Pitch perfect

Dean Humphrey/The Daily Sentinel—Brandon Burton, left, Sean Foster, middle, and John Nitti pitch a hot sauce, Rocky Mountain Sriracha, on Wednesday during the Entrepreneur Day elevator pitch finals at Colorado Mesa University. The group worked on the idea for an area businessman

A person with a great idea for a business, but no money to invest, steps onto an elevator, pushes the button and steps to the back, only to realize they are standing next to billionaire Kevin O’Leary from the ABC television program “Shark Tank.”

Does the hopeful entrepreneur fail in a silent flop sweat or dazzle the venture capitalist with a pitch that leads to an infusion of cash and transforms an idea into a lucrative reality?

If the want-to-be magnate attends training from 
Colorado Mesa University business professor Georgann Jouflas, they stand a good chance of getting the bullet-headed, vulture-eyed TV show investor called “Mr. Wonderful” to cough up the dough.

That’s because Jouflas trains her students to make a pitch in 90 seconds that covers all the bases.

The successful elevator pitch is brief and well-rehearsed. It should be understandable to everyone, not just those who specialize in the business. It avoids jargon and explains more about the business model than the product or service it provides, Jouflas tells her students.

The professor showcased her top students at the Entrepreneur Day Elevator Pitch finals competition at Colorado Mesa University Ballroom Wednesday.

The pitches made by seven student finalists pushed two products and one service.

The audience at the annual E Day luncheon, which included several hundred students, faculty, business owners and investors, determined the winner of the contest by voting with their cell phones.

One of the teams got its start thanks to Chris Decker, a local man who had an idea for an Asian-style hot sauce using locally produced organic ingredients.

Decker contacted Jouflas for help. She handed the idea off to a team of her students. They took the hot sauce and ran with it, making it to the finals Wednesday.

Rocky Mountain Sriracha (pronounced “shree-racha”), hopes to take just a piece of the $80 million market away from its chief competitor, known by the proud rooster portrayed on its bottle’s label.

“We’re trying to source everything out of Colorado,” Decker said. “I will help the students with anything they need to get started, but we’re going with a lean, start-up concept.”

A crowdfunding effort to raise $8,000 on Kickstarter is planned for May, he said.

CMU students Patrick Wall, Brandon Burton, John Nitti and Sean Foster, dressed smartly for the event, and in Foster’s case, patriotically, to impress the judges. Their presentation was good enough to take second place and $500 on the main stage Wednesday.

With Decker’s help, the quartet is turning its class project into a bona fide business, Nitti said.

The winning team was comprised of Marshall Anderson and Ryan Bengford, CMU students who pitched a type of robotic legs that could help the 20 million or so Americans currently unable to walk.

Their project exemplified a principle Jouflas stresses to all of her students. Entrepreneurs must be able to attract and work with people who have the talents needed to make the business a success.

In the case of Anderson and Bengford, it was a team of eight engineers who designed and are currently involved in creating a workable prototype of mechanical legs.

The duo readily agreed they lacked the skills to create the product, but their first-place winning effort Wednesday proved they know how to attract investors, something the engineers concede is probably outside the scope of their abilities, Anderson said.

The team won first place and $750, money they plan to invest back into the project, Bengford said.


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