Visa recently hosted an elevator pitch contest for entrepreneurs from across Canada at a hotel in downtown Toronto. Eight finalists, who were pre-selected from video submissions, delivered their pitches to a panel of small business judges that consisted of Matthew Corrin, founder and CEO of Freshii; Doug Burgoyne, co-founder and president of Frogbox Inc.; and Stéphane Paquet, editor-in-chief and assistant publisher at Les Affaires.
The winning pitch came from Vancouver's Gayle Hinkley. Her company, Uniform Central, provides uniforms to medical and hospitality professionals primarily through her two retail locations—Vancouver and Victoria—as well as onsite hospital trunk shows [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trunk_show]. While her retail locations are prospering, it's the site visits that show the most growth. To reach her goal of becoming B.C.'s leading supplier of careerwear to these industries, Hinkley plans to expand her operation into custom kiosks inside the hospitals.
Hinkley had 60 seconds to win over the judges. First she reminded them who she was by giving them a tent card with her name, company mission and vital statistics on it. Next she outlined her business model, explained exactly what she wanted the money for (to design and build the first kiosk, demonstrated the consumer demand and showed how it could impact her business in dollar figures.
Her direct-to-consumer approach wowed the judges. They also loved the fact that she had been in business for 10 years and had expanded her operations slowly during that time. "I also think wearing my company's product helped illustrate the quality of the merchandise I am selling," says Hinkley.
Her advice for entrepreneurs looking for funding? Be concise in your pitch and demonstrate exactly what you will use the funds for, how your product or idea benefits your customers, and the expected results of that capital infusion. "Don't say the money will 'take my business to the next level' because that doesn't tell them you have a plan and can execute it," she says.