big pitch

Years ago I read an article that advised bloggers to treat their website as if it were a business they were hoping to one day sell, even if they had no such aspirations. Similarly, I believe that anyone looking to turn her blog into a business should be able to answer the same kinds of questions that an investor would ask any aspiring entrepreneur.

Yesterday I attended REV Birmingham’s The Big Pitch, a Shark Tank-style business plan contest sponsored by PNC. Ten local businesses competed for seed capital from PNC to help take their startups to the next level. The first place winner, East 59 Cafe, took home $15,000 which the owners plan to use to open a venue space in East Lake.

big pitch selfie

I attended the Big Pitch in part to support Tanesha Sims-Summers and Tiffany Turner of Naughty But Nice Kettle Corn, a company that has sponsored a past See Jane Write event. I’m happy to report that they took home the second place prize of $5,000 and the judges were so impressed with their presentation and business plan that they also advanced to enter negotiations for investments up to $100,000!

big pitch notetaking

I attended the Big Pitch, of course, with notebook in tow and jotted down all the questions the judges asked the finalists and took note of Tanesha and Tiffany’s presentation, well, pop!

Is there a market for your blog? Yesterday’s contestants had to show they’d done the research to prove that there would actually be a demand for their product. Have you done any market research to determine if there’s an audience out there for your blog?

Is your blogging niche saturated? Are there other blogs like yours out there? if so, this could be good as it answers the previous question and shows that there is an audience wanting your kind of content. On the other hand, there could be TOO MANY blogs out there in your niche. If this is the case, then it’s supremely important that you can answer the next question.

What are you offering that’s different? How are you going to set your blog apart from all the others in your niche? Obviously, the one thing that no other blog has that yours does is YOU! So figure out what is unique about your story and your perspective and milk it!

How are you going to spread the word about your blog? One of the Big Pitch finalists was the creator of Better Kombucha, a type of fermented tea that’s an alternative to beer and soda. The judges were concerned that not enough people in Birmingham actually knew what Kombucha was for the business to be successful, so they wanted to know how the Better Kombucha team planned to spread awareness. Many of the businesses competing yesterday were spreading the word about their products through social media and by partnering with other businesses and bloggers need to do the same. Maximize social media and start collaborating with other bloggers. The answers given by Better Kombucha seemed to impress judges because Better Kombucha also moved on to the negotiations for the top-dollar investments.

Who is your blogging role model? Many of the entrepreneurs at the competition had well-established businesses that they looked up to. The chef behind Gumbo Joe’s & the Home Brews, for example, cited Rojo as his inspiration. Do you have a blogging role model? As I strive to grow See Jane Write I have three women I’m looking to for guidance — Stacey Ferguson of Blogalicious, Maria Kritikos of Ladies Who Lunch, and Carrie Green of Female Entrepreneur Association. I also really admire Mariah Coz of Femtrepreneur and Mattie James of Mattieologie.

How will you make money from your blog? The ladies of Naughty But Nice Kettle Corn clearly outlined in their presentation all the ways they drive sales including catering and local events. Do you know the different ways you could make money from your blog? Have you considered not only working with brands but also hosting events, selling products or services, or utilizing affiliate links?

What exactly do you need to take your blog to the next level? The judges wanted to know exactly what the contestants planned to do with the prize money and how exactly this would help their business. Do you know what you need to take your blog to the next level? Do you have a plan for how to get it?

tanesha and tiffany
Tanesha and Tiffany of Naughty But Nice Kettle Corn Co.

You may think I’m biased, and I am, but Tanesha and Tiffany’s presentation really was the creme de la creme.

They hit the stage and started their own remixed version Silento’s “Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae),” singing “Now watch me pop! Now watch me eat it!” and then they tossed bags of popcorn out to the audience. Tiffany even started doing the Stanky Legg on stage (look it up if you don’t know what I’m talking about). It was fantastic!

Then to further connect to the audience, they shared their story. Tanesha and Tiffany were bitten by the entrepreneurship bug 20 years ago when they were just girls. Growing up in College Hills gave them direct access to Legion Field and the gridlock traffic that football games often brought. So they decided to start selling popsicles curbside, one window at a time. For their next business venture they wanted to sell a food that was as all-American as football and as nostalgic as hearing the ice cream truck. Kettle corn it was.

Take a play from their handbook and, regardless of your blogging niche, be sure to share your story, too, on your about page and when relevant in blog posts.

But the singing and storytelling and doing the Stanky Legg weren’t smoke and mirrors. Tanesha and Tiffany didn’t do these things to burn time and distract from a lack of substance. Their business plan was on point and they quickly and confidently answered every single question the judges threw at them.

Tanesha and Tiffany’s presentation reminded us lady bosses that it is possible to have fun, be ourselves, and still be at the top of our game.

And I think I have a new theme song: “Now watch me blog! Now watch me get paid!”