When Topeka Designs came together for Make48, Jake was a teacher for Youth Entrepreneurs (YE) and Adam, Dave and Chas were some of his former students. Jake had a passion for developing solutions to common problems and wanted to bring together the talents of a few of his students to make a great team.
Based on these talents, they assigned roles to each other: David would be the Head of Research and would be well-versed in the competition’s rules; Adam would spearhead the pitch- taking care of video work and working alongside Chas to create a winning presentation, and Chas would also work on graphic design. Jake’s role was to organize the big picture and support team efforts.
“We spent nearly all of the first day after it was announced, trying to get an idea”
Once the 48-hour count-down began, the team quickly felt that they had fallen behind on coming up with an idea, unsure of where to go once the secret product category was unveiled. “This was the hardest part and the most frustrating. We spent nearly all of the first day after it was announced, trying to get an idea. Nevertheless, Jake tells us, “we stayed encouraged, but seeing other teams and their products, we had to battle feeling inadequate. We loved the competition and moving forward, seeing everything come together.”
“We went to stores like Bed Bath and Beyond, Kitchen stores, pet stores, and novelty stores to come up with ideas. We asked what was hot, and tried to come up with novel improvements or ideas. We came up with 3 ideas at the end of the day, searched for industry similarities, and picked one that we thought of as somewhat as a joke. We were playing with a free product that was given to every team, Jake jokingly used it for a much different purpose, then we thought….. What if….?”
With an idea in mind, Topeka Designs took their first steps in manufacturing, “We like to stick to simple ideas and products, which keeps the prototyping and manufacturing simple too. We got help from the tool techs and used the 3D printers to design a part. It was excting to see our idea get formed infront of your eyes. Then we used simple tools to finish up the prototype.”
“I think our strongest talent was that we all are coachable, and know to seek knowledge from those who are masters at it.”
We can’t give it all away, but this team pointed to their adaptability and openness to feedback as one of their biggest talents, “I think our strongest talent was that we all are coachable, and know to seek knowledge from those who are masters at it. We had no problem re-creating our product after feedback from giants in their industry. Meeting and talking with the mentors and other industry leaders was helpful in idea creation and usefull applications overall. They really added to our experience. But, getting to the new design was a lot of brainstorming, and this is keeping in mind that we were all lacking sleep, hopped-up on coffee and energy drinks, and wanting to win.”
Don’t miss the Topeka Designs in action this September on public television! “I think watching real people overcome real problems with real solutions would be very inviting,” Jake told us about the upcoming TV show.