From What Have I Done? to I Am All In!

If you are anything like me, you love a good challenge. However, there is a little piece of self-doubt that tries to deter me. My self-doubt does not cause me to cave to the normal and comfortable though, most of the time it pushes me to try something new. This is how we learn and grow, explore and meet new people, hone our strengths and overcome weaknesses. So, why is this important? Because by changing my mindset, I had an amazing experience that I want to share!

How in the world did I end up at Techstars Startup Weekend Columbus and now find myself as an organizer for Techstars Startup Weekend Muncie??

Here’s my story.

A year and a half ago I was looking for a career change. So, while at my job as a property manager for a student housing apartment complex, I received a text about a position at Ball State a friend thought I would enjoy. Not one to pass up an opportunity, I applied and got the job! I was going to be the Program Coordinator at the Ball State Entrepreneurship Center.

Now let me be honest: I knew nothing about this program or entrepreneurship. I could not spell or even pronounce entrepreneurship and spent many evenings practicing for my interview. I realized I’d be learning an entirely new specialty with new lingo, new contacts, and would have to unlearn many things I thought I knew about business. I was about to be immersed in the entrepreneurial community and life would never be the same.

Fast-forward to the winter of 2017-18, when I found myself in a conversation about sending a handful of entrepreneurship students to participate in a Startup Weekend.  Being a person who believes you never stop learning, I was immediately interested in this opportunity. So, as a plan took shape to provide this opportunity to our students, I decided to blindly ask if I could go along to learn about the process of putting together and facilitating Startup Weekend. After some consideration, I was on my way to Startup Weekend Columbus.

Initially, I was so excited for this opportunity! However, as our departure grew closer, I became more and more nervous about my decision to attend. How was I going to keep up with the pace of building a business over a 54-hour weekend? How would I benefit a team in building a business? What in the world was I thinking? I was nervous about interacting with people I didn’t know. As we got into the final week before Startup Weekend, I decided I was just going to go and observe how the weekend was run, but I wasn’t going to join a team.

Boy, oh boy, was I wrong.

The anticipation of the weekend had my adrenaline pumping as we caravanned to Columbus, Ohio.  When we arrived, you could feel the entrepreneurial aura in the air. Just after dinner, things kicked off and I truly began to understand business in a completely new light.

We gathered as a group to do icebreakers and have a little fun. I got further into those icebreakers than I would have imagined and they opened me up to being optimistic and ready for the weekend. After a few of these activities it was time for pitches. The atmosphere was electric, energetic and fun. You could not help but get swept up in the moment.

I watched and listened as each participant stepped up to give 30-second pitches about their idea. A few pitches that caught my attention: a dating app called Work For It, an app for planning with friends, and a virtual reality application for hospitals. I just could not believe all the ideas!

During voting, I originally spread my votes across the ideas, but found myself back at Work for It giving the rest of them. This was where I truly wanted to be and something I was already feeling passion for. All three of my original favorites were selected, but I stuck like glue to my desire to help build Work For It into a viable business before Sunday.

I introduced myself to Felicia, the original entrepreneur, and sold myself on why I would be a great asset to her team. Shortly after, we had a team and I had a new network of business friends! Felicia was our fearless leader; Ben, Alex K. and Dave worked on the tech side; Alex S. and Vega did market research; Bennett and I laid out the business plan.

We spent the rest of the first evening getting to know each other, making a game plan for the days to come and scheduling to meet at 7:00 am the next morning to
get started. All my doubts about attending and participating in Startup Weekend Columbus had melted away and I felt comfortable in my decision to dive in headfirst.

On Saturday, we met for coffee and got straight to work building a business, hashing out ideas and working toward an app that everyone in the group would be proud to be a part of building. We went through mockups and name changes. We ebbed and flowed with information from surveys. This really was a crash course in entrepreneurship with successes and failures.

We continued all of Saturday and into Sunday. We ate at our station so we didn’t lose precious time away from our business. Even after hours, we were busy in group chats with ideas for revenue streams, features and benefits. The pressure was on to finalize our plan, get a prototype and website finished and polish the presentation for the judges. I can still feel the excitement of the final hours now as I type this. The adrenaline, the fatigue, the stress, the joy, the fulfillment of making it to the end.

Felicia presented our plan to the judges and it was amazing to see what we and the other teams had created over the course of a weekend. We ended up taking home the prize for Crowd Favorite and I could not have been more proud to be a part of this team.

I started with a chip on my shoulder and a commitment to observing instead of participating. I finished Startup Weekend with a passion for entrepreneurship and have stayed in contact with my team. If you love to learn and love excitement, you should join Startup Weekend Muncie. If you have an idea you want to pitch, great! No plan? No problem! Just come for the experience (and food) of Startup Weekend Muncie. Grow your network, learn more about business and be part of the fun! Cannot wait to see you there.