Last fall, excited (and nervous) natural entrepreneurs from the Denver and Boulder region participated in Naturally Boulder's 2012 Pitch Slam. The winner received a prize pack sure to catapult their business to the next level. We asked some of the eager entrepreneurs how it went and their best advice for pitching potential investors.
Jody Nagel, Boulder Granola
Product: Organic granola in four flavors.
How it went: Even though it was important to me that we're a lifestyle company, the judges wanted more information about our plans for the future and financial details. I wish I'd talked more about how we will grow our profit margin.
Advice:When you're passionate about something it makes it hard to talk about it, so rehearse. I memorized the speech and would say it out loud when I would go for a run. That helped calm my nerves. Get a good night's sleep before.
Christopher Algea, Keen One Quinoa
Product: Organic quinoa meals and snacks.
How it went: I made the key points I wanted to make, but I think the judges wanted more specifics.
Advice: Know exactly how your product has grown since being on the market and, if you carry more than one SKU, how you see each product growing in relation to your overall brand. We have two different blends, one in the savory grocery category and one that's chocolate based in the snack category. With only three minutes, it was hard for the judges to see how those distinct lines related to each other but could also grow independently.
Kelsey Riley, NAYA Artisan Revival SkinCare
Product: Sustainable, small batch skincare made with ingredients from small farmers.
How it went: I was a little overwhelmed by the panel of judges and their backgrounds. It was nerve racking, but when I got up there I just remembered, "This is what I’m passionate about." I can easily talk about my business because I do it all the time at farmers’ markets.
Advice: I had pages of materials I wanted to cover but I knew I only had three minutes. I narrowed it down to the three or four points that are the meat of my business. It's about conveying why our company is different from the others out there.
Jodi Feinhor-Dennis, Oh, Yes You Candy!
Product: Vegan, dairy-free and wheat-free carob confections.
How it went: I wasn't planning to pitch. I was here to volunteer and support my friends who were pitching because I know how awful this experience can be. But then I got that "heat" where I just felt like I had to pitch. If I get knocked down I get right back up. I listened to the judges' advice [last year] and hired a small branding company to help me come up with some new names and new vision. This time, I got all thumbs up from the judges.
Advice: I know that I have something unique. In the process of talking to other companies and getting in front of Whole Foods, I've gained more confidence and know I have something to offer. Never give up. That's the biggest advice I would give anybody—never, no matter what. Listen to what people say but always follow your heart and what you know is true and right.
David Telfer McConaghay, Nude Food
Product: Nutrient-dense bars and breakfast boost blends.
How it went: I made my most important points and the judges responded favorably to my overall positive energy.
Advice: People respond to people. People buy things from people. I get away with passion and enthusiasm and that will trump a lot of things. You don’t have to know every detail of the business. You don't have to tell them all about your distribution channels. Just share what motivates you and why you're doing the business. If you don't have a why, the how doesn't matter.
Kevin Hobbs, The Natural Hapa
Product: Meals wrapped in bamboo leaves influenced by Asian and Western cuisine.
How it went: I didn't have as much time to get ready as I would have liked to. I didn't begin preparing until late last night. As an entrepreneur we have a company of five—my wife and I and three daughters. We've been fortunate to have success with the product early on, but as a result we're scrambling.
Advice: If I were to pitch to investors again, I'd devote more time to preparation and remember to be succinct.
Dara Haid, Simply Dara
Product: Simply Dara Raw Balls, organic, vegan raw snacks.
How it went: I was very nervous but I got some laughs from the audience which is always good.
Advice: It has to be your own words. Be yourself and don't be too hard on yourself about it.
Aaron Perry, SOURCE Local Foods
Service: Distribution services between local food producers and wholesale food buyers that includes restaurants, grocery stores, schools and institutions.
How it went: What I had to pitch was of real value to everyone in the room. I really got that sense as I was looking around the room. The panel was awesome. They know the industry so I felt they had real grounded feedback to offer.
Advice: It's about just doing what you do as naturally as you can in this kind of setting. Be comfortable practicing your pitch like you're selling your service. Remember all those other times you talk to potential customers about your business and think of pitching the same way.