Entrepreneur Elevator Pitch is the show where contestants get into an elevator and have just 60 seconds to pitch their business to a video camera. Our board of investors is watching, and if they like what they hear they open the doors and the entrepreneur steps into the boardroom to try to seal the deal. If they don’t like what they hear, the entrepreneur gets sent back down.
In this ongoing article series, we’re celebrating the entrepreneurs who walked into the boardroom and came out with a win and sharing their tips for pitching success.
Who are you and what is your business?
I’m Kamaal Jarrett, founder of Hillside Harvest, a Caribbean-inspired sauce and condiment company. We are hyper-focused on providing the North American consumer with delicious flavor-forward products that highlight culturally diverse flavors and ingredients. Since launching in 2019, we have seen significant regional growth. We believe that our positioning provides us with the right level of differentiation to stand out amongst the crowded sauce and condiment market.
How did you prepare for the show?
I was more nervous about the 60-second time restraint than I was about the prospect of pitching in front of the investors. We entrepreneurs are constantly pitching to buyers, shoppers — pretty much whoever will listen. That being said, any time you put a stopwatch on a presentation, it adds a significant level of anxiety to the mix. To prepare for the show, I timed myself delivering my pitch whenever I had a free moment. If I was in the car listening to the radio, I’d try to fit in at least two practice runs during the commercial breaks. Walking the dog, mowing the lawn, and fulfilling online orders, I was pretty much practicing whenever I could. As I got closer to the date of the shoot, it made sense for me to practice while standing stationary as I typically like to pace and move around. I wanted things to be as close to what I thought my atmosphere would resemble in an elevator. It also goes without saying that knowing your numbers and the current state of your operation is key.
What did you think was going to happen? What was different from your expectations?
On the day of the pitch, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I knew that I wanted to make sure that I had the product on hand to taste. Oftentimes, tasting is believing. However, I also knew that my pitch needed to be compelling enough to get those doors open in order to give me the opportunity to share our flavors with the investors.
Arriving at the studio, I assumed we’d be prepped on the day’s events and then ushered into the elevator to begin the process. But we had about 5 or so hours of set-up. Depending on the person this can either allow you to breathe and focus on something other than your pitch or it can give you added time to stew over every little aspect of your presentation. For me, it provided an opportunity to relax and get to know other entrepreneurs as well as observe the studio set-up to help prepare for the pitch. I was able to observe the size of the elevator the area where the investors sat, the length of the hallway, etc. It helped to demystify aspects of the show, which in turn helped to settle some nerves prior to the actual pitch.
Why do you think they opened the doors?
While I believe I was successful in getting a clear picture of our investment opportunity across to the investors – and I’d love to say that the doors opened because I’m an amazing presenter of our brand, I assume the real reason is that the investors really just wanted to try our delicious sounding sauces.
Once the doors did open, I knew I had to be on top of my game. We operate in a challenging space and in order to get investors on board you really have to ensure that you can clearly express your vision as well as instill confidence that you’re the right leader to execute against that vision.
How did the negotiations go? Would you do anything differently?
The negotiations went well. Going into the pitch, the goal was to obtain $300,000 for up to 10% of the business in a safe note. I decided that I would present the offer uncapped as that would be the ideal scenario – offering a discount instead of a cap. I knew Marc would be “out,” as he’s usually against uncapped notes, but hoped that I could do some back and forth with Kim and Nicole. Ultimately, I asked Kim to set her own cap as a sign of good faith and she was fair – providing the same valuation with which I was initially aligned. Perhaps I could have capped the note at a higher valuation to anchor the negotiations but putting it in Kim’s hands ultimately made for a smoother negotiation.
We also won a $10,000 cash grant from Amazon Business for presenting a solid pitch. It felt amazing to essentially get the deal that we wanted plus a little added bonus for presenting our case well.
What do you plan to do with your investment?
Kim’s investment of $300,000 into Hillside Harvest will be put to work immediately. The most important thing for our brand is to begin building the framework for sustainable long-term growth. Part of the framework is building a solid team that can focus on specific areas of category growth and operational efficiency. An equally important part of the framework is investing in cashflow-positive sales channels that can provide incremental profitability while also building the brand’s credibility as a sauce provider. This investment is truly a game-changer but we also look forward to working with Kim on finetuning our overall strategy for scaling and marketing to our key customers and consumers. Kim brings a wealth of knowledge that will be instrumental in our success as we continue to build toward growth.
What did it mean to you personally to get in the doors and walk out with a win?
As someone who bootstrapped Hillside Harvest back in 2019 while working a full-time job, it’s crazy to think about what the business has been able to accomplish in such a short period of time in an extremely competitive space. That being said, I believe there is so much more opportunity to grow even further with the right backing and the right team. Running a business can be very lonely. At times it may feel as though you’re the only one that understands your vision or believes in your product’s potential for success. Couple that with your own occasional bouts of self-doubt or extreme exhaustion and it can be hard to remember why you started down this path to begin with. Having the elevator doors open and then subsequently walking away with a deal was more than just a win. It was validation.
What is your advice for anyone thinking of applying to be on a future episode?
My advice to anyone interested in applying is to jump in. Overall, it’s an incredibly fun experience doing something that you likely do on a daily basis anyway. You’ll meet great people through the process and learn a lot about how you and/or your brand may be viewed by a group of potential investors. If nothing else, you’ll leave with some valuable lessons and, best case scenario, you gain a partner for your future growth.
Season 8 of Entrepreneur Elevator Pitch is brought to you by Amazon Business with support from State Farm and Canon. New episodes stream Wednesdays on entrepreneur.com. Follow Entrepreneur Elevator Pitch on Facebook, YouTube and IGTV.