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The following is a guest post by Tony Gaston, who attended Startup Weekend Toledo and formed the team “MyTripPic.”


On Friday, I attended the opening ceremony and I was planning only to observe and not participate. Being a 1st year MBA student, I was planning to begin competing during my 2nd year. However, after watching over 30 people go up and present their ideas, I was inspired to pitch an idea without any prior planning.

Thinking that no one would really vote on my idea, I casually spoke my mind about my trip to Vegas for my grandmother’s 80th birthday. The fact that I was always taking pictures of her and not us, I wondered if there was a way to have a photographer take pictures of us. 16 people voted for my idea, and five people joined my team  to create a product from my idea.  I think the most interesting part of the team came when we were “mystery shopped” with consultants popping into our office and investing time with ideas and past experiences on what not to do. The days were long and as mentioned earlier, none of us wanted to leave the conference to attend to duties for fear that we would be letting the team down in one area or another.

From these three days, I have learned a lot about myself:

In the role of a project manager, you cannot be intimidated that the team that you oversee is stellar in their respective fields (28 year old Programmer, 32 year old Developer, 20 year old Financial Analyst, and 27 year old Information Systems Programmer). Instead, you have to know that each individual chose to join you because of your idea and your conviction to seeing it through. Because of obtaining this revelation Saturday night on the 4th floor of the Business School, I changed my attitude and began to unselfishly share my knowledge and expertise in creating a grand idea! This turn of event help change the group into a team because of the humility that I as the project manager understood and uphold. As a result, the teams gelled extraordinary well! Scott, my programmer, began to flow with ideas on how the concept should work, Josh, began sharing his hobby of taking photos with the targeted market, Phil, began running numbers to find break even points given the fact that the company would be bootstrap, Purnaansh began helping with the mock up for frames of the service working on an app, and I was able to flush out how to market the idea in a rollout strategy given only four weeks of schooling in the subject. I tell you, it was a great experience to see how well five people can work together to create and idea into an minimum viable product (MVP) in such a short time.

As a project manager, the sacrifices that you make for your team and share with them shares a conviction to creating a greater bond for a personal level and on a professional level. Through these three days, I sacrificed time away from my grandmother and my uncle this weekend as they celebrated his 58th birthday. I sacrificed going to church on Sunday and calling my financial supervisor ahead of time that I would not be able to count money after service because I was in a Business Competition. I sacrificed spending time with my friends at the UT vs BGSU football game because I was upstairs supporting my team just as they were supporting me. My conviction was felt because each one of my team members sacrificed a part of themselves as well. My programmer only got a chance to spend time with their children on Saturday morning. My web developer did not get a chance to spend time with his wife and two kids until Sunday evening because he was at the conference the whole weekend. My financial analyst who is also a Resident Assistant had to run on three hours of sleep each day because he had to manage the dorms during the first home game of the year with theft, alcohol, and disturbance. My Information Systems Analyst also sacrificed just as much. And knowing all of this really showed me how much my dedication was 100 fold returned.

In all, I am really glad that I completed this competition because it taught me a lot about teamwork, humility, dedication and strengths. It gave to me the experience that in order to be the leader of a team, you have to listen to the team as a whole, know the direction that you want to take them, but also be willing to pivot (compromise) when the idea has to evolve to become a reality. That takes a lot of “blood, sweat, and tears” but it was worth it.

Since Startup Weekend, Tony and the MyTripPic team plan to submit a proposal for the University of Toledo IE Competition.

Claire Topalian Claire Topalian
(@clairetopalian) Blog, Professional Writing, Communications and PR Specialist. I craft compelling, mission-driven content for companies and individuals that amplifies brand awareness, fosters community, and drives engagement. My experience includes work with tech startups, major corporations, and international non-profits. @clairetopalian