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May I just open this entry by saying that this weather is


July? July? Are you having a laugh? It has just rained non-stop today. In fact, is it just me, or does it seem like it’s pretty much rained non-stop since mid June?(er, please skip to halfway down the page if you are not interested in this weather related rant and just want the business advice!)

I started to have a bit of a personal vendetta against the weather earlier. We were walking into town with OH on his way to work, and I thought ‘well, hey, this is ok. It’s overcast, it’s a tad chilly and uninviting, but at least it’s not pouring down with rain.’ I even made a joke about how I’d take on the freezing cold and wind, ANYTHING, as long as it wasn’t rain.

But then, of course, the joke was on me. About ten minutes after this glib comment, the skies opened and submerged us in a ridiculously large amount of cold water. DB2 snoozed on in his buggy, snug under the rain cover (does anyone else have an infeasibly large amount of envy for babies in the rain? So cosy and blissfully unaware in their little warm cocoons? Someone should design a rain proof buggy for adults. Now there is a killer business idea.) DB1 was fairly dry under his sturdy anorak and hood.

However, me in my woolly jumper and long jeans that seem just designed for the purpose of sucking up puddles…not a chance. Not a chance in hell.

(an appropriate visual representation of what I must have looked like. The dog’s expression also sums it up nicely.)

Not even a brolly to protect me from the elements, as gentlemanly OH had taken it with him to work. Thank you. Very. Much. Husband.

In the end, I desperately waded into the library, bare feet (yes, still in flip flops. It’s SUMMER, darn it! I refuse to believe it’s not!) sloshing and slurping in the puddles, and slumped in a little wet, steaming heap in the corner, while DB1 brought over massive piles of books to read, and DB2 focused solely on trying to escape out the front door.

Seriously though. Come on Summer. Where the hell are you?

Anyway, less weather, more business. Let us dwell on this hideous weather no longer, and then perhaps it will give up and go away. So…

No. 5: Pitch it, baby, pitch it!

If you need to raise capital to start up your business, you will need a pitch. However, I would say that, even if you don’t need to ask someone for the money; even if it’s all sitting snugly in your bank account (lucky you!) – working through a pitch is still really helpful.

We actually learnt the hard way. We raised the money from our families (as long term loans, eek!) and as a result, thought we didn’t need to bother with the pitch. As a result, I think we missed a really valuable opportunity to work out exactly what our company was, and exactly how we were going to take it forwards. It’s a funny thing as well – as soon as we worked out our ‘pitch’, even though it was a ‘pretend’ one, that is when our business started going well. Coincidence? I think not.

So what does a pitch consist of?

Well, I don’t think there are any hard and fast rules, but the main things you need to include are:

1) Why your business is special.

The brilliant thing about writing this, is it makes you really aware of your own passion for it. You’ve got to have passion for what you do. It’s what drives you on through the tough times. Passion and belief. We’ve talked about USP’s before, and here is the time to really shout them from the rooftops. You have a brilliant Big Idea – so tell them all about it!

2) What problem does it solve in the marketplace?

Investors like to hear about this. But I think it’s useful to know for yourself as well. For us, we always felt that personalised gifts were a bit ‘samey’ and a bit, dare we say it, ‘boring’, so the problem that we were solving was providing a different option for those who wanted something more personal and special.What problem does your Big Idea solve?

3) Where will it stand in the marketplace and who are the competition?

We discussed this one yesterday. It’s vital to know who you are up against and how you are going to take your place amongst them. (or demolish them all, if you are that kind of business person!)

4) What do you personally offer to the venture?

This one is an easy one to forget – but you are the most key aspect of your business, and your investors will be buying into YOU as much as your product. For us, for example, we felt we offered two people who knew their customer base very well, who had a wide range of experience between them, in production, sales, marketing etc, and who were very creative and driven. Don’t be afraid to recognise your strengths (nor acknowledge your weaknesses, though obviously you don’t need to shout about them quite so loudly in your pitch!)

5) Financial matters:

If this is a genuine pitch – how much do you want, and WHY? What will you be doing with that money? How will that help in taking the business forward successfully? Investors like to see figures – so go prepared with a table of projected forcasts and cash flows. This is hard to do if you are new to it all (and lord knows we were!), so if you really struggle, ask for help. You’d be amazed how many people out there seem to know about how to do these things! Even if it’s a ‘pretend’ pitch, ask yourself how the money will best be spent, and what benefit you anticipate gaining from spending it in that way.

6) Credibility

If this is a real pitch, investors like to see that you are a credible investment. Perhaps show them some customer comments that you have received already (obviously praising you to the skies). Show how many orders you have taken already. If you’ve got a whizzy website etc, show them. The last thing you want them to think is that you aren’t to be taken seriously.

So, we’re skipping along at a rate of knots here, what shall we look at next? Perhaps we should cover the boring one next…legalities! Ugh. Do we have to? Well. Er. Yes. Legalities. (sigh.)