Sometimes you get an opportunity, and it’s sink or swim.
Collegiate business entrepreneurs, mark your calendars because coming up this month is the LandShark Tank Pitch Competition. It will be held at 4 p.m. March 27 in Holman 133 in the Center of Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
It may be obvious, but the play on words comes from the University of Mississippi’s mascot, the Landshark, and the famous business proposal competition reality show “Shark Tank.”
The LandShark Tank Pitch Competition is about pitching a business idea to a mock audience and judges, who are usually UM business school faculty or Oxford business owners.
“You kind of need to put it in the context of entrepreneurship,” said Owen F. Alexander, entrepreneur-in-residence for the CIE. ” . . .Land Shark Tank is an event to represent that.”
The first, second and third place winners win money that will be put into their bursar account, like a small scholarship. It can be used to fund college or help finance a business startup.
Pitching your idea can be intimidating because you can only do it with speech. You cannot use informative slides, videos, or handouts of your product.
Tong Meng, director of Student and Alumni Programs, is the coordinates the event. “With the LandShark Tank, you need to explain both the problem and solution, and convince people that you have this great idea that you could turn into a business,” he said. “In real life, you pitch to investors and customers.”
To make the pressure even more intense, Alexander said each participant only has two minutes to explain, convey their solution, and convince the judges their ideas are possibly lucrative.
“If you had something important that you wanted to convey to somebody…what are you going to say to them if you only have one minute,” he said. “The skill is to simply compress an idea in one minute.”
It was clear that previous winner, Elizabeth Furtado, understood the simplistic forum needed to present her business idea. She meticulously thought out exactly what she would say to pique the judges’ interests and convince them of her idea.
Her pitch was simple – a thrift store that picked up secondhand items from a person’s doorstep, placed pictures of said items online and delivered them to a customer’s door. She calls it “Scouts Resale.”
With a passion for business and a solid outline of what she wanted to say in her two-minute window, Furtado made the most of her experience and strengthened her skills by listening to feedback given by judges.
These judges, who were impressed with her presentation, advised her to slow down her pitch, be more concise, and avoid using field-related jargon, as she could lose her audience.
Furtado said she improved her “elevator pitch skills.” Alexander said an elevator pitch “is a way to convey a topic in the time it takes to ride an elevator from the top to bottom. If you had something important you wanted to convey to somebody…what are you going to say to them if you only had one minute?”
Furtado said, prior to the contest, she had never done an elevator pitch. “So I wrote it in advance and practiced a lot,” she said. “Now I have a great short version of what my business is when the topic comes up.”
Most winners test the legitimacy of their idea in larger competitions, such as the Gillespie Business Plan Competition, also held at UM. Furtado decided to try her luck on the big stage, for a substantial cash prize. She won $300
“I’ve put that aside for my business account,” she said. “I plan to use the money for advertising and upgrading my materials…Many smaller purchases add up quickly, so every bit helps.”
Furtado enjoyed the experience. “I would definitely do it again if I was eligible,” she said.
Alexander, Meng, and Furtado encourage all students with potential business plans to step into the water and compete in the LandShark Tank Pitch Competition on March 27.