Pitch Yourself Into an 8 Figure Business
If your master plan to get a sugar daddy to fund your business has fallen flat, you may want to keep reading! 😊 Today, we’re going to discuss pitching your business in pitch competitions and to angel investors.
Late last year, I had the honor of participating in Good Morning America’s Pitch Pay Day Challenge. Here’s how it worked: Entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds and industries pitched their businesses to me in the hopes of winning $5,000. I also had the opportunity to give them sound advice, based on my experience, to help them scale their businesses. And while I wanted to gift everyone who pitched 5,000 dollar dollar bills, y’all, there could only be one winner.
Pitch competitions are a God-sent in the startup community, especially in tech. Sometimes, there's not enough bootstrapping in the world or borrowing from your family and friends that could help you amass the number of funds needed to bring your product or service to the market.
Know the difference between pitch competitions. Will you be receiving monies in exchange for equity in your business? Or is this a grant competition or fund where you’ll receive monies without an exchange of equity? Remember, some grants have their own rules where you may have to cater to a particular demographic or community for a set amount of time.
With my Alexandra Cristin Fund, applicants “pitch” for a chance to win scholarships and business grants. I do not have a stake in their businesses. Nor will they have to pay this money back.
There are many reasons to pitch your business, number one being you need funding to run your daily operations like overhead expenses, hiring consultants, and paying contractors/employees. Some businesses need funding to introduce a new line of products. Depending on how technology-driven your product is, there’s a lot of research needed to get your product in the hands of the intended end user.
Also, being in pitch competitions creates a buzz for your business. This is why your pitch has to be memorable, even if you’re not chosen as a winner.
ABC’s Shark Tank is the biggest pitch competition in history. And for some of the show’s rejects, just being on the show was enough to catapult them to new levels in their business, with the sales and coins to match. Check out these success stories of pitchers who turned their L’s into W’s: The Shark Tank Effect.
If you want to maximize your experience in pitch competitions and increase your chances of winning thousands and maybe millions, here are some things you need to know:
- Know Your Audience. Granted you may already have an elevator pitch, which usually is comprised of what’s your business, what problem it solves and why should anyone care. However, knowing who your audience will be paramount. Take for instance, on Shark Tank the investors are heavy hitters in the business world. They own conglomerates, from clothing empires to professional sports teams If they are investing in your business, they don’t want to hear fluff. They’re looking for stats. What are your sales? What are your profits? What’s your growth potential if they do invest in your business?
- Tell Your Brand Story. While I don’t believe that most pitch competitions want to hear fluff, I do believe that having a compelling brand story goes a long way. My brand story is, “While being fed up with limited affordable hair extensions options, I used $1500 of my own money to create my own business where everyday women could feel beautiful by having access to luxury hair extensions.” This is my brand story and my why. You have to articulate your “why.”
- Do Your Research on the Panelists. If you’re privy to who will be judging a competition, do some research on their backgrounds. Learn what fields they’re in and their accomplishments. If you can get your hands on footage of them critiquing past presenters, you can study the things they made be looking for in a pitch. While giving your pitch, you can reference something about one of the panelists. “Hey, Mark Cuban. I know you always mention wearing your lucky shirt, so I wore mine today.” It’s light-hearted and might make you memorable.
- Do You Qualify for the Pitch Competition? Don’t waste your time preparing for a pitch competition where you don't qualify. If the pitch guidelines state that they are looking for businesses that have been operating for 5 years with X number of sales and you’re only 2 years in the game with lukewarm sales, there’s no reason you should apply.
- Bring Your Energy. If you’re pitching your business to a panel of judges, show your excitement. If you’re not excited about your brand, why would anyone else be excited as well?
- Prepare Your Pitch Deck. This is where the icky and "business" stuff comes in. This is where you say who you are, what problem you solve or aim to solve, and why should anyone care. If your business is up and running, outline who’s your target audience, along with their age group, household income, education level, etc. Do you have existing sales? What have been your marketing efforts and are they working? What are the barriers keeping from getting to the next level? What do you plan on accomplishing by being in this competition? Do you have research to back up that getting this money will help you scale your business? Who are your competitors? What's your Unique Selling Proposition? Is there something exclusive about your business model that will differentiate it from another business?
Nervous about preparing the pitch on your own? You can hire a professional to help layout your pitch deck, along with graphics. The U.S. Small Business Association is a great resource to help entrepreneurs with their pitch decks and business plans.
- Practice Your Pitch. Practice makes perfect. Practice in front of your family and friends. While this may not be their lane, they can tell you if you seem nervous, repeat your words, or say “umm” or “like” a lot. Like pageants or any type of competition, you may lose or hear "no" a lot, but you have to keep ongoing. Study other people's pitches, like the things they do well and can improve on. Listen to the feedback given to them and implement it in your pitch.
- Provide Social Proof. Does your business have a buzz already? Have you've been in the press by notable publications? Do you have a significant social media following? Any reviews or testimonials? All these stats can be placed in your pitch deck.
While winning a pitch competition might be the very thing keeping you from scaling your business at an accelerated rate, it’s not the end all be all. And by no means, I’m telling you to go on Shark Tank or another reputable pitch competition for every and any business ideas. Some businesses just really need you to bootstrap and don't require a team of investors.No matter how you decide to fund your business, remember that Jennifer Hudson came in 7th place in American Idol, the singing competition. She went on to win a Grammy, Oscar, and countless other awards. One competition can’t determine your success.