But what does it take to deliver the perfect pitch? We got some insights from this year’s ‘The Pitch Champion’, Rebecca Coates.
Tell us a bit about your winning business
“I’m the co-founder of a company called propertECO. We offer solutions for private and commercially owned properties to reduce the occupants’ exposure to radon gas. Radon is a naturally-occurring invisible and odourless gas that forms in the ground and can accumulate inside buildings. Long-term exposure to this gas is the second leading cause of lung cancer and is responsible for some 2,000 deaths in the UK every year. Every building contains some radon but only a special test can determine whether the radon levels are harmful or not.
Over the last five or six years, interest in radon gas has been steadily increasing, but there was relatively little commercial activity taking place to ensure that properties were being tested, or worse, being fixed if high levels were found. It was then, in 2011, that my business partner Martin Freeman and I founded propertECO to specialise in reducing harmful levels of radon in buildings. We now supply affordable test kits and install specialist ventilation systems to reduce high concentrations where necessary.”
Why did you decide to sign up for The Pitch?
“One of the main reasons I signed up for The Pitch was to network and raise awareness of radon among business owners. Many employers are still unaware that there is now legislation in place that requires all employers to carry out a radon risk assessment for the safety of their employees. I hoped to spread awareness among the contestants, judges and sponsors. Winning The Pitch was an unexpected and very welcomed bonus.”
How did you prepare yourself and what did you learn from the two rounds of pitching?
“I practised, practised and practised some more. Sometimes in front of the mirror, and sometimes in front of my dog! I also made sure that I knew all of our headline financials, so that I could deliver them with confidence.
The first pitch is 90 seconds. I practised my pitch many times and perfected it to the 89 seconds mark. But on the day, I was conscious to deliver my pitch slowly and clearly which meant that I took too long and got cut off. The final round allowed for a three-minute speech. I used my experience from the first round to prepare a pitch that was a little shy of the time limit to allow for speaking slowly, pausing and taking extra breaths. I managed to successfully complete my pitch without getting cut off.”
What was the most challenging part of The Pitch and how did you overcome this?
“Completing my pitch within the time frame was a challenge. As awareness of radon is quite low, I had to find the time to explain the problem before detailing the solution. I thought it was vital to include this information to ensure that our mission was thoroughly understood. In order to do so I had to cut out some financial details, but after a lot of redrafting I was able to summarise the figures to demonstrate our growth and profitability succinctly.”
Would you recommend The Pitch to other entrepreneurs?
“Absolutely! The Pitch really is a worthwhile business competition to be a part of. There are a lot of other startup competitions out there that involve a written application and a glitzy awards dinner, but The Pitch stands out for the volume of knowledge and skills you can take away from your experience.
It’s not just about winning. The competition process provides great opportunities to network and take part in workshops. Notably, it encourages entrepreneurs to develop and practice new skills.”
What is the next step for propertECO?
“A new European Directive was recently issued requiring all EU states to have a detailed ‘radon action plan’ in place by 2018. Under this legislation, there will be stricter enforcement of workplace testing regulations and initiatives to encourage more action in private households. With more people taking action, we will see our business grow as the demand for our services increase. We are also looking forward to utilising the competition prizes to continue raising our profile, spreading awareness about radon and in reducing the number of avoidable lung cancer deaths every year.”
What 3 tips would you give to someone who is preparing to pitch to an investor?
- “Prepare and practise. A pitch is not something you can throw together at the last minute.
- Communicate with confidence. You might be the best pitcher in the world, but remember that an investor is looking for an opportunity with profit return. Make sure you communicate how your business will make money and give the investor plenty of reasons to believe you.
- Inject passion into your pitch. Avoid simply reeling off the information you’ve prepared. Show passion and enthusiasm about your business venture.”
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