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Cal Poly forum shows how to pitch a business idea in just a few seconds

Imagine sharing an elevator ride with the CEO of a company you’d like to do business with and getting 60 to 90 seconds to pitch your idea.

That concept was behind a recent event at Cal Poly’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship called the “Ray Scherr Elevator Pitch” competition.

Students took center stage at a Nov. 16 forum in front of an audience of faculty, fellow students and potential investors to present their business concepts in less than two minutes.

The aim was to teach students the value of effective communication in attracting entrepreneurial interest while striving to get their businesses off the ground.

Speaking effectively was the key for students to earn awards between $250 and $1,000.

Cal Poly announced the award winners on the center’s website Monday.

Christopher Pagador took the $500 prize for the top freshman proposal.

“It’s the first time I felt the pressure of a big crowd as well as being under time constraint,” Pagador said. “I think it’s definitely good practice to apply in the real world.”

His proposal involves a Web service meant to attract new and small-market authors.

The website would require a certain number of customers to pledge to buy a book before a publisher prints copies. The idea is a variation on the arts-based website Kickstarter.

Pagador, 18, is a Cal Poly manufacturing engineering major with an interest in the publishing industry.

His proposal seeks to give writers more independence and make them less reliant on publishing houses.

Authors and publishers also wouldn’t have to front costs. The model ensures profitability.

“This is a dream in today’s business world and economy where you can do business with just about no costs until revenue has been generated,” said Harvey Levenson, the department head of Cal Poly’s Graphic Communication Department.

Levenson approached Pagador after the event and said he’d help him develop his plan.

Pagador said he’ll continue with his project based on a deadline of business goals set up through the Cal Poly center’s “hatchery” program.

“We were told to come up with ideas that shouldn’t take a lot of money to get started,” he said. “Mine should be less than $500.”

Other winning “elevator pitches” included a medical device for treating postpartum bleeding (Davis Carlin, $1,000 award), a bee infestation home defense system (Isaac Miller, $250) and a reusable bag service (Katie Morrow, $500).

Tips for writing an elevator pitch

An elevator pitch is a carefully planned speech designed to promote a business or product in 60 to 90 seconds — about the time one might spend riding an elevator with a CEO or a potential buyer, investor or employer.

Have a grab, or positioning statement. Pique interest by telling your listener why they should care about your company or product.

What sets you apart? This lends credibility to your pitch.

Focus on the basics: who and what. Who does your organization benefit and what does it do or how does it do it?

Show passion. Use language that shows your energy and dedication.

Initiate action. Get your listener to do something, such as visiting your website, blog or Facebook page.

Source: Verdin, www.verdinvision.com

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