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Janelle Hartford

Janelle Hartford, community director of Start Bismarck, will represent Bismarck-Mandan's entrepreneurial community at the Global Entrepreneurship Congress in Istanbul April 16-19.

A Bismarck woman will represent the local entrepreneurial community at a global conference in Istanbul in two weeks.

Janelle Hartford, organizer of Bismarck-Mandan’s 1 Million Cups weekly entrepreneurs’ event, is attending the annual Global Entrepreneurship Congress. She will serve as one of six experts throughout the United States to train organizers of another a new program, Startup Huddle, intended to form local support networks for entrepreneurs worldwide.

“It will be an incredible opportunity to meet entrepreneurs and ecosystem builders doing similar work on a global scale,” Hartford said.

The Global Entrepreneurship Congress, in its 10th year, gathers about 15,000 entrepreneurs, investors, policymakers, researchers and support organizations from more than 170 countries. 

Bismarck-Mandan, which has been hosting 1 Million Cups events for five years, was one of the first 50 communities to start the event.

Startup Huddle was launched by the Global Entrepreneurship Network in 2017 and has locations in 19 cities, including Amman, Johannesburg, Moscow, Riyadh, Toronto and Taiwan.

Hartford got started with 1 Million Cups as a participant and she says that experience has since “thrown (her) headfirst into the local startup community.”

Recently, that has included taking on the position of community director of Start Bismarck, an event-based organization focused on building a community to support startup companies, full time. From 2015 until just a few weeks ago, Start Bismarck has been volunteer led.

“It gives me purpose,” Hartford said of her decision to take on the organization full time, adding that people can expect a lot of change in the next 12 months.

Hartford said she thinks Bismarck-Mandan is ready and recognizes how important it is to have a group like Start Bismarck in the community.

“I’m really impressed with Janelle and what she does in our city. An entrepreneurial ecosystem is very important to the future of any city, but especially Bismarck," said Bismarck Mayor Mike Seminary, adding that having that support encourages young entrepreneurs to bring their ideas here.

“As she starts allocating more of her time to Start Bismarck, I think we’ll see an even more vibrant group of participants because that is just what Janelle is capable of doing,” Seminary said.

Her attendance at the upcoming global conference will be a boon to the community as she brings back ideas from other areas.

Harford said, with Emerging Prairie in Fargo and Evolve in Grand Forks, entrepreneurial support statewide has grown and the cities are serving as a network for each other, too.

Companies from those cities have come to Bismarck to talk about what they're doing and share new perspectives.

Seminary, who sits on the North Dakota Economic Development Foundation Board, said most of the funding requests the board receives are from towns to the east. He said having someone working on entrepreneurship in Bismarck full time “could put Bismarck on a completely different map” and in sync with those other eastern cities.

1 Million Cups in Bismarck-Mandan meets at 9 a.m every Wednesday in downtown Bismarck at Dakota Stage.

Changes have been made to this story to correctly identify Grand Forks' entrepreneurial organization

Reach Jessica Holdman at 701-250-8261 or


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