Expect the Unexpected

When you say “yes” to a 54-hour event called “Startup Weekend”, I don’t think anyone really realizes what they are getting into unless they have done it before. But let me give you a glimpse of my own experience with my first Startup Weekend in Muncie, Indiana.

I was fortunate to have a role on the organizing team. We started rounding up the team and began planning in the Spring of 2018, even though our event was not until October. As the weeks went by, we started reaching out to sponsors, local restaurants for catering, and darn-near any business within an two-hour radius that would help promote our event. We faced some hurdles along the way, but, as a team, we made a point to adapt and overcome anything that stood in our way of success. No one said this would be easy! And with this being our first event, we reached out to Startup Weekend veterans for advice and encouragement. We had a great community and support system from day one.

As the weeks grew shorter and the event quickly approached, we blasted out information anywhere and everywhere. We hung flyers, spoke to various groups around the area, and even had placement on the radio station, news stations, and in newspapers. By the time the event rolled around, we had secured twelve mentors, three judges, five sponsors, and 35 participants. Startup Weekend Muncie (SWM) was here whether we were ready or not.

The first day of SWM was a very-detailed blur. It went by so fast, but each moment stood out for different reasons. The introduction and welcome was a success, with our huge thanks to our facilitator who drove three hours to work with us. Then, we led into ice-breakers that immediately got people out of their shell and developing new relationships. All the fear and nerves that everyone walked in with slowly started to fade away. This resulted in a group of brilliantly brave individuals, all with ideas for something to help solve a problem. Finally it was time to pitch. Our participants pitched a total of 28 ideas. After a few rounds to narrow them down, we were left with seven solid ideas. The idea creators behind each quickly formed teams and started working.

From an organizer’s point of view, there were times when I felt like nothing was happening. But when I walked around to sit with teams and hear about their progress, I knew things were moving full speed ahead. In less than 24-hours, teams had solidified company names, developed websites and social media platforms, started to gain traction with customer validation by talking to their target markets, and some even had prototypes in the works. One thing that really stood out to me was the drive these people had. They had gone from being a bit nervous or confused to sitting in a new team with all the ambition in the world. There was nothing stopping these teams. When we brought in mentors, their progress increased even more. Our goal with the mentors was to bring in diverse knowledge to help each team in different ways. I would humbly say our team did a great job bringing in exactly that. These mentors had backgrounds in law, product development, marketing, computer design and software, as well as years of business development and experience. They offered so much to help each team. When it was time for final pitches on Sunday, each of our seven teams really had a well thought-out business plan, customer validation, and plans to solve problems in their everyday life.

Looking back on a jam-packed weekend, I personally learned and grew so much, but above that, I saw an incredible amount of teamwork and development in our participants and our organizing crew. I can almost guarantee everyone was on an emotional roller coaster that ended on a high point. We experienced excitement, chaos, stress, reassurance, growth, completeness, and more. Sure, our teams had times of panic. We made pivots and stood under pressure, but to power through and come out on top was indescribable. It’s not everyday, or even in normal business, that you get to experience and learn as quickly as you can in Startup Weekend. When there’s one near you, or even if there’s not, GO! They are international! There’s bound to be something close. This is an opportunity you cannot get anywhere else. Why not spend your weekend building a company?

Startup Weekend Muncie 2018 Highlight Reel

Startup Weekend Muncie team overview

Startup Weekend Muncie participants
Startup Weekend Muncie participants


Here are the demo teams and what they are building this weekend at Startup Weekend Muncie 10/06/2018. Interested in watching the pitches? Join us Sunday, October 7, 2018 at the Ball State University Applied Technology Building. Pitches begin at 5:00pm.

Betterflye: Betterflye is the web and mobile platform that aggregates different community, personal, and environmental challenges. The user engages with these challenges to accelerate the ripple effect they make with friends, family, and community organizations through volunteering, donations, and other forms of social activism.

Aqualarm: Aqualarm is a device that encourages users to begin their day hydrated. The device tracks water consumption and requires users to drink a certain amount first thing upon waking up.

LEAP: LEAP works to bridge the gap between students and extracurricular and after school programs. Many lower income students don’t have the necessary transportation to participate in such activities. LEAP leverages their nonprofit status to provide transportation and get students involved.

Button Buddy: Designed to prevent, track, and report sexual assault and attempted sexual assault, Button Buddy uses your smart device to record sexual assault the moment it is activated. Along with recording, it notifies predetermined contacts that you may be in danger.

Artify: Artify is a nonprofit organization with the mission of beautifying areas where businesses and home have been vacated through painted murals.

Hotel Talent: Sometimes getting in front of those first few hundred social media followers can be the hardest part. Hotel Talent helps individuals with unique talents get in front of the right people and start to build their following.

PopShops: Both a physical location and a data play, PopShops curates month-long pop-up shops, but also tracks and sells consumer data to let potential brick and mortar stores gain a better understanding of their demographic and local preferences.


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.