not everyone is. Plus, if safety ever becomes an issue, you will carry the burden of guilt if you drag someone else into it who never wanted anything to do with blogging.
  • Before accepting samples or giveaways from PR firms, confirm who your contact is. Call the firm and ask for validation. Never just give your address to anyone who wants to send you something for free. If you receive a lot of offers, consider setting up a PO Box for blog deliveries.
  • If you think something is wrong, report the situation to: fightcyberstalking.org, call local law enforcement, inform friends and family of what’s happening and record every incident.
It’s not about living in a constant state of fear but about living in a constant state of readiness. If you take the necessary precautions and share your life in a smart way, you can keep yourself and those around you safe.

Realistic Achievable Wellness

All vegetarian lunch at HLS this year

Missed the Healthy Living Summit? Fret not. While I’m sure you’re dying to hear about my night at the gay bar, 2am pizza run, that guy that got busted for coke right in front of our dinner table, our epic road trip through a tornado warning and how the cats are faring after three days alone, I insist on making you learn first. You’re welcome.

This year’s keynote speaker was Dawn Jackson Blatner, registered dietitian and author of The Flexitarian Diet. Her presentation was about R.A.W. (Realistic. Achievable. Wellness.), which she says can be accomplished on a flexitarian diet. These are my notes:

  • On the health spectrum of slow progress/no results to frustrating/not sustainable, you want to fall somewhere in the middle. You don’t want to be doing absolutely nothing but you also don’t want to have so many rules and restrictions that your lifestyle is impossible to maintain.
  • Trends in food right now: meatless, simple ingredients, natural, detox, local food, gluten-free, real food, farm fresh, back to basics
  • 8/10 chefs say that vegetarian entrees are “hot” right now
  • 23% more meatless meals are being consumed in restaurants
  • 40% of non-vegetarian eaters say they order vegetarian entrees in restaurants
  • Part of food is being social; if you can be a social drinker can you be a social carnivore?
  • Blatner explained that she was a vegetarian for a while but secretly ate “special” meat on the side: her grandma’s roast, a hot dog with the Chicago Cubs, BBQ at her brother’s house, etc. She felt like a fraud counseling people on being vegetarian and pushing that as the best diet while still eating meat herself. This is when she embraced a flexitarian lifestyle instead.
  • Flexitarian: pro-plants not anti-meat
  • How are flexitarians different from omnivores? Intention. Every day a flexitarian wakes up with the intention to be more vegetarian, but they still eat meat on occasion. Omnivores wake up every day with the intention to eat anything.
  • How to transition to a flexitarian diet: 1) Reportion your plate 2) Reinvent old favorites 3) Refresh your recipe repertoire
  • 25-25-50 – Your plate should include 25% lean protein, 25% whole grain and 50% produce (fruit and veg). You can continue eating the same things you always have but just change the portions around so you’re eating more vegetables and smaller meat servings. (Also, change some of your meat servings to plant proteins)
  • To reinvent old favorites, the some of these swaps: instead of chicken, tofu; instead of meat sauce, white beans in tomato sauce; instead of chicken stir fry, edamame stir fry, instead of steak burrito, black bean burrito, instead of meatloaf, lentil loaf
  • Enjoy exploring new foods. Transitioning to a plant-based diet should be about all the new things you can eat, not about all the old things you can’t. Share recipes. Read blogs. Visit new restaurants.
  • Think you’re craving meat? Lots of people who try to transition to plant-based eating say they crave meat. Blatner says you’re actually craving a meaty or savory taste known as umami. You can find this taste in cooked tomatoes, parmesan cheese, carrots, potatoes, soybeans, seaweed, green tea and mushrooms.
  • Don’t like plants? Try pairing an unliked flavor with a liked one (example: add some unliked black beans to a steak burrito). Over time, you will start to associate the unliked food with the liked food and will begin enjoying it on its own. This type of pairing increases the likelihood of acceptance of an unliked food.
  • De-bittering: Raw vegetables are bitter and some people hate this. You can de-bitter them by adding sweetness or fat. She calls this the “coffee principle.” Coffee is bitter but people drink it. Why? Because they add sugar (sweetness) and fat (cream). Roast vegetables to bring out sweetness or add fat (olive oil, cheese, yogurt, etc.)
  • Brighten: You can brighten the flavor of vegetables without adding salt by adding an acid like vinegar, citrus or yogurt. For Italian food, add balsamic vinaigrette. For Mexican, add a squeeze of lime. For Middle Eastern food, add yogurt.
I loved this presentation and thought Blatner did a great job laying out a healthy eating plan without scaring away or alienating people who still want to eat meat but still promoting a plant-based diet. Hope these notes are useful!

HLS: Write a Better Recipe

Heeeeeey

Last year I provided notes from the sessions I attended for anyone who couldn’t make it to the Summit but was interested in learning a little something. So here we go again…

My first session was “Writing a Better Recipe” by Stepfanie Romine from Spark People. I appreciated this session because Stepfanie is a professional recipe developer/editor and just wrapped up her work on the Spark People Cookbook (out October 4, 2011) so she was speaking from experience.

Bloggers!

I straight suck at writing recipes so here’s what I need to know:

  • Pet Peeves: There are some common mistakes bloggers make when posting recipes, including: no forewarning that a step will involve overnight chilling or soaking; using obscure, hard-to-find ingredients; posting photos between instructions; no mention of time-consuming prep; cooking at odd temperatures (like 315 degrees) or times (like 7 min); random capitalization of ingredients
  • Anatomy of a Great Recipe: You should include: a title, headnote and tips, yield, prep and cook times (separated out), ingredient list and instructions.
  • Blog vs. Recipe: Photos and a funny story are great… in a blog. The recipe should be just the recipe. Give people just what they need to get a great end result. Save your antics for the blog entry. You can use a printer-friendly widget to make the recipe easily accessible below your story/photos.
  • Headnotes: This is an important piece that should go below the recipe title and above the ingredient list that includes an enticing descriptor (appealing to all five senses), tips for success, alternatives/substitutions (for ingredients and equipment) and proper credit if any part of the recipe was borrowed or “inspired by.”
  • Details: Spell out “tablespoon” and “teaspoon” rather than use Tbsp or tsp since not everyone knows the abbreviations. Specify can size (14.1 oz, for example) because they come in many variations. Is it “1 cup of almonds, chopped” or “1 cup of chopped almonds”? Just be as specific as possible.
  • Before You Publish: Check for the six components of a great recipe. Ensure all ingredients listed are used and all ingredients used are listed. Make sure instructions are in order and nothing is missing. Check spelling and grammar.
  • Rights: Legally, only a headnote and methods can be copyrighted; ingredients cannot. If you adapt a recipe, link to the original. If you only swap out a couple simple ingredients (used cranberries instead of raisins), this is not your recipe and you should link back to the original.
  • Resources for Recipe Development: Will Write for Food, Recipes Into Type, Cook Wise and Bake Wise, On Food and Cooking

I'm gonna need some protein...

I’m already hungry. Is it time for lunch yet?

FNCE Day 3

Credit: earlysprouts.org

My third and final day at FNCE was slower paced on purpose (I slept through the first session) but still filled to the brim with food knowledge. First up:

Creating a Healthier Generation through Culinary Innovation in School Foodservice

This was the first culinary demo I attended because most were sponsored by food companies. Though this, too, was sponsored by ARAMARK, I felt like the recipe ideas presented served as positive inspiration to ignite sparks of creativity throughout the audience without implying: “You must use ARAMARK to achieve this.”

Three meals were prepared:

  • Whole grain macaroni and cheese – a simple mix of skim milk, flour (used to thicken rather than full-fat heavy cream), cheese and whole wheat noodes
  • Salad shakers – lettuce, tomato, corn, black beans, grilled chicken, cheese and ranch in a portable cup
  • Greek pizza – hummus takes the place of sauce and is topped with cheese, tomatoes and grilled chicken

With modifications, I’d eat all of it. I was surprised and impressed to see all of them easily adaptable to a vegetarian diet. I was also surprised to see real food being prepared at all considering everything I’ve seen in public school kitchens goes from freezer to oven to tray to mouth with no culinary skill required.

I was kind of horrified when the whole wheat macaroni was reluctantly presented to the audience with the explanation, “It’ll look better and less brown once it’s covered up.” to which the audience nodded enthusiastically. What’s wrong with darker pasta? Kids won’t eat that? I don’t have kids, and Ralphie will eat anything. Enlighten me. Will kids really not eat whole wheat pasta and bread because it’s darker? If so, should we as adults not take it upon ourselves to stop agreeing with them?

I thought the salad shakers were a great idea (McDonald’s thought so several years ago, too). My experience with the salad bar at my high school is that kids will pile on mountains of croutons, cheese and ranch and leave the greens as an afterthought. These little shakers make it easy to control portions and, I guess, force greens upon them. I’m down. My only complaint: I think that ranch and cheese is overkill. Pick one or the other. And I got the impression from the presenters and audience members that kids refuse to eat vinaigrette dressings. OK so… continue rewarding them with ranch? I don’t see this as a productive way to enlighten their lame little palates. As you’ll see in the other session I attended on this day, children require multiple (like, dozens) of exposures before they may like a food. Let’s not hold the bar so low.

Finally, the Greek pizza looked awesome, but I wouldn’t have added cheese. Hummus + cheese + chicken is protein overload. I know that burying things under cheese is the sure fire way to get a kid (or adult) to eat it, but again, let’s raise the bar a little bit here on our expectations what kids will eat. If cheese is a must, I’d go with a sprinkling of super flavorful feta rather than burying it under a blanket of fat-free mozzarella. That’s just me.

Emerging Opportunities for RDs in the Restaurant Industry

This session was of great interest to me because I’m very passionate about (who still says that?) educating the restaurant industry on the rise in Celiac disease, food allergies and vegan/vegetarian diets and how they can capitalize on this trend if they learn to crank out safe, allergy/diet-friendly foods in an uncontaminated environment.

Think about it: I am a vegetarian. I do not like my vegetables cooked with bacon or chicken stock. I don’t believe most restaurant workers (especially in South Carolina) when they roll their eyes and tell me it’s not in there. Wouldn’t I be more likely to spend my food dollars somewhere that I know the staff has been trained to understand my unique dining needs? Same goes for someone with Celiac. You think they’re gonna risk eating a gluten-free pizza crust that was probably tossed into the same oven with the wheat doughs? Unlikely.

I actually approached some restaurants in Greenville with an offer to counsel them (for free because I’m technically unqualified) on creating a more vegetarian-friendly menu, kitchen and staff. I pitched it from the angle that they’d be able to increase sales if they could appeal to a large portion of the population. No one took the bait. One day though… Sweet Tater, RD will be much more convincing.

Using School-Based Gardens to Promote Dietary Changes Through Childhood

This final session was a really fascinating and encouraging presentation of research completed by Early Sprouts, a prevention program that uses gardens at childcare centers to teach children healthy eating habits, math, reading and more.

By involving students in the vegetable-growing process, offering vegetable tastings in a positive environment (and doing so multiple times) and sending recipes and vegetable packets home so that the whole family could get involved, the group succeeded in increasing children’s likability of all vegetables offered.

It’s a really brilliant program and I wish I had the time to rant on about it, but I have a paper to write. So check out their site. My favorite things to note:

  • If a child (or adult, I’d argue) rejects a food, don’t give up and never serve that food again. It takes multiple exposures for success.
  • Get the parents involved. If you’re in a childcare setting and trying to initiate change on site, odds are all your hard work is going out the door when the child goes home. Early Sprouts’ idea to send home vegetables from the garden along with recipes to try is a brilliant way to carry the message outside the classroom.
  • Gardening doesn’t just teach kids about gardening. It doesn’t just teach them about food, either. Early Sprouts used the garden as way to teach the kids math (measuring), reading (recipes), art (drawings of the food), vocabulary (whisk, saute, boil – these aren’t normal words 4-year-olds say) and more.

FNCE continued for another full day, but I had to head back to South Carolina. I even missed Anthony Bourdain’s closing address. I may never get over that.

Nevertheless! A wonderful experience that I would strongly encourage more dietetics students to attend. We newbies were definitely in the minority.