How not winning my first pitch competition confirmed my entrepreneurial mindset for success
Hello All In community! Today’s wisdom comes to you from Janice Omadeke, Founder of The Mentor Method. If you are thinking about raising money or trying to raise money, Janice’s authentic advice will be a game changer. Thank you Janice for telling it like it is, but with a glass-half-full outlook!
Entrepreneurs by nature are driven, passionate risk takers that enjoy the thrill of starting a company. As any entrepreneur will tell you, growing a startup takes a lot of work and even more rejection. I combined both excitement and rejection when I participated in my very first pitch competition.
As a first-time entrepreneur with big plans to scale my startup, The Mentor Method, I knew pitching investors was a goal for 2017. Per advice from mentors, I worked on my deck for over 2 months. I meticulously went through every piece of data, every picture, and every word choice. I timed my pauses and my slide transitions. I had my ego shredded countless times by mentors reviewing my deck to make sure it was as solid as possible. All of this work paid off, as I was chosen out of 300 women entrepreneurs as a top 20 semifinalist to participate in an exciting pitch competition. Fast forward to the semifinals, I did not place as one of the top 5 entrepreneurs vying for the cash prize.
If you’re reading this, I don’t have to tell you that there’s a lot of information on how to prepare for a pitch. Between advice on how to arrange your slides, how long you should present, and what information to share, you can spend hours reading about pitching. However, what you don’t see often is advice on how to prepare your mindset for what happens when you don’t win a pitch competition, or hear “no” from an investor.
Not hearing “yes” at every opportunity is inevitable with entrepreneurship. Your reaction to hearing “no” is what makes the biggest difference. Here are 5 pointers on how to use your experience as to motivate you and not break your spirit.
Remember that everyone goes through this. Your hard work is not in vain. As gut wrenching as that first loss may be, you’re now one step closer to hearing that “yes” that can change the course of your company.
Put your game face on. No one likes a sore loser, especially in the startup world. Be a good sport and congratulate your fellow entrepreneurs. They also put in a lot of work to get to that point, and deserve a pat on the back for reaching the next phase in the competition. Plus, you never know who else is in the audience. Nothing kills a potential business deal quite like a scowl and pouting like a 4-year-old. Don’t get me wrong: it’s ok to be disappointed. You’re a human being and you will have emotions. Anyone who tells you not to be disappointed probably hasn’t put everything on the line the way you are in creating a business. Just note that there is a difference between being internally disappointed and throwing a chair across the room because you’re frustrated.
Learn from the others. The companies that were selected as finalists in the pitch competition clearly know a thing or two about pitching and most likely had remarkable numbers and fast growth. Why not take the time to learn from them? Figure out what you, and the judges, admired about their pitch and try to add that to your own. Did they have a cleaner presentation style? How did they get their first large increase in sales? What marketing channels are they utilizing to see this type of growth? If it’s good enough for them, it’s worth looking into for success in your own business.
Don’t take it personally. Separating your personal identity from that of your business is one of the healthiest things an early entrepreneur can do. It’ll also spare you from spending extra emotional energy when you hear “no” repeatedly. You are not your business, and the decision of the judges or investors is not a reflection of who you are. Maybe you’re just too early compared to the other applicants, or the judges would like to see more traction. Whatever the reasoning is, don’t take it as a sign of personal failure.
Ask for advice from the judges. After the finalists were called, I immediately made a note to contact the judges after the event to get their feedback on ways to improve. The advice I received from judges after the competition has lead to an increase in influencer partnerships and helped me refine my business model. In most cases, judges at startup pitch competitions are investors, work for accelerators, and have extensive entrepreneurial experience. Since your pitch is fresh in their mind, why not ask for their direct, honest feedback on how you can improve?
Now that you have these tips in mind, remember to enjoy the crazy, energizing journey that is entrepreneurship. Best of luck on your upcoming pitches!
Janice Omadeke is the CEO and Founder of The Mentor Method, a DC-based professional development startup empowering millennial women to learn to lead with confidence by connecting future leaders to career mentors.
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