This past Saturday, August 1st, I had the honor of serving as a judge for the Syracuse University Institute for Veterans and Military Families Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities (an intensive business education program), and hear pitches from this year's participants about their current business goals.
The invitation was to be part of a group of professionals that would provide feedback to the entrepreneurs on the effectiveness of their pitches, feasibility of their idea, creativity in presentation, and overall delivery. At the conclusion of the pitching round, the judges would help to select participants for various special distinctions based on their leadership, imagination, and demonstrated ability to overcome obstacles by having reached this point in their journey.
The director both encouraged and cautioned us, "Remember, this isn't Shark Tank." Our role as judges was simply to provide supportive, constructive criticism in a safe environment where the participants could practice pitches to actual investors.
Still, the night before the competition, I took some time to look at venture capital pitching guides to learn a little more about what qualities to look for when "judging" the future business owners. Not surprisingly, tips from the experts included many of the basic communications guidelines for relaying your cause or mission in such a way that you gain the enthusiastic support of your audience:
Create a well organized presentation that informs but doesn't overwhelm your audience
Convey the passion and enthusiasm that you feel toward your business throughout the entire presentation
Make the connection between how your business and its surround community will co-exist (preferably, doing so while demonstrating how you will have a positive impact on your community)
Outline your immediate next steps and share your plan for how you will secure a profit for yourself and for your investors
Of course, all of the presenters did an amazing job. However, I was a little surprised that my support did not go to the best delivered presentation. Rather, it went overwhelmingly to the person whose mission resonated most with this company's commitment to conducting social good.
This woman, whose dream is so aligned with our own core values, wants to start a boutique in her hometown of Sparta, Georgia, where the closest place for women to buy clothing is the Ross several miles away. Her dream is for her boutique's establishment to help revive an economically depressed area and encourage her fellow residents to follow suit by starting businesses that will build up that area's downtown.
I'm currently following up with her to see how we can connect to find and reach out to local and national resources, and networks, that will be able to assist her in her mission. Stay tuned for updates on her progress! And if you to help or have ideas, please share them via BericaAgency@Gmail.com.