7 Secrets to Winning Your Next Pitch Competition: Part 3

By Sawmawn Soltani of LIFT Development Enterprises, Inc.

Here we are again, discussing the important tactics needed to succeed during your pitch. Let’s get on with part three of our four-part series: 7 Secrets to Winning Your Next Pitch Competition.

4. Share Your Business Success and Traction:

This next tip is pretty simple: Don’t sell your product or service to the audience, but sell your business as a feasible and viable growing company! So many companies that have come through our program have a sales message that they would usually push onto their clients in their market. This is not the time to try to sell your product to the audience, even if they do fall under your target market. The judges and investors are there to quickly determine, if they gave you capital, could you provide a large return on their investment. They might not even care about your product or service at all personally, but they can see that there is a market for it along with revenue streams that will back up the investment. The whole pitch is about showing the health of your company and that there is potential for major growth. Please do not make the same mistake and try to sell your service, or say that you have the best quality product on the market. Everyone says that. Skip the fluff. Instead, show the cold hard numbers.

5. Know What You Are Asking and Looking For:

With our programs, we have noticed that there are a number of people who do not have “an ask.” Tip number five is that you should come up with an ask from the panel of judges or investors, and back that up with why you need that. This can come in the form of asking for money to help grow your business. Some companies ask for way too much or not enough.

Once you state how much you want, you should be able to illustrate to the judges what those funds will be used for and how you will allocate the use of funds into different aspects of your company to grow. The judges will want to know if the money will be going towards marketing, operations, or even making key hires. Another thing to realize is that you do not have to ask for only money. Judges and investors actually get happier when they see someone is asking for mentorship, connections, and advice. It makes you stand out compared to others because judges will start looking at your company through a different lens of how they can help the company, versus the way they have to constantly critique pitches if they are just asking for money. The judges criticize and nitpick the companies that ask for money more than those that don’t ask, because they are looking for all the reasons why they should not invest. However, if your company asks for advice or mentorship, then the judges are much more relaxed and become willing to help push you in the right direction.

We are almost at the finish line! With only one more part left, you are that much closer to understanding how to conduct a successful pitch. Join us next time as we discuss your numbers and how to successfully engage with the audience.

7 Secrets to Winning Your Next Pitch Competition: Part 2

Welcome back! We hope you enjoyed part one of our four- part series on the seven secrets to winning a pitch competition. In this section we’ll dive deep into understanding your business economics, and tackling the idea of how to convey a compelling story.

2. Know your Business Economics:

The second tip is to make sure that you know your business inside and out. If you don’t, you’ll face the possibility of being called out and eaten alive by some of the judges. This one is crucial; because it separates the serious contenders from those who have not thought about all facets of their business. If you cannot answer questions about your sales cycle or customer acquisition strategy, judges will immediately overlook your company.

Before pitching it is essential to look at your business from all angles and understand your strategies for sales, marketing, operations, etc. If you do not have the answers currently in place, then you better be able to talk about what you would do if you had more capital to work with. You should know everyone’s role on your team, and where your capital is going in your business.

Being able to convince judges that they would get a major return on investment is the main objective of pitch competitions. Introduce your story, how you got here, and the results that you have gotten so far. If you show proper growth trajectory, then you must illustrate where your company could go with more capital to work with.

Try This: Look at commonly asked questions by judges at different pitch competitions so that you can get an idea of what types of questions to expect from judges.

3. Tell A Compelling Story About the Problem and Unique Solution

The third tip to winning a pitch competition is to keep your audience engaged and focused. In today’s world, more and more people have shorter attention spans, so it is absolutely necessary to get the audience on your side from the start.

We’ve seen countless pitches where it is really hard and distracting to focus on both the speaker and the slides behind them. The reason is because it is hard for people to read long slides while listening to what you are saying simultaneously. Your attention will be divided, so to avoid this you must have the audience focused on you. People may ask, well isn’t the point to have my information on the screen for people to read? No! You should be the guide for your pitch, so you want your presentation to be balanced in both what you are saying and what is on screen.

In order to achieve this equilibrium have slides that back up your points. The audience should be solely focused on what you are saying, but the slides will provide proof to back up what you are saying. Another thing to remember is to not have too much writing on a slide. Put your revenues/profits in big and bold writing, while having graphics that show market potential. Graphs, photos, videos, are always useful in getting a point across quickly. Just make sure to not over do it with your use of helpful tools, because it can take the focus away from you.

This concludes part two of our four-part series. Hopefully now you understand the opportunity you have right in front of you as a business owner. Please join us next time as the series looks at how to share your business success and how to make a sufficient ask from the panel of judges or investors.

7 Secrets to Winning Your Next Pitch Competition: Part 1

Pictured Above: Jorge Ruiz de Castilla from The Chip Merchant Pitching at LIFT’s Fall 2018 Bootcamp Pitch Day

Let’s face the facts: Pitch competitions are one of the newest and easiest ways to get your business funded with the right capital. However, there is a catch: You will likely have compete against numerous other businesses who are just as qualified as you are. The importance of standing out among everyone else is the key to winning most pitch competitions.

Most businesses decide that they want to get funding quickly through venture capital, but no one wants to just give away equity in their company. Other options include debt financing by going to a bank to get a line of credit, but banks are trying to avoid risks at all costs. By competing in a pitch competition hosted by either a non-profit, third party, or large corporation, you are able to win quick cash without having to sign any long — term debt contracts or give up anything in your company.

LIFT Development Enterprises, Inc. hosts numerous pitch competitions for small- to medium- sized businesses, and it has become clear that there is a certain recipe for being successful. We’ll walk you through the biggest takeaways and tips we’ve learned from winning pitches and the judges’ feedback.

Every pitch competition is different, so it is important to know the rules and guidelines before you pitch. But there are some universal tips that should work whether you are pitching for 45 seconds, 3 minutes, 5 minutes or 10 minutes. The path for winning is the same. Pitch competitions can vary in sizes, prizes and the amount of judges in the audience. All of these factors play a big part in how you approach your pitch. In this four — part series, we’ll take a look at the secrets behind a successful pitch.

(1) Prepare to Present to Your Audience

The first tip is probably the most important one for all pitch contestants whether you are a beginner or advanced. Be prepared! Preparation for the pitch event will show just how serious you are about winning. There are only a select few people in the world who can just wing a competition like this. There seems like there is a major correlation for winning companies that spent a lot of time on preparation, versus those who prepared little to none.

What does preparation exactly mean? Well first off, know your audience and alter your messaging to fit the crowd. Once you know who your audience is and who the judges are, it becomes so much easier to convey who you are and what your company does. You should be practicing your pitch constantly in front of friends and family to make sure you have it down. However, being prepared does not mean memorizing a script and being robotic. It should feel smooth and natural to talk about your company.

Try This: Video recording your pitch practices and turn off the volume so you just notice your body language and what your tendencies are like. Then just listen to your pitch recording and hear if everything sounds right.

We’re just scratching the surface about pitch competitions. We encourage you to subscribe to this four-part series. These keys will help unlock your full potential as a business owner. We’ll see you soon — in part two.

The True Impact to San Diego When Apple, Walmart and Others Add Dozens of Jobs

Photo by Tj Kolesnik on Unsplash

When stalwart companies or new businesses add jobs to a community, the effects are far reaching. Beyond the initial jobs created, communities see an expansion in infrastructure and services creating more jobs and growth. We’re seeing this happen in San Diego as small businesses thrive and companies like Apple, Walmart, and Teradata add operations in the area.

Without business growth and premium-wage jobs the financial and socio economic health of a community can suffer immense consequences. The economy of a city, town or village can dramatically be affected by the increase influx of new well-paying jobs. A healthy economy relies on its people to be able to work and receive livable wages so that the cycle continues.

When communities receive more and more new jobs, income inequality decreases while also reaching all aspects of the community from poor to wealthy. The trickle down begins to take effect where the wealth of all members of the community starts to rise. The types of industries that enter a community may have different impacts depending on if it is the steel, coal, healthcare, manufacturing, food service or tech industry. But with more premium wage jobs entering a community, citizens will begin to see the direct and indirect positive effects of overall health, financial security, and quality of life.

Not only does quality of life increase for the individuals in the communities, but infrastructure growth begins to take place. Companies may receive many incentives to come to a new area from the local government. Reaching new growing and emerging markets are enticing, since companies can set up a new sustainable foundation for long-term success. The San Diego North Economic Development Council (SDNEDC) concludes that the major factors related to job growth are the actual wages versus the goods and services purchased locally and non locally. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, since the recent recession, small businesses were responsible for the creation of 62% of all new net private-sector jobs across the nation. With that being said, it becomes extremely beneficial to lend and invest once there is an increase in productivity in a local environment.

Once disposable income increases, that leaves more money on the table for future investments. Independent economic analyst Vince Vasquez concludes that when jobs are created in underserved markets of a community, there is a direct positive correlation with the overall health of that community. A major decrease in stress levels for individuals may occur, especially for those who may have been forced to work two part time jobs. As more employers hire more people they can begin to qualify for better health care plan pools. It is important that jobs are spread throughout a community, rather than all the jobs being placed in the wealthier sections of a city or town. The long-term impact of not addressing the underrepresented markets can have negative consequences that do not bode well for the community as a whole.

Across the country there are numerous communities experiencing extreme growth from job creation. The local agencies play a part by incentivizing companies to relocate by including county and city property tax abatements, county loans, grants, freeport exemptions and cash for high performance. The size of the community is a key factor of how much economic development can occur. However, local entrepreneurs are more vulnerable for an economic recession, and changes in energy pricing, so because of this the States place mandates to encourage small business growth.

The types of industries adding premium wage jobs has a direct and indirect impact to a community. For example, according to the San Diego NEDC, for every 100 jobs added in the facility services industry, another 160 total indirect and induced jobs will be created in San Diego County. One hundred jobs added in the food industry would have a net gain of another 184 additional jobs. The trend continues for IT services and the administrative industry. When both industries add an additional 100 jobs, it results in another 120 indirect and induced jobs, respectfully.

According to Erik Bruvold, CEO of the San Diego North Economic Development Council, “bringing 20 jobs and new businesses to underserved communities has another impact that is often overlooked: By building economic capacity and vibrancy into underserved neighborhoods these businesses help to keep local spending local. That, in turn, fuels additional economic impact. While 20 jobs and a new enterprise are welcomed anywhere, it is doubly true in communities where residents currently go outside their community to purchases goods and services. Keeping dollars local is good for economic development and is another reason why building small business capacity in a wide range of industries and sectors is so critical.” If the jobs remain in a particular location of a city or town, then it will be hard to permeate resources and wealth to other portions of the city that need it. This imbalance makes communities unhealthy and can lead to many negative consequences like crime, poor health, lack of education, and more people needing government assistance.

Our local San Diego community has seen tremendous growth in the past year alone and our future trajectory is even better. According to the San Diego Economic Development Corporation (EDC), just in the last year San Diego welcomed Teradata, a data analytics company from Dayon, Ohio, which set up their new headquarters here. Also, Amazon and Walmart Labs are looking to add 350 new jobs near UTC and Carlsbad. The San Diego NEDC estimates that both companies could each cause another 363 jobs to be created locally. Recently, we also welcomed the news that Apple will be bringing 1,000 new jobs to San Diego. The impact could be that San Diego could possibly see another 1,000 jobs added to our community as we will begin to see the growth of more infrastructure, housing and service industries

Of course, it also could increase the traffic, living costs and prices of just about everything. There will always be pros and cons, but this robust job growth will help our city reach new heights and just like other cities across the nation, the power of business will help fuel a better quality of life for all its individuals.

Sources:

https://communityimpact.com/houston/conroe-montgomery/business/2018/12/20/local-incentives-attract-manufacturing-jobs-to-conroe/

https://www.planning.org/pas/reports/report31.htm

http://www.sandiegobusiness.org/blog/san-diego/good-news-2018

Alumni Spotlight – SiMMo3D (ATX18 – EMBC)

Year in and year out, the health tech industry is constantly evolving. SIMMo3D has emerged, as a new player in health training to meet new market needs. Their 3D printed organ models are used to better train physician on new medical devices.

Founder Ryan Quinn went to school at the University of Texas-San Antonio and majored in entrepreneurship. In 2015, his school hosted a large pitch competition where he was introduced to engineers who wanted Ryan pitch their product the EyeMatic, which could lubricate, store, and sanitize contact lenses. He won the competition and learned a lot about the medical industry, along with 3D printing technology. He pivoted into the company he has now by noticing that there was a market for surgical training tools. The technology and the need was there for simulated models because cadavers and other medical devices are time consuming and costly. The biggest goal for Ryan was to reduce the number of adverse effects from medical devices and provide better training for physicians.

Competitors in the industry that use 3D models tend to have high costs, but SiMMo3D has a specific modular design for cardiovascular training that allows them to use replaceable aspects that competitors do not use. These models are able to cut down time while having a wider range of approaches so that they can get a better hands-on approach with their training.   However, the company has faced some roadblocks early on raising money because of their niche market. Ryan had to look for specific investors, which was difficult because bigger investors simply do not pay enough attention to businesses focused on a niche market.

As a member of the Winter 2018 Austin Elevate My Business Challenge (EMBC), Ryan was eager to be a part of a program that could break down his business model. According to Ryan, it was a straightforward accelerator that was able to help him build an overall guide and plan. Being able to receive real feedback from the other entrepreneurs and subject matter experts made everything a lot easier. Since Ryan had a formal education on business growth he was aware of the basics, but the EMBC was able to give him a more in-depth analysis of his business. In 3 to 5 years, Ryan wants to develop partnerships with some of the larger medical device manufacturers. He also wants to dive into different markets outside of cardiovascular work in order to expand. There is a possibility of trying to exit the market through acquisition by a larger company. The company can either grow organically or they will need to search for more money to be commercialized before being attractive enough for acquisition.

With the help of the EMBC program, SiMMo3D was able to take a step back and analyze the company with guidance from key experts. Since the program, their business model has helped them get key investments, which will helped them reach their growth goals. The guidance from the individual coaching from LIFT Development Enterprises was able to push SiMMo3D in the right direction. In the near future, Ryan is developing their pilot program and trying to focus on the bigger picture. Delegating more tasks to a larger team will help Ryan accomplish more of their growth goals.

Ryan wanted to offer some advice for small business owners, especially for those who are starting their company. He said it’s crucial to have supplemental income outside of your company. When you initially first start off it will be hard to generate revenues, and most of the money you do end up making you end up investing back into your business.

The LIFT team is extremely proud of the progress that Ryan has made in the last year, and it is clear that in 2019 SiMMo3D will continue to thrive. If you want to learn more about SiMMo3D, check out their Facebook page here

 

CarAudioCare Achieves 40% Revenue Increase in 2018

Robert Cruz, founder of CarAudioCare, joined the Spring 2018 EMBC after having a burning desire to learn how to position his business for growth and work ON his business, rather than simply IN it. He won the EMBC and ever since the program he has achieved and reached new heights in a very short amount of time. The biggest obstacle for Robert when establishing CarAudioCare was trying to grow on his own. Since completing the program, Robert has made key hires to help grow his company.

Prior to EMBC, Robert had some knowledge about business, but now he has gained insights and tools to implement growth strategies such as lowering the cost of goods, increasing  his number of customers, and selling more to his current clientele.  After grasping this newfound knowledge, Robert placed 1st at the EMBC Pitch Day and has applied changes to his business that exemplify accelerated growth. In addition to adding a bookkeeper to his team, he has hired a part-time technician who will be transitioning to full-time soon. CarAudioCare is on track to increase revenue by 15%.  Robert has been operating his business for 11 years and has talked to many people who have offered advice and tried to help him grow, but no one has compared to the team at LIFT Development Enterprises. EMBC helps small businesses by teaching them innovative methods and guiding them through their execution so they can reach the next level.

Robert attempted to request funding from many different banks, but unfortunately, he was unsuccessful in securing financing with them. Once participants graduate from EMBC, they undergo a 24-month period of frequent checkups from the support team to address any business needs. In Robert’s case, we helped develop his portfolio to be approved for alternative funding. With our team’s effort, Robert was approved for a loan from Accion to grow his business.

CarAudioCare increased its revenue in such a short amount of time, that it qualified to enter our advanced growth accelerator program: Founders Business Growth Bootcamp. Upon graduation of our Bootcamp program, Robert will have even more opportunities to receive mentorship and funding as he endeavors to expand to other regions of California.

With a commitment to work hard and a desire to grow, your company could be the next sustainable and successful small business like CarAudioCare.  No one can grow without a little bit of help. We hope that the Elevate My Business Challenge can be the spark that ignites a fire for your business growth!