PITCH PERFECT – OxLEP Business helps SMEs fine tune their approach to securing investment

A challenge pits bright business prospects with the realities of convincing investors to back them

OxLEP Business’ ‘Pitch to the Panel’ initiative was developed to help young and growing businesses develop the skills they need to make successful approaches to investors. Nine businesses took part in the first ever Pitch to the Panel’ challenge last year. Each of them presented to a panel of seven experienced investors.

Last week the winner was announced; The Local Trove, an online food ordering and delivery service from Chipping Norton. Their ‘Pitch to the Panel’ included ambitious plans to bring ‘hyperlocal’ delivery services and online ordering to communities across the UK.

Felicity Beasley, a partner in The Local Trove commented “We persuaded them [the panel] that we are a sustainable business offering people a chance to exploit the best of local food supplies in a convenient way, saving time as well as travel and parking costs. It’s the opposite of supermarket shopping with imported fresh produce from thousands of miles away. At the heart of Trove is fresh, seasonal food which has travelled only short distances and involves much lower volumes of packaging in the supply side.”

Sarah Beal from the Growth Hub run by OxLEP Business said the event gave the businesses an authentic experience of what is involved in making a successful pitch. “It is so important for growing businesses who need extra investment to fully appreciate what it takes to convince potential backers. It can make all the difference to their chances of achieving their goals.

“Each of the contenders prepared a presentation and answered tough questions during the first round of the Pitch to the Panel challenge. Four finalists then worked on more detailed pitches for the last round,”

Although there is no guarantee of investment from the panel the initiative was designed to give businesses the experience of approaching investors for support. Victoria Ayres, a co-founder of The Local Trove, agreed with Sarah. “There is no substitute for experience in preparing for these vital encounters. The worst thing any business can do is go into them unprepared. This challenge makes us more confident about how to approach the task of securing funding. Getting to the final and winning is terrific. Preparing a pitch to enter the challenge was useful and we certainly appreciated the panel’s feedback.”

Andrew Eatherington, one of the founders at P3MO, a business transformation innovator, also practised his pitch to investors at the event. Andrew commented: “This event has focused us on the detail required to attract investment. The pitch event has been hugely valuable to us.”

Sarah Beal concludes “At the Growth Hub we have been able to reach out to investors to form a panel. We have never done anything like this before, but its success means we will almost certainly want to hold more events like this in the future. It is a valuable addition to the broad range of support we already offer at the Growth Hub.”

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