Shark Tank is a highly successful reality television competition showing earnest entrepreneurs delivering investment pitches to the program’s six celebrity investors affectionately known as “Sharks.” The show has helped many cash-strapped startups become success stories – even if deals between the company founders and one or more of the Sharks wasn’t struck. Simply the exposure on national television was enough to boost sales or helped the entrepreneurs to source funding elsewhere. Evidence of this phenomenon isn’t hard to find. For example, Kit Lender and SAP! Beverages, among others, got their start right here in the Green Mountain State!
So, what are you waiting for? Feeling camera shy?
Maybe it isn’t your goal to go on television to source investment for your new business, but it’s a good idea to create a startup pitch like you are. At the very least, formulating a pitch and sharing it with people you know, such as family, friends, trusted advisors, and professional connections, is a great way to test if people will be interested in your products and services.
“It’s a good way to validate your startup idea,” says Cairn Cross, co-founder of FreshTracks Capital. His Shelburne-based venture capital firm has invested in some of Vermont’s best known companies, such as Vermont Teddy Bear, Mamava, and NativeEnergy.
Producing and delivering an effective pitch can yield multiple monetary and non-monetary returns. Obviously, a terrific pitch to a group of investors may result in a windfall of funding for your business. It’s also a smart way to get your name out there even if you’re not looking to immediately raise cash (think of the Shark Tank competitors mentioned above). If you can wow someone with a pitch, chances are they’ll spread the word favorably to others in your community or business sector.
A compelling pitch should be impactful and efficiently conveyed. Ideally, you should craft a thoughtful verbal delivery that’s no more than ten minutes long. And be sure to have it fully memorized so that you can make your pitch to an interested party at any time and in every setting.
“Internalizing the message will help you to adapt it on the fly and not sound rehearsed,” recommends Cross.
In some cases, you’ll have an opportunity to share visuals, known as a pitch deck, to your audience. A pitch deck, which is typically a digital slide presentation, will convey a “lite” version of your business plan. A strong pitch deck will provide an overview of your product or services, conveys your target market, cash flow projections, company valuation and desired funding terms, and (if appropriate) your exit strategy.
It also helps to know your audience. In many cases, entrepreneurs delivering a pitch are likely speaking to potential investors, but not necessarily always. Even if you don’t plan on engaging investors or participating in a startup pitch competition, there can be plenty of occasions to strategically deliver your message to other interested parties.
“Adjusting your pitch to different audiences, such as a potential landlord or banker, can be a great way to connect your idea with other valuable business opportunities,” says Cross.
Think of it this way, a startup pitch is a method to advertise your early-stage business to all types of stakeholders. They can be investors, lenders, landlords, suppliers, service providers, or even friends and family who may consider supporting your new business with seed capital.
If you have a charismatic business pitch and can effectively “sell” it to receive funding, you most likely will do a great job at promoting your company’s future products or services. So, the activity of creating a persuasive pitch can be an impactful exercise to demonstrate how well you’ve planned, projected, calculated, and strategized how you will build a successful business.
Remember: If you can sell someone on your WHY, you can sell your product or service. As we all know, that’s the formula for a successful business.
Are you ready to ignite your startup journey, but don’t want to jump to the shark? Then you’ve come to the right place. The VtSBDC is here to help you craft, refine and practice your business pitch. With over 50 entrepreneurs attending our Starting Your Own Business Workshop (SYOB) each month, we know what it takes to bring an idea to fruition. Whether you’re a new business owner, serial entrepreneur or you’ve been in business for decades, it’s imperative to be prepared with a business pitch. You never know who you might meet on the chair lift!
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