I’m an Entrepreneur, Hear My Pitch
Entrepreneurs, Events, High Technology, Public Relations Posted Jun 16, 2014 by Jennifer Torode
Three Small Boston Businesses Give Their Pitch at Project Startup Live Entrepreneur Forum
On June 10, 2014, I attended the Project Startup Live Entrepreneur Forum, an A&E initiative, focused on supporting new U.S. entrepreneurs in cities across the U.S. The jam-packed event was held at Boston’s Seaport District at District Hall.
The Forum kicked off with a panel moderated by NECN Business Editor Peter Howe, who was outstanding and comprised of Revolution Institute founder and The Startup Equation author Ja-Nae’ Duane, RocketHub founder & CEO Brian Meece, A&E Networks Senior Vice President, Corporate Outreach Libby Haight O’Connell and Comcast Regional Vice President, Greater Boston Region Stephen Walsh. Each shared their stories and best practices of what it takes to start a business and become successful.
Libby opened the discussion on a good point, and one that many smart, passionate people fail to consider when starting a business: Having an incredible product is not enough; you must embrace the business side of starting a business. She noted that if you have the talent to create a new service or product but lack the passion to learn how to market and grow your business, then you need to find a trusted partner who is business savvy or else why bother. Another piece of advice Libby gave was to avoid saying that your company’s service and product is “great” when explaining what you’re selling. Instead, she said to ask yourself, “How is my product or service different from the competition?” Then articulate that using facts, examples, etc.
When the panel was finished, the audience was able to take to the mic to ask questions and share their experiences. One gentleman left a large law firm to start his own firm as he felt he could have more control over his job security and career destiny. Funny enough, he commented that Comcast Business contacted him weeks after launching his firm and was extremely helpful connecting him with all the communication highways needed to build and maintain his new venture. Talk about Comcast nailing their marketing initiatives!
The Q&A lasted about 15-20 minutes and then each panelist left the stage to make room for three local businesses competing for a prize of $5,000, two free years of Comcast Business services and free consultation from Brian Meece, who has helped thousands of endeavors raise millions of dollars from people all over the world.
The first small business up to bat was Niari Keverian, CEO of ZOOS Greek Iced Tea. She and her business partner produce a unique iced tea made with a Greek herb and the only iced to be brewed at a true brewing facility in Philadelphia. Niari was poised and articulate in explaining what she and her business partner sell and why their drink is different than other iced teas on the market. She was able to precisely answer the judges’ questions. I couldn’t help but wonder how this business would fare on Shark Tank. I have a feeling that the “sharks” may warn them that it was one of the toughest markets to get into as some of the biggest soft drink company’s like Coca Cola have an enormous foothold on the juice market and they have mega dollars and an established network to support their efforts. However, look at Nantucket Nectars. I believe they’ve been quite successful, especially in the New England region.
The second business, Health Innovators, was represented by the super animated Dr. Kalyan Kalwa, and his business partner Michael Krieger, who pitched software that would allow a hospital’s patients to see on a monitor in the waiting room if their doctor was running on time or behind. Interesting idea and one that will be greatly needed once Obama Care kicks in and there are far more people waiting….and waiting….and waiting to be seen by physicians.
I thought this type of technology already existed but they seem to have a few well-respected hospitals open to testing. The organization also holds monthly meetings focused on topics pertinent to health innovation. Dr. Kalwa finished by doing a karate chop accompanied by his own sound effects. The crowd roared!
The third and final pitch was from Snagastool Founder and CEO Jamie J. Manning. Snagastool has developed a mobile app that allows people to rent a bar stool from $2-$40 (a bar can charge any price really) an hour for a period of time—sort of like OpenTable, which was just bought by Priceline for $2.6B. Jamie told a story behind the app. One night, he went to watch one the final Bruins games at a local bar and there wasn’t a stool to snag so he hailed a cab and cruised to another bar hoping to score a seat at the bar and once again, he struck out.
Manning ended up listening to the majority of the game in the cab, which turned out to be a fruitful adventure after all. Besides befriending the driver, the experience spawned the brainchild that became Snagastool. A few establishments are testing the app in Boston, including one of the Marriott hotel bars. I think it’s a clever idea but I’m not sold on it as a business. I envision regulars going to their local watering hole to eat and drink only to be told that they can’t sit down because the empty stools at the bar have been paid for by someone that has not arrived yet.
Despite my reservations, Manning is passionate and has the attention of a few bar industry notables, so I’ll be following the latest on the app.
In the end, the two local women entrepreneurs from ZOOS Greek Iced Tea won the competition. If I were on the panel, I would have selected them, too. There are a few stores that are selling their iced teas so the next time you go to Wegmans, Roche Bros. or Sudbury Farms, grab one—they sell an assortment of flavors.
Overall, it was a good event and I hope that each of the new small businesses competing find success. It will be interesting if A&E decides to follow them over the next few years to see where they all end up.