Can You Talk Your Way Into $10,000 For Your Business?

The B.E. Elevator Pitch Competition gives you a chance to prove it�but avoid these mistakes

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2009 Elevator Contest winner Marcus Evans is congratulated by Black Enterprise Editorial Director Alan Hughes

You’ve got less than a minute to deliver a stellar elevator pitch that will pique a potential investor’s interest in your business.  Tick, tick, tick, tick … How would you react in this situation? Would you be calm, cool, and collected or would you be at a complete loss for words? Unfortunately, too few business people are prepared to deal with such a situation.

“You should always be ready to succinctly discuss your business, because you never know when you’ll get the opportunity to talk to someone who may be able to help you financially or provide you with resources,” says Black Enterprise Small Business Editor Tennille Robinson.

If you’re an aspiring or established entrepreneur who can’t use $10,000, stop reading now. But if the idea of $10,000 gets your attention, you know what to do: Register for the 2010 Entrepreneurs Conference + Expo and enter the 2010 Elevator Pitch Competition. The deadline to enter the contest is Friday, April 30. (Click here to enter the competition.)

So how do you get the most out of this small window of opportunity? Meet Marcus Evans, founder and CEO of Never Forgotten and last year’s winner of the Elevator Pitch Competition at the Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Conference + Expo. Evans, 30, started his Herndon, Virginia-based full-service gravesite care and maintenance company last spring. Evan video-recorded pitch was enough to get him into the finals with four other entrepreneurs. (Click here to see Evans’ video pitch submission.) When they all pitched live before a panel of judges at the 2009 Entrepreneurs Conference in Detroit, Evans came away the winner.

Out of the more than 30 entrepreneurs in last year’s competition, Evans was the last man standing. So what did he do that floated him to the top while some of the other participants couldn’t seem to get any lift? Evans pointed to these slip ups:

Insufficient research: You can’t just say “I have this idea and I think it’s going to work because I’m a smart person.” Anyone can do that! You need to research the industry your company is going to be in and provide some hard numbers in your pitch. An investor really doesn’t care about how much experience you have, they want to know the numbers–how profitable is the product or business? What are the typical numbers? You should also include expected sales and the size and percentage of the

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  • concerned citizen

    Question: Why do we always have to compete with each other like a reality show to get funding and an ear of people who can help. White people have a family gathering, listen without pressure, and put up cash. Black folks should wake up and stop hustling people to sign up for their expo’s (where more money is spent on hotels, rooms, and food than business)

    • I am far from an expert on white people. However, as a veteran business editor and small business expert, I am aware of very few sources of funding that does not involve either competing or qualifying in some way. Our expo is just one element of the larger Entrepreneurs Conference, as is the Elevator Pitch Competition. Only a small percentage of the several thousand attendees who have attended the conference over the past 15 years do so to win financing. The vast majority (many of them repeat attendees) do so to gain contacts, contracts, funding, partnerships and other resources from other attendees, who happen to be entrepreneurs and business owners too. These opportunities to establish contacts and relationships, not food and hotel rooms, are the return on investment that they find to be more than worth the value. For most, it is the only time and place anywhere where they can be around 1,000-plus other people who think just the way they do: with an entrepreneurial mindset. To be in business is to be willing to compete for contacts, resources, information, contracts, customers, employees and yes, funding. That is true regardless of race. Only each entrepreneur can decide for themselves where best to invest their time, money and effort in order to achieve success and make a profit.

    • MAke it happen

      Competition is a good thing. “white” people have business plan competitions all the time. Do you suggest everyone just get a check for $10,000 for their idea from B.E.? Sounds a little weak, and anti American,

    • Jasmyn

      That was–for lack of a better word– an ignorant comment. If it was that easy to get $10,000 (to start a business, buy a house, etc), don’t you think we’d all be entreprenuers? What type of world are you living in where you think people just have that kind of money to give away? It’s not a Black, White or Asian thing, it’s a Business Thing.

  • Tracy

    This is a wonderful venue to network and learn more about starting a business as well as the new technologies. White people do use networking such as going to your local Chamber of Commerce. In addition, networking in speaking with others gives you a ledge from making costly mistakes. Funding is a big part of your business and if you believe in your dream, you should do everything to make it successful/ I do not know if peoople are aware but try to get a loan at a local bankis is difficult right now just look at the news to see how establish business are having a hard timne getting a loan to cover operating expenses. If you can get an investor to believe in you more than 80% of what you are trying to do is done. If you do not want to attend this venue than don’t go. You can go to your local library to read up on the information you need to start a business as well. This is a great opportunity get meet wtih others.

  • Testa

    Internet is a fantastic way to socialize. We have to help us WORLD WIDE first. My point is there’s help out there. Called financial creativity. Borrow from others not from the banks. The interest percentage and payments may be alittle more expensive. You will have that atvantage to make good credit, network, expand and be creative. These will help you if you are: disabled, unemployed, low- income, no credit, low credit a monster. It doesn’t matter. If your that serious be consistant, persistant and help others.

  • I fully support Black Enterprise and how down to earth their campaigns are for growing small business owners like myspace. Alfred even came on my show to inspire biz owners just like me. Thanks again to BE and Im getting my Elevator Pitch ready… Alfred I hope you still have your Couture Magnet from !

  • Patrick Brown

    Are we still comparing ourselves to other races What does race have to do with creativity and the competitive spirit? Unless you have convincing data that statement was inappropriate even for a blog.