"A successful pitch doesn’t come from the pitch, it comes from your heart"
Julia Van Loon, Slope Farm to School
One highlight of Food+Enterprise is a PitchFest showcase of entrepreneurs in the good food movement. This year CFO on Speed Dial was one of the sponsors of the PitchFest and I was very involved in the early rounds of judging and preparing the PitchFest finalists. Needless to say it was a very exciting day for me!
Nine companies pitched their businesses at the Summit.The companies on stage together reflected the creativity and innovation that I love about working with food companies. They came from various part of New York and the northeast region; and address a wide range of social issues.
The finalists in Pitch Fest make, sell or distribute literally everything from bread to desert: bread, chips, local seafood, grass-pastured beef, fresh vegetables, popsicles and candy.
The products were inspired by childhoods in Mexico and Africa and driven by the desire to reduce food waste, create good jobs for people in need, address hunger and please the pallets of New York’s feisty and fickle consumers.
With this range of talent, passion and business models locked-in to social good, I was glad that I didn’t have to serve as a judge and then pick a winner! But our judges did an amazing job: They shared great ideas with each business and entertained the audience. Everyone learned from the experience.
And the winner was ...
Julia Van Loon of Slate Foods which sells locally raised, antibiotic and hormone-free beef into New York schools. (Slate Foods partners with Ken Jaffe in Slope Farm to School Beef and uses a financial plan that the schools can afford. After gaining traction in 11 schools, Slope Farm to School Beef is launching a line of ready-made meals (starting with bolognese sauce) for schools that don’t have the staffing or equipment to cook meals from scratch. We asked Julia to tell us more about her business and about what made her pitch so successful.
CFO: Where did your business idea come from?
Julia: I heard a doctor talking about antibiotics in beef. He took a 5 pound bag of flour, opened it up and dumped it out on the floor. It spread everywhere, all over the place. He explained the flour represented the amount of antibiotics your children will eat in their lifetime if they continue to eat commercial, feedlot beef.
"We (Slope Farm to School Beef) are committed to one very important thing, which is eliminating growth-promoting antibiotics and hormones in our children’s diets. It just doesn’t belong there. We live in NY, we have cows, and we have the ability to feed our own people – let’s start with our kids."
CFO: How did giving a pitch at Pitchfest affect your business?
Julia: It’s been very validating to know that it’s not just us who believe in what we’re doing; there wasn’t anyone (at the Summit) who didn’t agree this was a good thing… Getting a spot in the summit was an incredible opportunity to share what we are doing. If you’re doing the right thing people will notice.
CFO: What advice do you have for someone preparing for a pitch?
Julia: Don't try to impress the judges. First try and get their attention with the integrity of the product, the goals for the product and the impact the product has on our society. Then, if you’ve already gotten their attention, you can keep it with the quality of your pitch… I did not think about them (the judges) when I was talking. I was pitching to the audience. The judges were just part of the audience. I don't think you're trying to win when you get up there. That wasn't in my mind. Telling the story was more important.
CFO: What makes a successful pitch?
Julia: When I found out I had been selected as a semi-finalist, I was heading to Jamaica with my daughter for a vacation. So I missed the Pitch Prep Workshop, and I never practiced my pitch in front of anyone. I wasn’t the slickest, and I wasn’t the most prepared. A successful pitch doesn’t come from the pitch, it comes from your heart. You have to believe in what you're doing to the core. Not because it's viable, pitchable, or sellable but because it's right. Because it will impact someone's life, hopefully more than one, in a way that no one else is already doing. I don’t want to do a remix. I want to be an original track.
I agree with Julia that telling your story well is one of the most important parts of the pitch. Investors and partners want to see your passion. Slow Money encourages PitchFest entrepreneurs to “convince us you have the skills, the commitment and the vision to make this a success.” Staying focused on why you’re doing what you’re doing can help you, like Julia, to write your own original track.
CFO on Speed Dial offers regular pitch practice sessions -- our next one will be in June. Sign-up for our newsletter to get the details and then join us to share and practice your pitch!