Jennifer Burgard | Nice Alumni Series

Co-Founder of Hopeful Heart Project | Class of 2007

Fargo, ND

Raised in Fargo by a single mother who worked an average of three jobs at a time, Jennifer Burgard and her siblings had to become self-sufficient at a young age.

During the summer, she worked on her grandparents’ farm, sorting sprockets and belts they bought from auctions. At a rate of three cents per sprocket, she grasped the concept of earning one’s pay early on. And though she hadn’t thought she’d run her own business someday, the foundations of her work ethic were laid at that farm.

Always look at what your mission is and align with it. Let things go that don’t align.

After graduating from NDSU with a degree in Interior Design, Jennifer went on to work for an architecture firm in Grand Forks, and then joined a firm in Salt Lake City. She spent about a decade working in the design world before returning to Fargo to start a family.

But in April of 2017 Jennifer faced complications during her pregnancy and lost her son just 12 hours after he was born. It was a shock to everyone. She went home brokenhearted. Her maternity leave had become a bereavement leave instead.

“There was always something that felt like it was missing from the work that I was doing in design. I just wasn’t quite hitting something. I wasn’t being fulfilled in some way and I never really understand what that was. But you don’t often get a whole lot of time to think about that. I had a lot of time to think about that while I was on this bereavement leave path.”

She found herself returning to work early, thinking if she could just get busy again she could move forward and feel differently. But a lot of what she was doing didn’t feel important anymore. Her grief, and the perspective it brought, led her to start a nonprofit to support other parents who have lost children called the Hopeful Heart Project.

Considering the course her life has taken, Jennifer encourages others to find something they are passionate about. And she warns—if it feels like something’s missing, something is probably missing.

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The Nice Center at NDSU created this series to demonstrate that entrepreneurs come from all walks of life. As we pursue our mission of making entrepreneurship for all we invite your support through mentorship. Share more about yourself at thenicecenter.org/mentor

Credits: Story by Scott Meyer & Dane Johnson / Illustration by Izak Moleterno

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Posted on November 18th, 2020 by Dane Johnson in News and Stories