Last night was the much anticipated, anxiety inducing Mid-Pitch for the Merrimack Valley Sandbox Winter Accelerator Program.
I spent the better part of the day and week before reflecting and revising my pitch outline. A challenge with selling songwriting products is finding ways to describe something that can be rather abstract and difficult to explain in words alone.
Setup from 4-5pm, Entrepreneur Meetup from 5-6:30pm, Pitches from 6:30-8pm.
A long day of butterflies for many of us in the class!
We each had 3 minutes to present our selves and our businesses to the audience.
Business mentors from the Sandbox community, including our own committee members who have been guiding us through the program with resources and ideas to help us accelerate our companies, friends, family, and folk from around the Merrimack Valley who came by to listen, learn, and share their own wisdom.
My state of being?
Nervous! I have experience speaking in front of an audience and engaging with people one-on-one, but there is more riding on each pitch and conversation when the audience is made up of business experts and each person I talk with could be a potential customer or customer referral.
I need and want to sound like I know what I am talking about and have done my homework. And the odds are against me, as my family CPA has reminded me. The majority of startup companies fail.
Prepping for the presentation, I wrote down many different business elements to include. Introduce myself. Introduce my company. Explain the method of songwriting I use to write music. Offer a brief product demonstration. Talk about customer segments and possible products, testing price offerings and piloting new products. Then The Ask at the end to request guidance and/or assistance from the audience.
All in three minutes or less!
From 4-5pm, I set up my table. I made a slide on my computer with an image of my ukulele and the words “Give the Gift of Music” and “Story-to-Song LLC.” I had been agonizing over how to represent my business with a single photograph. I did not want to use a photography of myself and appear narcissistic. But I also did not want to put a photograph of me working on a song with another person without their approval.
I draped cloth from my world travels on the table and tried arranging the many printouts I had brought, business cards, and CDs in a way that was visually pleasing. I learned that it is time to create a brochure where I can capture everything in one place!
Meetup time from 5-6pm. I was glad I set my ukulele on the table because it became a point of conversation, something tangible to talk about with people who stopped to chat. In between talking with folks, I jotted down notes on my pitch outline. Speaking with people about my products and the songwriting method was helping me learn simpler and clearer ways of talking about everything.
Our fearless instructor sat with the timer and called out the presenter and presenter-on-deck. My stomach lurched with each announcement.
I watched and listened, sent my heart to everyone and virtual hugs to those who seemed especially nervous.
And then, it was my turn.
I picked up my ukulele, lifted the strap over my shoulder, and stood in front of a group of people, some strangers, some friends. I felt in my heart that they all wanted me to succeed.
I took a risk and decided to play a slightly longer song than at the previous two pitches. I wanted to share a song that was from a real person’s story rather than a song about a place. It was my hope that it might speak the to audience.
Everyone applauded after the song, and I tried my best to dive back into the presentation, but I was gonged long before I got to pricing models and The Ask.
There was time allotted for two questions from the audience. One person raised their hand and said that I should keep the song as part of my pitch. Others echoed this sentiment later in the evening.
Much of the evening was a blur. I jotted down notes and ideas from people in the room, gave away and added business cards to my growing collection.
I was so elated from singing and being up in front of people, talking about something I love doing with all of my being that I could hardly feel disappointed. This does not mean that I was filled with confidence. My hands were literally shaking!
But I did my best at that moment in time. Next time will be different. It may be better. It may be worse. But I will learn from the experience, of this I am certain.
Words of support and encouragement following the pitches were welcome. I have a very strong inner critic, but I am learning to accept ego boosters where and whenever I can. Constructive feedback is especially helpful. What about my pitch was great? Should I do the same thing again or something different? I was especially thankful for the suggestions of how to improve and what to include next time.
I do not have a business background. Much of what I am learning in the Accelerator program is new and often out of my comfort zone. I am not comfortable making small talk. I do not like calling strangers on the phone. But if I think of all of these things has opportunities to talk about something I love, it helps me jump in and do it.
I love songwriting and music, but do not possess perfect pitch. I can repeat notes exactly as I hear them, but I have to practice and work at finding them on a musical instrument so I can put a name to the note.
I am not a Mozart or musical prodigy. I have had to work very hard to learn the method of songwriting I use to compose music, and I continue to practice, learn, make mistakes, and pivot.
My business idea may be different from my fellow Sandboxers, but there was definitely a sentiment of solidarity among us before, during, and after. Hugs were exchanged, knuckle bumps, words of love and support, and emails for the next many hours of the night and into the next day.
I have said it before, and I will say it again. Community is a wonderful way to boost your spirits and to help you keep going through the good, the bad, and the butterflies.
Thank you, Merrimack Valley Sandbox, fellow Sandboxers, mentors, and everyone in between, for your love and support as I find a way to make my passion my profession.