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Jan 5, 2017

Revisiting the Role of Pitch Events

I love pitch events as much as the next person.  They create energy, build public awareness, and provide an easy way to feel engaged with the entrepreneurial world.

But I worry that the pitch is becoming an end in itself.  After winning a pitch event, is the entrepreneur better off in a meaningful way?  I call this the Monday Morning problem:   is there an obvious next step after the pitch?  Sometimes I think the next step is to do another pitch event in hopes enough accolades will attract some meaningful supporters.  I do not think those hopes are realized very often.

We need to remind ourselves what the real goal is and what it is not.  It is not to get entrepreneurs to spend a lot of time to prepare a compelling performance.  That is a means to an end but it is not the end.

The goal should be the successful launch of a business and its growth into a revenue- and job-generating business that is profitable enough to produce self-sustaining, measurable social impact.  This is NEVER the outcome of a pitch event.

I have talked quite a bit in prior blogs about how you can help a social entrepreneur.  I hope you #shopsocialcbus and you volunteer and donate.

Yet there is a lot we still need to probe about what help social entrepreneurs need and want from the community.  In the Center’s meetings with local social entrepreneurs we are getting a clearer picture of what they need and want.

  • They need ADVICE — both from experts and also from quick answers to basic questions.
  • They need PEER SUPPORT — not necessarily from big networking events, although they can be useful, but rather from a group they feel shares similar worries, concerns, and challenges such that they can share solutions, referrals, and, if necessary, sympathy.
  • They need CAPITAL that is meaningful in helping them to advance their business plan.

Pitch events too often fulfill none of these needs.  Feedback from an evaluation panel is nice, but ephemeral.  A one-time event does not a peer group make.  And $5,000 and $10,000 is a prize, not an investment that by itself will make a difference.

I hope to have several announcements in the coming months of new initiatives targeted to providing our region’s social entrepreneurs with a more structured way to get advice, network with peers, and acquire the right type and size of capital to get them at  least to a cashflow-breakeven stage of development.

If you want to help with ideas, skills, or investment, please reach out to me at allen@cincohio.com.  In the meantime, keep abreast of what these social entrepreneurs are doing through this blog, Twitter, Facebook, and newsletters.

Here’s to getting our social entrepreneurs past a Monday Morning problem and onto a supportive path to viability,

Allen Proctor, President & CEO

Center for Social Enterprise Development