If you are tired of waiting for somebody to give you a job, why don’t you build one yourself?
That is the message of a great contest hosted by Entrepreneurship For All Cape Cod – EforAll for short. EforAll was founded in 2010 under the auspices of UMass Lowell as a way to encourage business and jobs in distressed communities. It became a 501c-3 in 2014, and expanded to Lynn and New Bedford. It reached beyond its urban business accelerator roots by branching out to Holyoke and the Cape last July, and the Pitch Contests are part of its mission to energize, inspire and foster small local businesses and big ideas.
Amanda Kaiser facilitated the gathering of possible participants in Hyannis this week to explain the nuts and bolts of the next Pitch Contest. The variety of ideas at even this one orientation was fascinating. An individualized health coaching service. A different kind of beauty salon. Translation services. An advocacy nonprofit for horseshoe crabs. An art and clothing boutique. Potential participants came to learn how to apply for the event and utilize the services offered to begin their own businesses.
The next Pitch Night is in Yarmouth at the Cultural Center of Cape Cod on March 21. Community judges will read the pitch applications, and select seven to present. This event is sponsored by Buy Fresh, Buy Local so that will be the theme of the evening. Participants will need to get across five key points. What is the PROBLEM? What do you see as the SOLUTION? Who is your CUSTOMER? What is the FEASIBILITY of your idea? How will you use the MONEY if you are chosen?
Since these points will need to be expressed in two-and-a-half minutes, that gives you about 30 seconds for each point, so you need to be able to distill your concept into a classic ‘elevator speech’ while making your idea intriguing enough to convince the judges and audience alike. The judges questions after the pitch will be aimed at not only clarifying your idea but making you show your enthusiasm and thought process. A Shark Tank without the bite is how Kaiser described it.
Many entrepreneurs will have tables, and are encouraged to sell if they have tangible items, and give trinkets if possible. The goal is to engage the spectators, as in addition to the judges’ cash awards there will be an audience favorite award, so bringing your supporters to vote for you is important.
Christin Marshall, the director, talked about her first pitch. She had nothing but a sign, and people strolled right by. At her next pitch, she had a sign and a challenge – “Tell me why my idea won’t work.” People stopped and talked, and she actually got a lot of useful challenges from their criticism.
That is the beauty of this format. How many of us have ideas, something we always wanted to try, but had no real idea how to go about realizing them? Coming from a university atmosphere, the format seems skewed to younger people, but even in this small group age was varied. One person mentioned that her idea was something she had thought about doing when she retired, but since she was laid off recently, she decided to go for it now.
Entrepreneurship can come in all sizes and ages and genders. One person mentioned that the Boston area was ranked eighth in the nation for woman-owned businesses, and that ethos is strong on the Cape as well. When we had a seafaring economy, women were used to taking over while the men were gone. That normalized women in business, and the acceptance persists. Indeed, of the dozen or so at the briefing, only one was a man.
So what about you? Applications for the Cultural Center event can be submitted until March 11, and there will be another one in Falmouth in April. If you are a young person who wants a chance to build something of your own, or an older person who doesn’t want to never try their secret ambition, or just somebody who has no job but has an idea, this is your chance. You miss all of the shots you don’t take, so if you are tired of waiting, take this one. For more information, go to eforall.org and choose Cape Cod from the menu.
Cynthia Stead of Dennis can be reached at email@example.com.