Three Insights from Seeds for Dreams
By Andrea Hansen, Business Advisor, Sutton Financial Group
Seeds for Dreams offers woman-owned Saskatchewan businesses seed capital through a unique pitch & vote event held quarterly. Businesses apply to pitch to the member investors; three companies are selected to pitch at each event and member investors then vote for the pitch they liked best. Over the last year and half, membership has grown to 100 members, 18 entrepreneurs have pitched and over $50,000 has been donated directly to the six winning entrepreneurs.
As the host of Seeds for Dream, I have had a unique vantage point and the privilege of welcoming and introducing the entrepreneurs to make their pitches to our members. I observe members listening intently to the pitches while absorbing the energy of the entrepreneurs pitching beside me. As I reflect on the past 6 events, I share these insights in the hope that you can apply them to your own life and business as I think we all can “perfect our pitch” no matter what stage you are in.1. Planning, Preparation and Practice. When you have four minutes to pitch (which is much longer that you usually have most peoples attention) you need to make it count! I’ve experienced four minutes fly by with a triumphant ending timed to the last second and I’ve experienced four minutes drag by and having to cut off the pitch because time is up. Like any performance, humour helps to engage the audience, but when asking for people’s hard-earned money, those entrepreneurs pitching earn the respect of the members when it’s clear that they have put in the necessary work to prepare their pitch and take the opportunity before them seriously.
2. If You Don’t Propose, You Can’t Close. My friend’s dad, a retired successful business owner gave me that good advice years ago, which I have not forgotten. The successful pitches have a clear proposal and they ask the members to invest in them and explain why. Yes, the members all know why they are there, but when the members clearly understand the business (which isn’t always the case) and what the money will be used for, it makes the decision-making much easier and the probability of winning increases.
3. Head, Heart or Gut. As the members are trying to decide which entrepreneur gets their vote, there are many things running through their mind. Who had the best pitch? Who needs the cash? Which business will have the biggest impact in our economy? What business would have the best return for an investor? Maybe the vote is on the entrepreneur and not the business or vice versa. Those entrepreneurs that know their story and articulate a compelling purpose for the business speak to the heart. Those that know their numbers, their market and have a solid strategic plan speak to our head. When all the pitches have appealed to both the head and heart and it’s on even ground, the trump factor is the gut. The influence of that gut decision varies for everyone, but I think is a combination of the entrepreneur’s personality, charisma, character and confidence that is the tipping point.
“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.” – Robert Louis Stevenson
Seeds for Dreams reflects the characteristics of what Saskatchewan people are all about…we roll up our sleeves and make things happen. From the original nine “Seeds for Dreamers” that took a small seed of an idea and turned it into what it is today, to all the generous sponsors that jumped on board and to all the dedicated members that show up at each event to impact the future of Saskatchewan entrepreneurs… it’s this collaboration that builds our community and I am so grateful to be part of it. My proposal to you is if you want to be part of something awesome and make an immediate, direct and positive impact on our local economy, join us at our next pitch and vote event on October 9, 2018 and become the next member of Seeds for Dreams!
First published in the September/October 2018 edition of The Business Voice.