The panel of judges listened to 20+ three-minute pitches from some of Boulder’s (therefore the nation’s, perhaps the world’s) most impressive, intrepid entrepreneurs.
They asked crucial questions about margins and market niche. They raised concise concerns about packaging and branding. They offered profoundly valuable, spot-on advice off the tops of their heads.
These are people whose innovative ideas and execution of such have created millions of dollars of value for the natural products industry leaders. The wise will heed their words. For example:
Justin Gold: Is this your only job?
Presenter X: No, I do this on the side. I have a full-time job.
Justin Gold: Good. Keep it.
It’s a pretty nerve-wracking experience, to get up in front of this illustrious panel, in a room packed full of your industry peers and superiors, with $48,000 worth of prizes on the line, and explain why your idea is unique and most deserving. More than anything, I was grateful not to go first.
When I first arrived and was checking in, I found myself scanning the room, sizing up the competition. I looked at the list of pitchers and recognized a few names. My competitive instincts bubbled up and I heard a lot of smack-talk coming from the little voice that lives inside my head.
Instead of sitting around getting nervous for half an hour before the ceremonies got underway, my associate and I went to the Hotel Boulderado bar and sipped Dark & Stormy’s at the crack of noon. I ordered a double. In hindsight, this was the best decision possible.
Oh, but I was still nervous. No matter what was happening up front, the tension came in evermore imposing waves. Oh, that person has a great idea and is extremely articulate (I’m f+cked!). Oh, this person is so nervous they only spoke for 90 seconds before surrendering and begging the judges to start talking (I’m f+cked!).
There were still six presentations before mine when I got up to pace around the back of the room. I experienced paranoid fantasies of subversion. I felt the most cutting self-doubt I’ve allowed myself to feel in years. Well, weeks. Actually, days. Okay, hours.
I was forced to call into question the fundamental validity of the venture into which I have poured my entire heart and soul, not to mention every last scrap of time and money, over the past year and a half. What once felt supremely brilliant now seemed destined for the laughing stocks. Why even bother? Why not just spare myself the embarrassment and slink out of the room, back to the bar, unnoticed?
But the time came, as it always does, and I said my spiel with all the gusto I could muster. The actual presentation was the easiest part. It’s only the waiting and terrible imagining that is actually difficult. It turns out I knew exactly what to say.
In fact, the greatest compliments I received were about my “energy,” and presentation. The judges were less than unanimously amazed by my amazing company, but some things are simply outside our control, beyond rational explanation.
In the end, this was a tremendously valuable exercise. As a business practice, I highly recommend taking yourself to task and calling into question the fundamental validity of your venture on a regular basis. Give yourself the courtesy of this reality check. And in the meantime, keep your day job.
If your day job is in any way linked to the natural products industry in Colorado, a membership with Naturally Boulder is an invaluable investment. This is the classiest, friendliest, most open group of highly trained schmoozers I’ve ever been a part of, and the connections available here can seriously transform your business overnight. So do it!
Editor: Brianna Bemel