Getting Your Pitch on Point with Danielle Tate, the Elegant Entrepreneur
MET Community hosted ForoMET DC on Monday, November 13th, in honor of International Women’s Entrepreneurship Day. The event consisted of fireside panel discussions and a business pitch competition amongst our mentees. We were fortunate enough to catch up with one of the fireside chat panelists for an interview, Danielle Tate, founder of MissnowMrs.com and Author of Elegant Entrepreneur.
Tate is an entrepreneur who has been featured in many media outlets and publications. She offers a wealth of knowledge that she has accumulated from her many business ventures. MET Community reached out to Danielle to get her thoughts on what it takes to have a good business pitch.
How did you come to be involved with the MET Community?
Danielle: Sherrie Bakshi, Director of MET Community’s US Chapter, reached out to me, and asked if I would participate in a panel to celebrate International Women’s Entrepreneurship Day. After learning more about the community, and mission I was delighted to attend and share some of the wisdom I’ve accumulated after a decade as a woman entrepreneur. The event was wonderful, and I left very inspired by the members and leadership.
How did you get your start in business? Did you have a pitch when you first started?
Danielle: I experienced a problem that didn’t have a solution… so I built it. After getting married I took a day off of work to change to my married name. It took three separate trips to the DMV to just get my new license and I was incredibly frustrated. This frustration sparked the idea for an online name change service, which became MissNowMrs.com. I did not have a pitch per say, but I was able to clearly articulate the problem, size of the market, and how my solution worked. Being able to succinctly convey this information to users and partners was paramount to the early success of the business.
What exactly is a business pitch? Is it a part of the business plan or is it the business plan?
Danielle: We could be by-the-book and dissect what the academic definition of a pitch is, but entrepreneurship and startups are very rarely conventional. 😉 I like to think of a pitch deck as an informal and highly visual business plan. Its main purpose is to clearly and concisely explain your startup story and needs. The pro of the pitch deck model is that is allows you to show your business personality and impart a great deal of information quickly. The big con of solely using a pitch deck as a planning model is its brevity. It’s an overview, so you don’t have time or space to dig into the details of how you will execute your idea or overcome barriers. The devil is always in the details, especially in business.
How should someone go about preparing the presentation of their pitch to make sure they are fully ready to deliver it? Is there a specific timeframe?
Danielle: Practice, practice, practice, and then solicit feedback. You never get a second chance to make a first impression. Take the time necessary to build your pitch and rehearse it until you have it a full 60 seconds under the time minimum. Then give the pitch to your peers and ask for their honest feedback. Ideally, you won’t ask family members or teammate, because they are too close to you and the business idea. Take their feedback and make the appropriate adjustments to your pitch. Finally, use your phone to film yourself giving your pitch. This will feel awkward, but will give you the clearest picture of what you are doing well and what you want to improve before your pitch. You’ll catch poor grammar, distracting hand or body movements, and if you are talking too fast or slow.
With a show like Shark Tank in the mainstream, do you think it has helped to bring more attention to what a business pitch should consist of and what contributes to a well prepared presentation?
Danielle: Yes and no. I enjoy Shark Tank, and appreciate that it has made entrepreneurship more mainstream. On the flip side, many of the participants are under prepared or way off on their company valuations. I wish they had been coached or educated on the industry standards before they made mistakes in front of the Sharks and television viewers. Pitching is an art and should have a very specific goal/outcome for the company and entrepreneur. You need to be dialed in on what your company needs and what metrics you need to show to make an investment make sense to angels and venture capitalists.
Do you think competition is a great way for business owners to learn if they are on the right track with their business pitch?
Danielle: I absolutely think pitch competitions are a wonderful early sounding board for business owners. You will learn from listening to other pitches, from judges feedback, and hopefully make a few entrepreneur friends who are going through the same struggles you are. That being said, if you are totally unprepared for a pitch contest do not participate. You will not reap the benefits and could tarnish your reputation with your peers and investors.
Is there a secret formula or recipe you can share that aspiring business owners can follow to make sure they have a good business pitch?
Danielle: Guy Kawasaki created the 10/20/30 rule for pitch decks, and I think it’s a great recipe. Pitches should be limited to 10 slides, presented for less than 20 minutes, and use 30 point font or larger. If you’re looking for inspiration, www.pitchenvy.com or slideshare.net/500startups have huge collections of decks that you can browse through.
Also, never assume your audience knows your industry or niche. Build your pitch to educate them on the basics and build to your innovation or solution. They have to understand the problem before they can buy into your solution.
Finally, be yourself. Authenticity is magnetic. When you are passionate about your pitch and product the audience can feel it and can be moved by it. Don’t copy a pitch style that isn’t reflective of your business and you as an entrepreneur.
What is one piece of advice you can share that you think should be added to a business pitch that will help a business stand out?
Danielle: Tell the judges and audience exactly what you need, why you need it, and why they are going to benefit from giving it to you. You may not always be asking for funding. You may need a specific introduction or access to a particular platform. Whatever you have identified as the most valuable next step for growth is what you need to ask for. You have to A-S-K to G-E-T.
We thank Danielle Tate for sharing her knowledge with us here at MET Community. This information is valuable beyond measure. Be sure to check out the tools she shared with us to get some inspiration for your business pitch.