FARGO — About four years ago, Edie Ramstad was in a funk.

Ramstad, the founder of Weave Got Maille, a company that sells chain maille-related products, was feeling burned out and was close to shutting down her company.

On a whim, she attended one of the weekly gatherings of 1 Million Cups Fargo, an event established five years ago that aims to support and encourage local entrepreneurs.

In Ramstad's case, 1 Million Cups lived up to its mission. Instead of closing her business, Ramstad was so fired up by the energy she found at 1 Million Cups that she went home and hired two more employees.

"It (the business) just kept growing after that," Ramstad said Wednesday, Jan. 23, as she presented her story at a 1 Million Cups gathering in Fargo celebrating the event's five-year anniversary

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In addition to continuing to build her Ada, Minn.-based operations, Ramstad told the crowd she is starting yet another company — 13 Straws — which will make and sell aluminum drinking straws.

She was inspired to start the business after learning about the huge islands of waste plastic growing in many of the world's oceans.

Ramstad said a big contributor to the problem is plastic straws and she shared with her Fargo audience Wednesday that the U.S. discards 500 million plastic straws daily.

Greg Tehven welcomes guests to the 1 Million Cups 5 year anniversary program at The Stage at Island Park on Wednesday, Jan. 23.
David Samson / The Forum
Greg Tehven welcomes guests to the 1 Million Cups 5 year anniversary program at The Stage at Island Park on Wednesday, Jan. 23. David Samson / The ForumDavid Samson / The Forum

"That's just really hard for me to deal with," Ramstad said, referring to the magnitude of the plastic straw problem.

The role 1 Million Cups played in helping Ramstad recharge and move forward with her business plans ranks among the major accomplishments of 1 Million Cups Fargo over the past five years, according to Greg Tehven, executive director and co-founder of Emerging Prairie, a Fargo-based organization that supports the area's entrepreneurial environment. Emerging Prairie is a driving force behind 1 Million Cups Fargo, which is among the largest of the approximately 190 1 Million Cups events held around the country.

Tehven said the Fargo event has seen ups and downs over the past five years.

High notes, he said, include things like the Living Legends event held in 2018 at which local business notables Steve D. Scheel of Scheels and Richard Solberg of Bell Bank gave talks.

But there have been tough moments, too.

"There's a real sadness for me when our organization hasn't met the expectations of teammates and they've moved on," Tehven said, adding that entrepreneurship can also complicate an individual's personal life.

In coming years, Tehven said he anticipates the metro area and 1 Million Cups will continue to present to the world a friendly and welcoming vibe.

He said he also expects to see "more and more organizations being built with unlikely characters; whether it's based on age, geography, race, background. I think we're going to be known as a community that cares."