Crunch time aka pitching week

By Daniel Weber, 2014 Balloon Kenya Kericho Fellow

Hello, it’s me, pitching week. I’m the goal you’ve all been working for. You need to get all the pieces together to create a compelling case for your entrepreneurs’ businesses, to convince the panel they should be funded. Piece of cake, eh?! Well if you’re lucky, but it’ll be a tough time. I will challenge you as a group and as an individual, conflicts not excluded. I will be hard on you, ruthlessly showing you your short-comings in the past weeks and I will show you who’s really dedicated to the program. But I offer you a great trade-off for all you have to go through; you’ll have the chance to learn some invaluable lessons for the future.

The exciting part starts, when entrepreneurs and you start to put the pieces together to construct your convincing pitch. However, when building the connections among the various parts tailored to the given guidelines, there suddenly might be awkward silence. What happened?

Well, probably someone realized something really important wasn’t done properly or even worse, is missing. Just leave it out? No way, it’s too essential and required. Anyone quickly realizes that as well as it’s going to be loads of extra work even though the rest is lots of work on its own and only little time until the pitch. Conflicts might arise easily, but it’s more important to keep your cool and sort things out quickly. It’s not about starting the blame game, anyone could be the root cause for what happened. Did you give them clear instructions as to what they should do and did you checked if they were making progress? Were there any misunderstandings due to cultural differences? Or was someone just slacking? Sure, you can reflect and learn, but what’s most important is get things done ASAP without lamenting to get the arguments together in the entrepreneurs favor.

But there’s one thing you should keep in mind, the entrepreneurs need to take ownership of the whole process, in the end it’s their business and their responsibility. You’re there to facilitate things and help them if necessary. It’s tough to step-back and let them take ownership, you want them to succeed and you’ve also have put in a decent amount of work. Don’t take it personally if your entrepreneurs won’t step-up and do what’s necessary to get their pitch ready or suddenly drop-out last-minute. It’s their decision and if you could teach them a couple of things in those five weeks which will eventually help them, you did a great job. The pitch is just a milestone along their journey which could help them boost their business, but all the knowledge they gain is worth much more along their journey than the money.

You see, these are just a couple of things that can happen during pitching week and as I mentioned, I might be able to teach you some lessons for the future.

All hardships are worth it when you see the entrepreneurs coming out after they’ve pitched to the panel. The excitement, the relief, their hopes and how proud they feel to have made it.

Featured Image by Lisa Freiburg (c)