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Dreaming Big with Southwest Airlines

This is a guest post from Patricia Whittemore, Marketing Professional and Green Fitnesspreneur, who won the Cocktail Napkin business concept challenge during last September’s Southwest-sponsored Denver Startup Week. I think of myself as an innovative marketing professional who is passionate about fitness and sustainability.  I always thought it would be great to meld my two passions together to make the world a better place.  That’s how I came up with my small business idea of opening a green gym where the ellipticals, treadmills, and bikes create electricity to power the gym and community.  Therefore, I decided to attend Denver Startup Week in September 2013. The week consisted of sessions, presentations, and networking time in celebration of everything entrepreneurial in Denver.  As a sponsor of the week, Southwest Airlines held a Cocktail Napkin Challenge in which participants submitted their business concept on a cocktail napkin—a nod to how Southwest’s business model was first outlined.  At the end of a great Startup Week, the panel of four judges reviewed the 80+ submissions and chose my business concept as the winner of the Cocktail Napkin Challenge!  The prize was an all-expense paid trip for two to Dallas, overnight stay at the Wyndham, and a visit to Southwest Airlines Headquarters to spend a day touring the facilities and learning from key Executives. Chartiable1With my husband as my guest, our morning started out wonderfully by meeting the CEO, Gary Kelly.  We discussed the start of Southwest Airlines and state of the airline business.  We also talked about my green gym business plan.  Mr. Kelly was kind enough to meet with us for 30 minutes longer than we were scheduled. We then met with the Senior Director of Marketing and discussed advertising in a nontraditional airline concept.  We also met with the Senior Director of Corporate Outreach & Preparedness and the Vice President of Communication & Outreach who shared ideas about corporate communications during positive and negative times.  We were also able to meet with the Senior Manager of Corporate Communication to discuss sustainability efforts in the airline industry. It so happened that we were there on the same day that the Communication & Outreach Team celebrated Thanksgiving, and the Team was nice enough to invite us to their annual “Feast” where we experienced the Culture of Southwest Airlines.   The huge potluck lunch included turkey and all the trimmings.  There was even a competitive green bean casserole cook-off and a contest for the best hat! Overall, everyone at Southwest was a delight to meet as they discussed their roles and my business idea, which was very well-received.  It is nice to see a welcoming group and positive work environment in a large corporation.  This whole experience gave me confidence that my business idea is worth researching more and entering in more business idea competitions.  Thank you to Southwest Airlines for such a great experience!