The latest in our series of weekly posts catching up with past PITCH finalists. Citizen Made co-founder Rachel Brooks talks about how PITCH helped her company relocate to be closer to customers.
By Dana Rosenberg (PITCH Competition Coordinator, Women 2.0)
We’ve assembled 20 great judges to sift through applications to PITCH at our conference at the fabulous Bellagio Resort in Las Vegas on November 14th and November 15th 2013. Why should you participate? Just ask a past finalist.
In our fifth year now, PITCH has brought together thousands of members of the Women 2.0 community to connect, learn from one another, and form meaningful long-lasting relationships. But, what we hadn’t predicted is how great of an impact the startup competition would have on female founders and the companies they build.
Past PITCH Startup Competition Finalists have gone on to raise $1.2 million in seed funding, join the ranks of 500 Startups and Y Combinator, and be acquired by the likes of Yahoo!. Others, have found the competition to be a tremendous learning experience, networking opportunity, and feedback session that helped propel their company forward.
In the spirit of recognizing some of our past finalists (and hopefully encouraging you to apply), we’re launching a quick profile series where we’ll highlight one founder’s experience each week.”
Rachel Brooks, Co-founder of Citizen Made (PITCH NYC 2012)
Rachel Brooks is co-founder of Citizen Made, the ecommerce platform for brands and manufacturers of custom products. Described as a maker of the digital and physical, Rachel’s work with Citizen Made is cited as the potential catalyst for mass customization, bringing innovation to manufacturing and supply chain management. Citizen Made is noted in Business Insider as one of the “Top 25 Coolest New Companies in Chicago”, and more recently, she was honored on the Dell Inspire 100 list, which recognizes thinkers, designers and risk takers in entrepreneurship and technology.
Why did you decide to apply to PITCH?
We applied to PITCH because I’ve witnessed the incredible opportunities and network that Women 2.0 has created over the years. Women 2.0 was consistently an active resource since the very earliest days of Citizen Made, so we wanted to continue that relationship and utilize this platform to move our business forward. Most notably, we wanted to continue our focus in serving brands that are typically situated in New York. The speakers, panelists, and judges were directly in line with our goals and vision for the company, so the decision to apply was an easy one for us.
How did pitching as a finalist impact you or your company?
At the New York PITCH event, we won the L’Oreal award, where they provided us a grant along with a year-long relationship with their Women in Digital initiative. The grant allowed us to complete final development steps in our software, making it enterprise ready. The relationship in the WID network allowed us to move the company to New York and have a strong network of people in the technology community as it relates to consumer products. It made the transition easier than it would have been, and provided opportunities that would have taken longer to access. With this one-day experience, Women 2.0 helped us take our company to the next level.
What was your favorite part of the experience?
I loved meeting all of the other founders pitching and talking shop in a casual and resourceful way. The environment was supportive, progressive, and inspiring. I also had the opportunity to spend some time in the speaker green room, where we had the unique opportunity to meet the other speakers and people who we’ve looked up to for a very long time. It was really exciting and was a unique way to experience a larger conference.
What’s one piece of advice you have for future applicants or finalists?
For applicants and finalists alike, I’d encourage doing a bit of homework on who will be present at the conference as speakers, panelists, judges, and even audience members. There were a number of casual side conversations that I had at the event that turned into major opportunities or friendly, helpful faces along the way as Citizen Made continued development. Also, be sure to do your part as a community member and participate as an active facilitator of relationships and opportunities as you see fit to your fellow founders at the conference. It keeps the community active and strong for all involved.
Interested in being part of the conference? Early bird tickets are available until July 31. Want an extra 30% off early bird tickets? Get a Women 2.0 membership! And…if you are a tech startup, with less than $1M in funding and at least one female founder, apply to PITCH! First round closes (also) on July 31.
Dana Rosenberg is Director of Business Development at Rock Health. She manages strategic partnerships and sponsorships across the incubator, events and research. Prior to Rock Health, Dana led user acquisition, engagement, marketing and PR at HealthTap and was a consultant at Easton Associates, a healthcare strategy consulting firm. Follow her on Twitter at @DanaRosenberg.