3 min read…Getting a startup off the ground is not easy. Finding time amid other obligations (like your day job and your family), raising capital and developing your ideas is an enormous undertaking. Success takes hard work and in some cases a bit of luck (aka timing, hard work, perseverance, creativity) but you can help by making smart decisions. That’s why Innovation DuPage is here. To help you get started and nurture your journey. One of the smartest decisions you can make to increase your “luck” and the awareness of your startup is to enter a pitch competition.
A pitch competition entry is a fantastic way to focus the mind. It gives you a deadline, so you can stop procrastinating. It helps you build momentum for your ideas even if you haven’t filed all your paperwork yet. Winning is great, but even if you don’t win, a pitch competition is an exercise that provides lots of benefits.
The Chicagoland/DuPage area is chock full of pitch competitions. The ID events page offers several ID-sponsored pitch competitions you might consider like the upcoming COD/ID-sponsored Your Big IDea pitch competition for COD students, alums and area high school students.
Want even more opportunities to pitch? For a full list of pitch competitions in the Chicagoland area click here. Each competition has different qualifications and requirements, so you’ll need to do some research.
To be alerted when the details of the ID-sponsored pitch competitions become available, sign up on the form by each listing on the ID Events page. Each of these competitions will help you with feedback, promotion and maybe even cash (if you win!). $14,000 in prize money is up for grabs from the ID sponsored pitch competitions listed. In case you need a little more motivation than $14,000, here are….
5 More Reasons Why You Should Enter a Pitch Competition
Entering a Pitch Competition Helps You Focus
The actual process of entering the competition forces you to put your business on paper, organize your ideas and brainstorm the possibilities. It gets the creative ideas flowing. In some cases, application reviewers will provide you with unsolicited (and priceless) feedback.
It’s not easy to enter a pitch competition and often that’s by design. You may need to answer thought- provoking questions as part of the application process. This helps you think critically about every aspect of your business, nail down your vision, assess the competitive landscape, define your value proposition and set short and long term goals. Re-reviewing your overall strategy may be one of the most valuable aspects of entering.
Pitch Competitions Attract Others Interested in Entrepreneurs and New Ideas
Pitch competitions often provide support and instruction from the organizers and judges. Some competitions require setup meetings with knowledgeable business advisors as part of the application process. Others match accepted entrants with exclusive business coaches and investors.
You’ll probably meet incredible mentors during the competition events or awards ceremony. Pitch competitions are attended by people hoping to learn, gain contacts and get in on the next big idea. Remember, other successful entrepreneurs all started with an idea and built it from scratch. They’ve all made plenty of mistakes, acquired knowledge and skills along the way and have endless information and perspectives to share. Network with these folks, ask questions about their businesses and take note. Each interaction may just save you from having to learn lessons the hard way.
Pitch Competitions Remind You to Practice, Practice, Practice
If you don’t have your elevator pitch down perfectly (or don’t know what it is), now is the time to figure it out. While attending a pitch competition, you will have dozens of opportunities to tell people about your business.
That 30-second spiel can make the difference between a potential investor giving you his personal email and phone number or looking around for someone else to talk to. We know that hurts, which is why you need to be top of your game.
Your elevator pitch should be brief, unique, and memorable. Test-drive it with friends and colleagues. Watch people’s reactions as you share it. Are they intrigued? Do they want to know more, or do they change the subject? Don’t be afraid to test a few versions of it to figure out what works best. Remember how you get to Carnegie Hall: Practice, practice, practice.
Everything’s All About Marketing and PR
Pitch competitions are a great way to tell others about your business, gain exposure, and find new customers. Use pitch competitions to tout your idea and story, because, let’s be honest, no one else is going to do it.
Here are some more marketing ideas you can leverage when you enter and participate in pitch competitions:
- Email your past and present contacts and invite them to come and watch
- Put together a press release and ask reporters at media outlets to cover the contest
- Offer yourself as an interviewee to bloggers and/or offer to be a guest blogger
- Write up a story for your own website about the competition and how you’re prepping for it
- If the competition includes community voting, invite fam/friends/fans to participate
Sharing your involvement in a pitch competition, whether you win or not, demonstrates your commitment to your company, how you are creatively growing your business and that you’re looking for ways to grow.
Everyone in the pitch competition has a story to share. If you happen to win, it’s a feather in your cap and something you can ride to future success, blog posts, etc. Even if you don’t win, you still have an interesting story to share and a lot of lessons-learned to talk about.
Cash Is Often Involved
Winning feels great and often involves some cash. Cash prize amounts range depending on the competition, but often non-cash prizes can include valuable resources such as free business services (a membership to Innovation DuPage, perhaps?) access to VC’s and mentors, mentions on social media and maybe even a newspaper article. Combined, the pitch competitions sponsored by ID and listed on the ID events page are giving away more than $14,000 in cash in addition to prizes.
Are you planning to enter a pitch competition? What do you hope to get out of it?
Entering a pitch competition and participating in the events and activities around it will kick your ideas into high gear so you can expand your vision and see how it flies. Listening to passionate business leaders and exposing yourself to new perspectives will inevitably spark your creative spirit. Usually, pitch competitions have final celebration parties. Have business cards/flyers on hand and prepare to network, network, network. You never know who you’ll be mingling with at the pre and post event gatherings. You’ll walk away with a notepad packed with tons of to-do’s… and even some lesson-learning don’ts. Get started and make yourself some luck!