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One of the key strategies to start or grow a business is access to non-biased feedback and experienced mentors. A great way to garner access to both is to attend a local business Pitch Night.
One of the key strategies to start or grow a business is access to non-biased feedback and experienced mentors. A great way to garner access to both is to attend a local business Pitch Night. #christianbusiness Click To Tweet
What is a Business Pitch Night?
A business Pitch Night provides startup organizations an opportunity to practice their 3-5-minute business pitch and receive feedback from the audience. The audience is typically made up of experienced business owners known as mentors and other startups to bounce ideas from one another.
The feedback is either given in large group or in breakout sessions. Some pitch nights offer cash prizes, access to mentors for follow up, and/or lovingly critical feedback. Pitch Nights are free for participants.
Where Can I Find a Local Business Pitch Night?
Business Pitch Nights happen all around the country. They can be organized by a number of different organizations. A start up event is the most common source of Pitch Nights. They are private non-profit collaboratives that are funded by a mix of local foundations, Chambers of Commerce, town Economic Development Commissions, and private businesses.
For example, Peak Startup builds the Colorado Springs startup ecosystem by cultivating opportunities for founders, innovators, and investors to learn, grow and connect. They provide the resources for business in the exploratory phase, idea stage, or as an early company looking to grow.
Colleges are another source of business Pitch Nights. Where I live, Northwestern Connecticut Community College recently opened an Entrepreneurial Center and they offer quarterly pitch nights. The center also provides access to conference rooms and offices for free to assist businesses as they grow.
Your local Chamber of Commerce may be another organization that offers Pitch Nights. These pitches are usually centered around your business plan.
For example, the Bellaire Chamber of Commerce sponsors the Antrim Business Model Competition where entrepreneurs and businesses two years old or less apply to receive mentorship and then enter a competition.
At the competition, those selected make a 4-minute business model pitch and the cash prizes are decided by a panel or judges.
How Should I Prepare My 3-5 Minute Pitch?
While each business varies in terms of your market and demographics, here are some things you want to consider in your pitch.
First is the statement of the problem. This is where you outline the market demand of your product or service.
For example, I am currently mentoring a young entrepreneur that wants to grow his mobile car detailing business. The market demand will point out that car detailing is a $12.3 billion dollar industry and is growing at a steady 3% per year.
Furthermore, there is a growing demand for services to come to them as opposed to driving to a place of service (think about the growth of mobile pet grooming services).
Finally, there are no mobile car detailing businesses within 30 minutes of his location.
These three points then lead into the second part of the pitch where you state the argument for why you are the solution to the market demand. This is where you discuss how you are qualified to meet the market demand and if you are a new business, state where you have had growth.
The final part of the pitch is where you state your need. In a competition where there is a cash prize, you can highlight what you will do with the money to invest in the business and grow. If the concentration of the business Pitch Night is to gather feedback, your “ask” is to be specific of what feedback you need.
For example, this young entrepreneur has a need for marketing expertise or tips on how to grow his business through social media/online outlets. The “ask” is where you concentrate your discussions during the feedback portion of Pitch Night.
When Do I Know I am Ready to Make a Pitch?
Sometimes we do not feel ready to make the pitch or might be nervous speaking in public. The first thing I suggest is to attend a business pitch night at a start up event as an audience member. There you can make notes on things you liked about people’s pitches and what might work well for you pitch.
Business Pitch Nights are free to attend so the only cost to you is your time. If you are still uncomfortable after attending one Pitch Night, attend multiple ones in your area (or beyond).
Business Pitch Nights are free to attend so the only cost to you is your time. If you are still uncomfortable after attending one Pitch Night, attend multiple ones in your area (or beyond). #christianbusiness Click To Tweet
Then find out what type of Pitch Night best serves the need of your business. Cash prizes are great if access to some money is what you need. The con of cash prize Pitch Nights is that you tend to highlight the positives of your potential business and not focus on areas where you need lovingly critical feedback to take the next step.
You are in essence “selling” your business to a group of mentors and asking for investors. But the pro is that if your greatest hurdle is access to capital, then cash prizes are your best option.
Business Pitch Nights with no cash prize tend to focus on areas other than access to capital in order to succeed.
Next, talk to the organizers of the Pitch Night and find out what they are looking for with presenters. Then sign up and seek out mentors or people that have pitched before for advice.
Finally, once you have made your pitch, the journey does not have to end there. Find another business Pitch Night in your area (or beyond) and take the show on the road! Unless you live in a very rural area, there can be a number of different Pitch Nights within and hour or two of your home.
But I am a Not-For Profit, Can I Still Participate in a Business Pitch?
While many start up events and Pitch Nights are geared towards for-profit businesses there are some that are very willing to assist non-profits.
For example, I attended the Northwestern Connecticut Pitch Night and received wonderful feedback from the attendees when I pitched my not-for-profit, Wheels of Opportunity.
In fact, because of their efforts, Wheels Of Opportunity is in line for approximately $50,000 in grants to provide transportation solutions to the residents in our service region. I must say that this would not have been possible unless the mentors that attended gave us the guidance needed to get started.
So if you have an idea for a business, there are resources available to you to give you the access to advice and other services to get started!
Dr. Ferreira is the Dean of Academic and Student Affairs at Northwestern Connecticut Community College, as well as being the co-founder of Wheels of Opportunity, a not for profit charity in NW Connecticut. He has also owned a traditional business and is well versed in business start-ups, grant writing, and non-profit formations. He is the author of the book Insider’s Guide to College Etiquette. Dave is also very active in his local church and serves in various roles.
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