• Women 2.0 HowTo Conference San Francisco, September 30 - October 1, 2014

Startups Need To Learn To Pitch To More Than Just Investors

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I started Pitch Refinery for the same reason I started my women coding group, CWDevs – I built it because I didn’t know how to do it…

By Melissa Pierce (Founder, Chicago Women Developers)

It’s a catch 22 starting a business built on learning to pitch to anyone when I don’t know how to pitch myself.

I often joke about wishing I could attend my conference before I organized it. Not having pitching skills is all too common a problem in the startup space, especially in women led startups. Let’s face it, until recently, we’ve been taught NOT to draw attention to ourselves.

Add the fact that many women entrepreneurs come to startup land via the non-business school route - then you have the perfect storm of not having the skills and confidence to pitch, period. In a crowded marketplace, where standing out and being on-point are key, pitching skills can make or break you.

Not being comfortable pitching is one of the many contributing factors to why only 3-5% of women owned businesses receive venture backing, and why an even smaller percent are mentioned in the media according to a recent UNC study.

That’s why I founded Pitch Refinery, a two-day event in Chicago September 22 and 23. I also run a year-long online mentoring program that focuses on arming entrepreneurs with media training and presentation skills, whether they are pitching in a boardroom, on television, the radio, to their clients, or to their employees.

Before you think it’s because I’m totally awesome, I should tell you I started Pitch Refinery for the same reason I started my women coding group, CWDevs – I built it because I didn’t know how to do it… as the old adage goes, those that can’t do, teach, those that don’t know, find teachers.

Presenters like Edelman Chicago’s President Rick Murray, Rose Park Advisory co-founder and former Wall Street executive Whitney Johnson, writer and former CEO Nilofer Merchant, television personality Miss Lori, and author and CEO Tara Hunt all stepped up to help us learn. Pitch Refinery is a mix of presentations and workshops where we can not only hear about pitching techniques but we can practice the skills taught during mock interviews, “lightning round” competitions, heated negotiations and a “Come as You Will Be” red carpet, paparazzi-filled party, where we all pretend to be the future resounding successes we envision ourselves becoming (I’m really looking forward to that.)

Editor’s note: Got a question for our guest blogger? Leave a message in the comments below.

About the guest blogger: Melissa Pierce is the Founder of Chicago Women Developers. She is also founded Pitch Conference and hundreds of other less well known ideas. She is an award-winning filmmaker. She believes that if you want to attract more women to careers in tech you have to shine a light on the awesome women who are already there. Follow her on Twitter at @melissapierce.