Posted: Thu 27th Oct 2016
During Enterprise Nation's Festival of Female Entrepreneurs in Bristol on 21 October, three entrepreneurs pitched live on stage for the title of Female Start-up of the Year powered by Facebook #SheMeansBusiness. The winner was Mel Bound, founder of This Mum Runs.
As well as the title, Mel won prizes including advertising credit and marketing help from Facebook, a bespoke necklace from Tatty Devine, mentoring from investor Mike Jackson and sales coach Alison Edgar, a Surface tablet from Microsoft and a new website from 123 Reg.
We caught up with the entrepreneur after her victory to ask what the win means for her business and her tips for successful pitching.
How does it feel to become Enterprise Nation Female Start-up of the Year?
I am absolutely chuffed to bits! When I came to last year's Festival of Female Entrepreneurs event I had only been working full time on This Mum Runs for about 10 weeks and felt I had so much to learn, so to receive recognition for all the hard work, long hours and achievements over the past 12 months is just fantastic and rounds off what has been an incredible year for This Mum Runs. I'm sure the prizes I've received as part of my award will provide a springboard for an even bigger year of growth as we kick off our scale up plans in 2017.
Why do you think the judges picked you as the winner?
Through my pitch and the interview afterwards I was able to demonstrate both growth and traction through our achievements in the past 12 months. I knew my numbers and could show that we have a strong and scalable business model. Aside from the nerves, I hope what shone through was my absolute drive and passion for everything that we do and a determination to succeed that is infectious.
What do you think the prizes and title will do for your business?
On a basic level, the award represents an incredible PR opportunity. In the last week alone we've had significant coverage on all social channels and through regional media.
As we plan to scale nationally into 2017 and will be seeking further investment in the next couple of years, this award gives us fantastic commercial credibility and networking opportunities with both national media and potential investors.
Our current website has been put together on a shoestring so the opportunity to work with 123 Reg to create the online presence that we need to scale the business is very exciting.
Most importantly though are the connections winning this award provides. Facebook was a sponsor of the award and as a business that is fully enabled by Facebook, I am looking forward to the mentoring and support I will get from their team. Having access to experienced mentors such as Alison Edgar and Mike Jackson in key areas for the business is money-can't buy for me and I cant wait to get started.
Last but by no means least, I hope that the spectacular #winner necklace from Tatty Devine will be my lucky talisman for future pitches and every time I wear it, it will be with immense pride!
What advice would you offer other entrepreneurs for successful pitching?
Pitching for many of us is definitely a skill and can definitely be learned. A year ago, my pitching was average and I struggled a lot with nerves. Since then I have written and practiced pitches of various lengths and doing it regularly and actively asking for feedback has really helped me refine and improve both my content and my delivery. I record myself reading my pitch and listen to it when I'm out running or in the car. I practice with my kids, they probably know it better than I do! Before an event, I write a few bullets as prompts and try and work on the delivery.
In terms of the content, always introduce yourself and the name of your business early on; don't just assume the audience knows who you are. Then reinforce it at the end so that they remember who you are! It sounds simple but so many people don't do this.
Think carefully about the structure of your pitch. Start with a big headline, introduce the problem you are solving, your solution and why you are different. Then talk about your success so far, traction and plans for the future. Include detail on your numbers; people want to know them and also want to know that you know them. Always end with a clear 'ask'! What do you want your audience to do as a result of your pitch. Vote for you? Buy your product? Invest? If you don't ask, you might not get!
The last thing is managing nerves. Pitching IS nerve wracking. Particularly when it's your own business and something that you feel passionately about. For me the biggest fear is brain freeze which actually happened to me last Friday. The key is how you react when that happens. My best advice if it does is to pause, stand quietly and collect your thoughts. It will come back to you! Remember even the best business people in the world have been there and it shows we are all human.
Images credit: Nina Allwood, LifestyleDistrict.co.uk