This Thursday, the Samuel Adams Brewing the American Dream Pitch Room Competition finals take place at the Centre for Social Innovation in New York City. Nine small businesses from across the country will compete for the crown and the chance to win a $10,000 business grant and extended mentoring from Samuel Adams. We sat down with last year’s winners Daniel and Rebecca Dengrove of New York-based small business Brewla Bars to find out how they nailed the perfect business pitch.
Q: So you win the regional Pitch Room competition in New York, and you’re headed to the finals. What was going through your mind?
Daniel: We were elated and relieved. We put a lot of effort into crafting our initial pitch, but we were clearly nervous and that impacted our pitch delivery. We were anxious for the announcement and once we heard our names, we were overcome with joy. After the announcement, we spoke one-on-one with Samuel Adams founder Jim Koch who we really look up to. That was an exciting moment for us.
Q: How did you prepare for the finals? What were you most focused on?
Rebecca: We learned a lot from the regional competition. The judges pointed out that we should emphasize our family connection and add humor to our pitch. So we made a few refinements based on their comments. We also realized that we would need to overcome our nerves for the finals and put a lot more effort into practicing.
Q: So the day of the finals arrives. Were you nervous? How did you get ready to make your winning pitch?
Rebecca: We had practiced our pitch to the point that we could recite it without fail, which really increased our confidence. The last bit of prep we did was with the staff at the hotel on the day of the competition. We asked the bellhop to listen and began running through our pitch. He followed our every word and absolutely loved our story. It was the final signal that we were ready and made a big difference to alleviate our anxiety.
Q: What did you take away most from the experience of participating in and winning the Pitch Room competition?
Daniel: An effective pitch that you can deliver well is a very important tool. We frequently make pitches to investors, retailers, and the press and we don’t have to worry about word choice or stumbling over words because we have had so much practice. When you can deliver a good pitch, people are more likely to work with you. You might first develop your pitch to win a contest, but you will end up using it for much more. If you can get it right, it will serve you well.
Q: What advice would you give to participants in this year’s Pitch Room finals?
Daniel: I would take some time to refine your pitch. Incorporate any feedback that you received from the judges. Solicit friends and family that have experience making pitches to review your pitch. Once you have the right pitch on paper, practice until you can deliver it without thinking about it. If you get nervous, practice in front of a group of friends. Finally, be sure to recite your pitch with energy and enthusiasm every time.
Q: What doors did your Pitch Room win open, and what has the last year been like since you’ve won?
Rebecca: Winning was incredibly validating for Brewla. Immediately afterward we were published in a number of press outlets like the NY Daily News and Boston Globe. We closed a round of funding which enabled us to bring me on full-time and focus on improving our operations. It has been an amazing year that got off to an amazing start with our Pitch Room win. We hope to build on the momentum as Brewla prepares to enter 1,000 new stores next year.
Click here for more information about Accion’s partnership with Boston Beer and the Samuel Adams Brewing the American Dream program.