To pitch or not to pitch?

Last week I was told off by a fellow member of my class of this year’s New Entrepreneurs Foundation (NEF) cohort. My crime. I didn’t tell my story when I introduced my business to the group. In my defence I’ve spoken about Packed Munches several times to the group, but said fellow had a point. For the sake of anonymity let’s call said fellow Mucy.* When I started presenting to the group I said

So as you all know my business is called Packed Munches and it’s an online subscription service that sends boxes of British food to expats

Mucy said that quite frankly, that was a weak introduction, and reminded me that it doesn’t matter how many times I’ve talked about my business, or how many times I’ve talked about it to a particular person, every time I should tell my story. It should be like a pitch. But not a pitch

HUH?

Haha it sounds harder than it actually is but through NEF I’ve learnt two ways to tell your story when you’re pitching your business – courtesy of Adele Barlow (of Escape the City). It makes your ‘pitch’ so much less offensive (you all know what I mean) and makes the conversation that you’re about to embark on just that. A conversation.

The first – A Good Story

FYI I’m really getting into this and at this point wish I had made this into a video post as after the first I would have an exciting duh duh duh sound effect

Rather than pitching your business to people you meet. Tell them a story so that you can create people who want to follow your story.

Now every good story needs a hero, a conflict and a resolution:

  • Who is the hero? You can think of yourself (or rather your business/product) as a hero.
  • Where is the conflict?  What problem are you trying to solve?
  • How does your product or service provide the resolution?

So for Packed Munches the answer would be:

  • Packed Munches
  • Difficulty finding British food abroad
  • Delivers the food to expats.

So my story would be, Packed Munches delivers food to expats who have difficulty finding British food abroad. Hmmm, it’s good but it’s no cigar. Which is where the second method comes in.

THE GOLDEN CIRCLE

Why, How, What

Why, How, What

People don’t buy what you do – they buy why you do it.

Simon Sinek explains this best in his TedX talk but I’ve summed it up here for you:

The traditional way that companies sell their product is exactly as I did above. By telling you what the service is, how we do it and why.

Packed Munches (WHAT) delivers food to expats (HOW) who have difficulty finding British food abroad (WHY).

But the great companies, like Apple, they tell you why first, then how, then what. So

Living in a new country can be difficult, new culture, new language, new people. We want to encourage people to shake off the feeling of being homesick and experience the joys of being abroad. (WHY) Every month we help expats to stay connected with home and reminded of the good times (HOW) by delivering a taste of home to their doors. (WHAT)

Granted it’s slightly longer but hell doesn’t it sound better! Cue sound effect:

So I guess the answer to the question to pitch or not to pitch is to pitch without pitching. Tell your story using the Golden Circle.

Mucy also told me her favourite part of our story is our tagline. It’s like a hug in a box from home. So in full here’s my story:

Living in a new country can be difficult: new culture, new language and new people. We want to encourage people to shake off the feeling of being homesick and experience the joys of being abroad. Every month we help expats to stay connected with home and reminded of the good times by delivering a taste of home to their doors. It’s like a hug in a box from home.

Now if you’ll excuse me I need to amend my About Us and every piece of promotional material about Packed Munches 😀

Ciao ciao xx


*Mucy is not her real name. In case you hadn’t guessed. But you probably had. #cantakethegirloutoflawbutnotthelawyeroutofthegirl #inappropriatelylonghashtag

Entrepreneurs Anonymous

Last Wednesday I attended my first Entrepreneurs Anonymous meeting. As you’ve probably guessed, it’s the entrepreneur version of alcoholics anonymous. No, before the smart-alecs comments, we’re not addicted to being entrepreneurs. Nor do we indeed suffer from any addictions. But we do suffer. One of the hardest things about trying to start your own business is not only being the boss, but also not having others to go to for answers, or to bounce ideas off of, or even just for support.

Poor us I know!

Entrepreneurs Anonymous, or just Anon as I like to refer to it (let’s admit it’s a bit of a mouthful), is the brainchild of two Campus residents that allows entrepreneurs to get together and share problems. Keeping with the theme of it being Anonymous I guess I can’t really tell you their names – but if they give me permission I might update this with that info (and I’m sure they will).

So the meeting takes place on Wednesday mornings at 8.30am. Now I currently live in Sipson (you know they keep speaking about the additional runway at Heathrow? Yeh, Sipson is the village they want to build the runway over) and hadn’t gone to bed until 3am the night before(/morning of) so I was running on zero energy by the time I dragged myself to Old Street. In spite of this, the session was amazing! First each person introduces themselves and then they have 5~6 minutes to outline their problem and get advice. Everyone starts with the line

“My start-up sucks because…”

and there are only two rules:

  1. Check your ego at the door… be open to being proved wrong and learning…
  2.  Bring whatever insights or issues you’re dealing with and collectively we’ll pitch in ways around it from the experiences and power in the group 🙂

We discussed a variety of issues ranging from disruptive marketing and growth hackers to office space and making sales. My personal problem was how to convert the great press we’ve had into tangible sales. One of the things I had thought about before but was unsure about was an initial free box on signing up and this idea was put forward, among others, that gave me the confidence to move forward with this decision. What was scheduled to only last 30 minutes ended up lasting over 2 hours with connections and potential partnerships being developed!

I don’t know that ordinary Anonymous attendees look forward to their meetings, I suppose they do if it’s the thing that stops them from relapsing. I’m certainly looking forward to the 8.30 meeting tomorrow morning as I have a whole new host of problems that I need to share. I’m not going to lie I’m also looking forward to helping out where I can, it’s nice to feel like you have some knowledge you can share to help others, especially when you’re floundering yourself 😉

“There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.”

 

“There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” This was originally said by Madeleine Albright, but on Wednesday night it was reiterated by Eleanor Mills, the Editorial Director of The Sunday Times. It’s a hell of a statement and as you can see from the picture below it was delivered to a room full of women. It wasn’t just said as part of a cliched “women unite” but was said during, what my notes describe as, a fiercely powerful speech.New Entrepreneurs Foundation

Wednesday night, on recommendation from the Free:formers crew, I attended an event held by the New Entrepreneurs Foundation aimed at encouraging more women into entrepreneurship. I didn’t have any expectations prior to arriving but the event was incredibly inspiring. Three of the panel members particularly resonated with me: Benita Matofska, Eleanor Mills and Geeta Sidhu-Robb.

Zara Pearson explaining what NEF looks for in candidates

Zara Pearson explaining what NEF looks for in candidates

Benita Matofska – Founder of Compare and Share. She shared 4 “P’s” you should follow when creating a business:

  1. Passion – be passionate about what you do.
  2. Purpose – whatever you do, do it with purpose (I love this all the more so because it reminds me of the toast Will Smith gives in Hitch). “Business is now about conscious business, it’s about collaboration”.
  3. Perseverance – don’t take no for an answer.
  4. Persuasive.

Urgghh! I’ve written that five different times and no matter how I write it I just cannot capture how impactful it was when delivered by Benita.

Eleanor Mills – as I mentioned above her speech was fiercely powerful. She is an advocate. And boy does she advocate. She warned us all not to get complacent and reminded us that we don’t have to choose. We really can have it all. I think in relation to this I’m not so sure I agree. I feel like whilst we no longer have to choose one or the other, we do have to choose the order in which we try to achieve it, and that impacts your other choices. Do you choose to settle down first? Start a business? Have a child? Either way we should be helping one another.

Geeta Sidhu-Robb – Geeta created Nosh Detox and was delightfully honest, controversial and open with the audience. She told us all about how she had failed in life before she succeeded (or rather in between her successes). The Americans are really big on encouraging you to fail, because it means that you’ve tried, whereas over here we tend to do that whole British thing of “dahhhling you may lose everything, just stay in your job and marry a rich man”. One of my favourite moments of Geeta’s intro was when she said that the worst thing about being poor was losing her private jet… I totally felt her pain. 😀

So all in all the night was incredibly motivating. I do think it was a shame that the opposite sex didn’t get to attend as I think the panel had such inspirational (ok, how many times have I used that word now) stories that they really transcend genders but I have to say that the New Entrepreneurs Foundation did an amazing job! They’re currently recruiting a new cohort of applicants (all sexes welcome) so if you fancy being paid to learn about entrepreneurship and being funded whilst you come up with ideas then you have until February 21st – good luck!

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Networking styles and Level 39

2014-01-15 20.09.04

Evidently my picture taking skills aren’t too great but I don’t proclaim to be a photographer!

Last night I went to an event held by the UKTI Global Entrepreneur Programme at Level 39. Now I’m not a member of Level 39 or the Global Entrepreneur Programme so I guess I should say “Last night I snuck into an event held by…”

2014-01-15 20.09.10

Level 39 is one of the latest accelerators (and event spaces) in London and it distinguishes itself by aiming at financial tech start-ups. It takes up a whole floor or One Canada Square (the tallest building in Canary Wharf) and as you can see from the above picture the views are breath-taking (I wish the event had been during the day – as someone that shouldn’t have been there I shouldn’t complain, haha!).

The night was essentially an event for the programme participants to network with others on the programme, outside companies (and potential investors) and say hello to the new cohort. During the evening I observed some interesting networking styles that I’ve seen a few times but always find fun to observe:

The pair

– These two come together and stay stuck to one another’s side throughout the event. They go for drinks together and when you speak to them it feels like they’re talking to one another. My advice – try to capture one of them on their way to or from the bar, they’ll be far more interesting without their safety blanket partner in crime.

The befriender

– Also known as your new best friend. The befriender has the ability to read your name tag across the room and will come up to you saying “[Insert name] daahhling, it’s great to see you. How are you?” They’ll introduce you to others as if they’ve known you they’re entire life. My advice – run with it! If you’re anything like me it makes it a lot easier to meet people. You’ll feel like you have your very own partner in crime!

The card collector

– The card collector follows every “Hi who are you?” with a “Can I have your card?”. No doubt this is to add to their collection book at home but if they ask for your card before you’ve established a connection the chances are they’re a card collector.  My advice – unless you have 500 business cards hold on to your card for dear life! Try to make them engage with you but if unable to, rely on the following “I’m sorry – I don’t have many on me tonight but if you leave me yours I’ll send you an email.”

The craven one

– In Jamaican English craven means greedy. In old English it means cowardly. Now the craven one sticks to the food. They wait by the door that the service staff come through and/or follow the canapés around the room. They’re not here to talk to you – they’re either too scared or hungry. My advice – try not to capture them mid mouthful. It’s awkward for both of you, them as they try to swallow their food to respond to your question and you as you have to wait.

The eagle

– The eagle is an experienced networker. They are able to swoop in and out of every conversation in under 3 minutes flat with a card, having obtained your key information and determined whether or not you’re useful to them. It’s a whirlwind experience and you’ll be left wondering who that was and if you’ll ever hear from them again. My advice – watch and learn. It’s a pretty cool skill and one that could prove handy!

So which networker are you? I think I started out as a craven one (you’ll learn that when it comes to food I rarely say no) but am working my way up to an eagle. Not there yet but watch this space!