More than seven weeks after Greater Cleveland Partnership’s (GCP) Council of Smaller Enterprises (COSE) announced on Monday, Oct. 24 that 20 businesses would advance to the semifinals of Cleveland Chain Reaction, those businesses have spent time at a bootcamp at JumpStart, getting tips on presenting their businesses to judges in the finals.
Megan E. Kim, executive director of COSE“We are looking forward to the Cleveland Chain Reaction pitch days,” says Megan E. Kim, executive director of COSE and senior vice president, membership development and marketing at GCP. “Our entrepreneurs have completed a bootcamp hosted by JumpStart where business experts have advised them on how to successfully pitch their business, create a business plan, place value on their business and appropriately invest capital to take their business to the next level.”
The semifinalists are preparing to give their business pitches to a panel of judges tomorrow, Thursday, Dec. 8 and Friday, Dec. 9 from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., at the GCP offices. a neighborhood economic development project and pitch competition.
The semifinalists will have 20 minutes to showcase their businesses to a panel of six judges, who will evaluate the businesses based on their stories, growth strategy, financials, use of funds and overall presentation.
Our judges are eager to see how these entrepreneurs will take what they have learned, along with the feedback they have received from the experts, and apply it to the competition,” says Kim.
Kenneth L. Wilson, GCP’s senior manager, minority business growthThe businesses with the three highest scores will win. First place will receive $40,000, second place will receive $20,000, and third place will receive $10,000.
“As a small-business owner who built a business from nothing into a thriving business for 25 years, I have the utmost respect for all of the entrepreneurs participating in the Cleveland Chain Reaction pitch competition,” says Kenneth L. Wilson, GCP’s senior manager, minority business growth, who will also serve as one of the judges. “I’d be honored to work for any of these innovative business leaders.”
In addition to Kim and Wilson, this year’s judges include Patty Ajdukiewicz, JumpStart principal for small business advising and capital; Angel R. Rodriguez, KeyBank senior vice president and business banking sales leader; Rachel Trem, MAGNET marketing manager; and Jason M. Russell, Bedrock Cleveland vice president of operations and leasing.
To prepare for the showcase and pitch competition, FreshWater asked the judges for some insight into how they will assess the 20 semifinalists.
Here are the questions we asked and their answers:
Rachel Trem, MAGNET (RT): I am looking to find entrepreneurs who are dedicated to providing a true service to their customer/client as well as the area where they are based. Ultimately, when you’re an entrepreneur running a business in a neighborhood, you become more than a provider of a specific product or service; you become a resource, icon and reference for the whole community in which you are based. Your work is going to extend beyond the tangible idea you’re creating.
Angel R. Rodriguez, KeyBank (AR): I amlooking for driven leaders who are delivering a unique product or service to Consumers and Businesses creating opportunities to advance their position in the region.
Patty Ajdukiewicz, JumpStart (PA): We look for entrepreneurs who have a clear idea on how they want to scale their business and have thought about how the program and award funding will help them get there. Often, they’ve already taken their business as far as they can but are limited due to lack of capital.
Additionally, we are looking for business owners who are thinking beyond their own venture and considering their impact on the community. Those who are giving back and involving other local small businesses.
PA: What is the desired end-goal for your business and why are you looking to partner with an investor (connections in the industry, capital, etc.)?
PA: I’m encouraged by an entrepreneur whose pitch isn’t tied to a narrow request, result or target market and they are open to going as far as they can with their business.
AR: Beyond learning how to bring their product/service to market, the hope is that they will be able to network with other entrepreneurs, partners and advocates to bring greater success for all parties involved, bringing a greater impact the region.
PA: We want Chain Reaction participants to leverage this experience to gain significant traction on their businesses through the advising, capital and resource connections they receive. With or without the grant capital, we hope they will learn the technical skills they need to successfully grow their companies, from market validation to financial planning and projections, we want to help participants advance as savvy community business leaders.
“As a judge of this competition, I’m listening for common-sense, down-to-earth explanations of how and why their product is beneficial to their intended audiences,” says Wilson. “I’m listening for the successes they’ve achieved thus far. I’m listening for their strategies for taking their companies to the next level, and as senior manager, minority business growth at Greater Cleveland Partnership, I’m looking for opportunities to support their growth any way I can.”