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NOTEBOOK: Brick by brick, glow stick by glow stick


The saying “It takes a village” usually acknowledges raising kids and running small businesses. At Accelerate DSM on Thursday, conference emcee and VolunteerLocal President Kaylee Williams decided to wake everyone up at the start by using a surprising illustration: glow sticks. 

“I’ll call you out when it’s your turn,” Williams reassured everyone.

To those in the audience who founded or remained involved in Startup City, “Snap it awake,” Williams said, and I began hearing cracks across tables as a few blue, green and purple glow sticks lit up. 

To the founders and speakers at 1 Million Cups (the Wednesday morning meetup that allows speakers to spread the word about their business), “light them up,” and the glow sticks cracked, snapped, and lit across conference tables. 

By the end of Williams’ story — recounting more than two years’ worth of events and initiatives that helped VolunteerLocal grow — she had a dark conference room full of glow sticks, representing each moment the Des Moines community contributed to one startup. A village wouldn’t be enough.

“We built something unimaginable, something bigger than all of us,” Williams said, and more than 170 people raised their glow sticks — a road map of what it took to raise a community.

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