Startup Weekend was a great step up for Barbara Worthington.
After two long days of developing business plans, Worthington’s venture, Caregiver Cards, was judged to have the most potential.
The Startup Weekend, the first such event in Southern Oregon, was held April 19-21 at the Umpqua Business Center in Roseburg. The event had about 40 participants.
Worthington admitted that originally she had no intention of attending the event. But after some encouragement from Trevor Mauch, a Roseburg businessman and entrepreneur, she decided to attend, to listen and to learn.
After listening to the introduction and a few pitches from others, she was inspired to present her own idea — cards to help caregivers communicate with people suffering memory loss. She has been slowly developing the idea for the past couple of years.
She and her husband, Mark, started Caregiver Cards as a home and online business in May 2012 and have sold a couple of dozen of the card sets. The fledgling business was also featured in the On Biz column of The News-Review in September.
“At the last second, I decided to pitch,” said Worthington, a Winston resident.
Worthington’s idea evolved from her years of caring for her grandparents, who had Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. She discovered that illustrations and one or two printed words sometimes worked better than verbal communication. She drew illustrations on 4 1/4-by-5 1/2 inch cards to indicate simple activities such as eating and drinking. She said the cards, with a different illustration on each side, aids caregivers by cueing patients to do certain activities.
Caregiver Cards was selected as one of five finalists after the initial pitches. A team made up of Worthington; Aaron Larsen and Eric Anderson, both of Roseburg, and three Oregon Institute of Technology students — Jacob Norton, Caleb Larson and Jonathan Hays — then spent the weekend developing the idea. They expanded the concept to include a DVD and an app program, bundling them with the printed cards and suggesting a retail price of $47.
“There are 15.4 million family members and friends who are caregivers for those with Alzheimer’s,” Worthington said during her five-minute Sunday evening presentation. “If you sell to just 1 percent of those caregivers, you’d generate over $7.24 million. It’s all about helping caregivers with communication.”
A panel of five judged the final five presentations. The judges were Toni Clough, business instructor at Umpqua Community College; Rick Coen of D.A. Davidson & Co.; Toby Luther of Lone Rock Resources; Rene Toman of the Umpqua Business Center and Paul Utz, a technology entrepreneur.
“Barbara had a viable product,” Toman said. “It had a good solution to a problem. We felt it was the most likely to succeed.”
In addition to Caregiver Cards, the other finalists were Ambitious Muse, Educationery, Botner’s Bounty and Beautiful Biodegradable.
Ambitious Muse pitched offering a community place for people to create their visions and sell their completed works.
Educationery would be a nonprofit venture that would create cards, notepads and other paper products to raise money to help children in Uganda attend school.
Botner’s Bounty proposed developing Nick Botner’s Yoncalla orchard of several thousand fruit trees into a more commercial venture.
Beautiful Biodegradable was about certifying products and packaging as biodegradable.
Worthington will receive six months free rent at the Umpqua Business Center, six hours of free accounting from Wicks Emmett of Roseburg, consultation with attorney Nancy Lowe of Roseburg on business incorporation and a basket of business educational materials worth about $400.
“I’m humbled, appreciative and thankful for the team effort,” Worthington said.
The team members said they would continue to work with Worthington to develop their concept and get products on the market.
The Startup Weekend idea originated six years ago in Colorado. Now a nonprofit organization, Startup Weekend is based in Seattle.
Since October 2012, there have been 672 weekend events in more than 300 cities in about 100 countries. About 57,000 people have participated with more than 5,000 startups going into business. Thirty-six percent of those startups were still operating after three months in business.
Worthington and Caregiver Cards can be contacted by calling 541-670-6347.
• News-Review business reporter Craig Reed can be reached by calling 541-957-4210 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.