Startup Weekend From the Perspective of a Participant: Calvin Bramlett


by Emily Reeves

Director of Digital Innovation and Insight Planning at Stone Ward

Follow Emily on Twitter @Reeves501.


I conducted an email Q&A with Calvin Bramlett, one of my teammates from Startup Weekend Little Rock, to give us his perspective on Startup Weekend and why he will be participating in Startup Weekend Northwest Arkansas. You can follow Calvin on Twitter @CalvinBramlett.

Why did you choose to participate in Startup Weekend Little Rock last April? Was it your first one, or had you done one before? What did you expect when you showed up on Friday night?

Calvin: There was a lot of talk about Startup Weekend here in Little Rock. I wasn’t sure what it was about but I knew that they were looking for designers. I hadn’t ever attended a Startup Weekend or any event like it before so I had no idea what to expect. My basic understanding was that different people were going to pitch ideas and we were going to pick a team and work on their idea.

Did you plan on pitching an idea or was that a last minute decision? What did it feel like to get up in front of everyone and give your 60-second pitch? Any advice for those planning to pitch at Startup Weekend Northwest Arkansas?

Calvin: I knew going up there that I wanted to pitch an idea. Being a creative, I always have ideas for different products. We were all told that we have a minute to pitch our idea. So I was a little nervous about what I was going to say. I realized afterwards that what you need to do is talk about your selling points: what is your product, who is your audience, how does it help and who do you need. After you pitch your ideas, you can form groups and talk more in detail later. You just want to grab their interests. I also recommend doing something to stand out (in a good way). If you do or say something to stand out, people are more likely to remember you and be drawn to join your group.

Tell us a little bit about your Startup Weekend experience? What happened each day?

Calvin: Friday night my sister and I walked into the Clinton School of Public Service with an idea and a notebook. We didn’t know anyone and we really didn’t know what we were supposed to be doing there. I pitched my idea along with several others and then we formed groups. Besides my sister, one other person joined my group. Several other people said they were going to join, but they must have found better ideas. That evening each group found a private location and started brainstorming their ideas.

Saturday didn’t go exactly how I had expected. My partner didn’t show up until an hour after my sister and I. Then after talking with him for another 30 minutes, I realized he wasn’t as invested into my idea as I was. My partner had given up and my sister doesn’t have any technical skill, so I knew that this was going to be a one-man show. I decided then to break up my group, and my sister and I joined the VidLibs group. I picked this group because Jody, the man with the idea was outgoing, excited, and had a really cool idea. I knew that this would be a fun project. They didn’t have a web or graphic designer so I fit in perfectly and was welcomed with open arms. From 10:00 AM to 9:00 PM, I designed the app interface, set up a website, and started design on the website. By the end of the day, I knew I had a great team on my hands and it was going to be hard to beat what we had going on.

Sunday was the most stressful. Conceptualizing, forming and building a prototype of a product from a thought with seven people in less than three days seems impossible. This was the last of those three days and we were a few hours from our final pitch. I got a little more done on the website and then had the idea to put our logo on t-shirts. My sister and one of the other group members went and got shirts and iron on transfers, and my wife who was sick at home drove up and brought us an iron. (What an amazing woman!) I attempted to cut out and iron on the transfers but this was proven to be a more difficult task that I had anticipated. We then tried making a stencil of our logo and spray painting the logo on the shirt. Nothing was working, I had paint all over my face, the website wasn’t finished and we had an hour until the pitch. I got what I had done on the website uploaded to the internet and cleaned off my face. Jody once again pitched his idea, but this time with a prototype, website, brand, marketing strategy, and a team standing behind him the entire way. After the judging we were announced to be the second place winners!

What was the most memorable moment of Startup Weekend Little Rock for you?

Calvin: There was so much that happened at Startup Weekend. My most memorable moment was when our group went to the Flying Fish restaurant Sunday night. Startup Weekend was over, our group did great and we shared one last hurrah together. We didn’t talk about winning second place or about the weekend at all. We all hung out as friends and enjoyed each-others company. I’ll never forget that night.

Was there anything that happened that was unexpected?

Calvin: I didn’t expect for my team to win second place. When I was working on my own idea I knew I wouldn’t. I was there for the fun and experience of it. Winning was just a bonus.

Why do you recommend people participate in Northwest Arkansas Startup Weekend?

Calvin: As soon as I knew that there was going to be a Startup Weekend in Northwest Arkansas my wife and I joined. The worst thing that could happen is you gain friendships and contacts that will help you improve your skill. I recommend everyone to participate in this event, especially if they are from Central Arkansas. That way we can help bring some of the startup scene down here!

What do you hope to get out of Northwest Arkansas Startup Weekend?

Calvin: Before Little Rock Startup Weekend I didn’t know what a startup was. This event really opened my eyes to what opportunities are out there. I hope to network and gain contacts that can help me jump to the next stepping stone in my life.