Featuring: Molly Beckham
My name is Molly Beckham, I am 26 years old and in my 2nd year of the MBA program at the University of Calgary. Originally, I’m from the Kitchener/Waterloo area in Ontario, but I moved out to Calgary to start school and to be closer to the mountains. My background is in molecular biology and I have worked for Manulife Financial in their Disability and Life department for the last few years. I took a break from that when I started my MBA and then recently, I participated in the BounceBackYYC Hackathon at the end of June where Kim Trischuk and I came up with the scavenger hunt idea that I’ve been working on now for the last couple months. The idea became The Great YYC Staycation with the tremendous help of Graham and Michelle Edge.
How did you get started with the hackathon?
BounceBackYYC did a good job promoting the hackathon via email, Instagram, and other social media. I was interested in the event, but it was actually Kim, a fellow MBA student, a good friend, and my current business partner, that convinced me to join. If she hadn’t convinced me to do the hackathon, I probably wouldn’t have because I was working full time at that point and didn’t have the capacity. But it was right up my alley… I’ve been a bartender and server since I was 18 – it’s always been my side hustle, so I’ve been pretty involved in tourism and hospitality from the service side. The hackathon was something that I was more interested in so that’s why I went for it.
How did you both move forward after the hackathon?
Graham and Michelle Edge, our other two business partners, were absolutely instrumental in getting the Great YYC Staycation off the ground. They are the founders of Energy Disruptors conference series that focuses on oil and gas and the future of the industry in terms of renewable energy. They are serial entrepreneurs who are very well-connected in the City of Calgary. Graham and Michelle were the ones who reached out to us about furthering the project beyond the hackathon to actualize it and have been incredible to work with.
What skills or experiences did you apply from the MBA program?
For the hackathon, the whole idea of how to create a business plan and understanding the components was really important in succeeding. Our idea was very simple… but the reason we won was that we were able to come up with some financial information that was very low cost – we didn’t need a lot of infrastructures needed to get the project off the ground, and it was very little time to implement as well. Being able to focus on why our business plan was going to be successful and see the factors that were going to lead into an actual business were the reasons that we were successful during that hackathon.
When we finally committed the rest of our summer to get The Great YYC Staycation off the ground, the MBA was helpful in terms of contacts. We’ve reached out to people throughout the university as well as people connected to Haskayne who have been able to help out. Kim and I also both have mentors at the University, Phil Davidson has been amazing – I bounce so many ideas off of him to figure out how to make things work. For technical skills from the MBA, understanding the financial aspects – budgeting and making sure we have enough cash flow to get going, and professionalism – knowing how to reach out to someone and make contact, have probably been the most important factors that I’ve learned through the MBA.
What was your biggest challenge?
This project was an example of learning to fly the plane while it’s in the air. None of us have any background in scavenger hunt production or any experience putting on a city-wide event like this. For this to be successful, we understood that we needed to have it during the summer and needed to capitalize on how many people were staying in the city this year – if we took too long, we were going to miss our window of opportunity. It was three and a half weeks of incredibly long days scrambling – going through every iteration of this idea and trying to figure out what structure to use and how to implement it. We started from absolutely nothing to then coming up with our final product in a very short period of time. This worked to our advantage because we received a lot of community support for our initiative, but we also faced the classic disadvantage of making quick decisions that we may have changed in retrospect. We were under such strict time conditions that we had to make decisions on the fly.
Now, it’s a lot more maintenance and following up to make sure that everything is working as it should, but the first four weeks were intense. We were all burnt out by the time that we launched the scavenger hunt that it was hard to believe we actually did it.
What do you look forward to?
I still have a semester of school left as I’m not graduating until December 2020. But in terms of business, Graham and Michelle are dedicated to seeing where this goes so we are all on this path of trying to figure out what the next step is for YYCStayCay and if there’s an opportunity to scale. The Edges are in a position to dedicate more time to this right now which is fantastic. I’m looking forward to seeing where they can take this, and the ideas they create with the network and infrastructure they have in the city. Then when I graduate, I look forward to being able to go back in and seeing what I can contribute.
As for YYCStayCay itself, we’ve been blown away by the amount of community support that we’ve gained as well as the amount of participation that we received. We were hoping to get a couple thousand people throughout the entire hunt but now we still have three weeks left and we have already hit that goal. If the first event was a benchmark for what the opportunities are like, we’re already head and shoulders above where we thought we would be so it’s encouraging. I’m just excited to see where this can go and see where the brand can move, and Graham and Michelle will be influential in that.
How does this fit in your career?
When I started my MBA, I was planning to get into some type of corporate position. I really wanted to dive in and see where a big company could take me. I never personally thought about being an entrepreneur whatsoever so it’s kind of crazy that I’m in this position. But I am really happy that I have because it has clarified so many things in terms of my career. I love this project so much because the work you put in on Monday gives you results on Tuesday. There is the constant instant gratification of however much work you’re willing to put in. You see the fruit of your labour very quickly as opposed to the big corporate role. I love the competition aspect of entrepreneurism and the responsibility that goes along with the tasks and successes. If you don’t do it, it’s not going to get done so if you want to be successful you basically have to make it successful. I’m not sure if this will turn into my full career, we’re still at such early stages that we have no idea if this is going to be feasible moving forward but it has changed my outlook. I know I definitely want to work with smaller teams when I’m done my MBA and take on project-based and deadline focused work instead of having renewable work that comes to your desk every day. While I don’t really have an answer to this question, this has been the biggest learning opportunity since starting my MBA.
Do you have any advice about participating in hackathons for current and future MBA students?
This was my first hackathon, but I would definitely tell people to pick ones they’re interested in. I don’t know if I would have personally gotten as much out of, for example, a finance-heavy or a tech-heavy hackathon. This one spoke to me because it was very relatable to my experience and I think that’s why we also moved forward with the idea. My advice would be to get involved in these events but specifically the ones that you are passionate about.
How can people get involved?
YYCStayCay is free to participate in thanks to RBC and the other community sponsors. All of the information on getting involved is located on our website (https://www.yycstaycay.com/). All you have to do is download the Let's Roam app (links below) and search for YYCStayCay. You create a profile and then you can get hunting right away for the chance to win some epic prizes. We're also doing flash challenges on Instagram which is a great way for us to feature our community partners and put a spotlight on local businesses. If people are looking for quick prizes, we’re running a giveaway almost every single day that promotes different local businesses.
We also have our Tiny House events which happen twice a week where we put our decaled Tiny House (featured on the right), basically the size of a garden shed, in different locations throughout the city and people have to find it and take a selfie to be entered into a draw to win gift cards for the business we’re supporting that day. We release a clue every Wednesday and Saturday morning. It’s picking up a pretty great cult following – so if you’re looking for a great way to get involved and don’t want to do the entire hunt, the Tiny House events are the perfect option!
Check out their website: https://www.yycstaycay.com/
Download the Let's Roam app:
More on BounceBackYYC: https://www.bouncebackyyc.com/
Connect with Molly: https://www.linkedin.com/in/molly-beckham-2607mb/