Contestants in The Big Pitch, REV Birmingham’s small business incubator contest at Thomas Jefferson Tower held on November 12, 2016, have a chance to win $15,000 and an Infomedia website.
Let’s say you have an idea — one you’ve nurtured and held close to your heart — for the venture or business that will help you escape your cubicle. Maybe you go so far as to trademark the name and purchase a domain, commit to a logo and buy a business card. But mostly you dream of the day this big idea becomes reality, and as others take a swing at their dreams, you remain — so to speak — on the bench.
Ten local finalists are taking a big leap toward making their entrepreneurial dreams a reality by participating in The Big Pitch, a Shark Tank-inspired contest sponsored by REV Birmingham. If you’ve ever seen Shark Tank, you’ve seen the complex mix of gumption and cold hard cash it takes to launch a new business. To win, contestants have to succinctly explain the financial profitability and commercial viability of their projects in hopes of securing access to a professional mentor’s advice and pocketbook.
Birmingham’s version places an emphasis on the professional mentoring that can help a fledgling business avoid some of the common pitfalls that trip up new businesses. Mentors and other subject matter experts specifically address financing, marketing and legal issues and help participants refine their “big pitch” before the live Big Pitch event, which is scheduled for Saturday, November 12. There the finalists will compete for a share of $25,000 plus free legal and accounting counsel. We’re proud to say one winner will also walk away with a website designed and hosted by Infomedia.
Last week, several Infomedians had the opportunity to meet with, coach and offer feedback to several of the participants on marketing, design and formal pitch preparation. Here are some of our takeaways and tips (you know, in case you ever decide to step up to the plate for your own big pitch).
Carrie Rollwagen, a Big Pitch business mentor, served as a sounding board for her mentee.
“We talked a lot about knowing your audience, creating a persuasive speech, and about how to structure the presentation,” Carrie says. “That included thinking about the judges and what they’d want to hear, as well as the audience and what they’d want to hear.”
Carrie says providing an outsider’s perspective is valuable to finalists because they are often so close to their businesses that it’s difficult to see what areas need attention. As a result of mentoring, Carrie’s client was able to revise her pitch in a way that addressed multiple stakeholders but also felt true to her as a person.
Amber Atkins-Maddox, Joy Sandlin and Mary Katherine Bushnell, our Infomedia web design team, each said the exposure finalists receive to all facets of opening a business is important.
“It gives them a leg up so they’re not flying blind into the pitch,” says Mary Katherine. This event means they don’t have to go it alone, and have someone else catch what they might have missed.
They emphasized that graphics, images and the overall design needed to complement the finalists’ business goals. However, they also need to be visually compelling — stock images and templates may be cost effective but aren’t always a home run.
“You can have all the numbers and projections down, but if you can’t present it in a way that is compelling, it won’t work,” Joy says.
Amber agrees. “I wish we’d had two sessions with them, because a lot of it was strategy, helping them figure out the story they wanted to tell during their pitch,” she says.
Ultimately, we enjoyed sharing our perspectives (and a snazzy new website!), and we’re excited to be part of this event nurturing small business in Birmingham. The Big Pitch is this Saturday, November 12 at the Thomas Jefferson Towers. You can get your tickets here; Each ticket comes with one vote that you can use toward the Audience Choice Award, a $5,000 prize that one lucky business will take home.