How to pitch yourself and your ideas: 6 tips from former ‘Dragon’ Jenny Campbell

Jenny Campbell, Founder and CEO of YourCash Europe, is a British entrepreneur with a solid-gold international reputation. As a former backer on Dragon’s Den, Jenny knows exactly what factors can make or break a pitch and she’s given us the lowdown.

If you’re starting out in business and want to take your idea from the bedroom to the boardroom, here are Jenny’s top tips on how to get investment for yourself and your idea.

Jenny Campbell from Dragon's Den is here to help you slay the competition.

1. The devil’s in the details

When someone pitches, it’s amazing how they sometimes talk and talk and talk - without actually saying anything. You need to be really clear about what it is you are offering and what you want from an investment. You will be asked lots of questions – be sure you know your offering inside out!

You need to have:

  • A clear idea. What does your product or service do?
  • A strong argument for your product or service. What is the benefit of it? Does it already exist? Are you improving on something that already exists or doing something brand new? (The latter is extremely rare!)
  • A financial plan that shows potential.
  • An idea that actually needs investment so, for example, not a lifestyle product that is limited to being local. It has to have the capacity to grow.
  • A plan on how your idea will become national… Or international.
  • An exit plan. Be clear about how an investor will get their money back. They’ll be looking for a return of 3-5 times their initial investment in 3-5 years.

Try testing your idea with friends and family. Do a 60-second pitch and see if they understand what your role is, what makes your idea unique and how it will work. If they do, you could be onto a winner.

2. Be confident

It’s really important in a pitch to project yourself with confidence. But don’t be over-confident... Nobody likes that.

Someone like me looks to invest not only in a product or service that they like and understand but also, crucially, in a person they can believe in.

3. Swallow your pride

Any budding entrepreneur needs to know their own strengths and weaknesses. Acknowledging the gaps in your own skillset means you can fill them with the expertise of others, and it shows maturity as you know what you need to improve on.

I fill my own knowledge gaps by recruiting people with complementary skills. You can seek out advice on specific areas you’re not sure about, e.g. sales, marketing or a particular industry by networking and reaching out to others. Don’t just work with people who are the mirror-image of yourself; there is strength in diversity and different experiences. Look inwards… It can pay off to recognise that you can’t do it all yourself.

4. Avoid these common pitfalls

  • Don’t talk jargon. Don’t feel the need to cram your pitch with business buzzwords that don’t actually mean anything.
  • Don’t assume knowledge. It’s safer to presume that someone has no prior knowledge or information about you or your area of business. Whilst you should also never be patronising, presume that they don’t have all the knowledge of your market that you do.
  • Don’t waffle. Over-explaining yourself or including insignificant details in your pitch can make people switch off.

5. Do the prep work

A great way to provide just the right amount of detail is to write an ‘executive summary’ that can be sent to a backer ahead of a first meeting. This can be a one-page version of your elevator pitch that clearly states your idea and what you are looking for from investment or support.

You should also research yourself on social media. Remember, if you have open social media accounts these are your public image. Do they make the right impression of your personal brand?

6. Get connected

Starting your own business or enterprise can be a lonely place. Network, find others who are in the industry and find local business accelerator programmes offered through banks. Don’t isolate yourself, because you will grow and learn from others.

I’m in!

And some final words from Jenny:

Entrepreneurship is alive and kicking in the UK and young people are its future, but don’t assume you’ll be a millionaire by the age of 30.

Sometimes it may be better to work first in a middle-sized or small organisation to learn entrepreneurial skills on the job before launching your own business as a side hustle like Terri here… and one day maybe making it big!

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