When I was nominated for IoD UK Student Director of the Year, I was genuinely in shock; I couldn't believe it! For the event, I organised it so that I would go down to London and stay with my cousin Elizabeth and her lovely boyfriend, Jamie.
In February I was struggling to source ways to finance the business and two competitions, in particular, caught my eye, IoD 4K perfect pitch and Women in Business, Yes You Can competition. I entered both thinking “probably won’t go anywhere but hey we’ll go for it anyway”.
I was then over the moon to be announced a finalist for IoD 4k Perfect Pitch, and I pitched at my regional for Women in Business. I was delighted to find out I was also chosen as a regional finalist for the Yes You Can competition too!
Throughout all of this, until a week before the event, I had not realised both events were on at the same day... at the same time! The panic set in.
Heather from IoD and Lesley from Women in Business were both incredibly helpful and understanding of the situation and luckily, I found out one pitch was at 12 pm, the other at 2 pm but with 30 miles between them.
Friday started off at the IoD conference listening to amazing women such as Clare Guinness, Deborah Lange, Helen Kelly, Libby Jackson, Hilary McGrady, and Sophie Cornish MBE. I took away so many valuable learnings and insights from listening to these incredible women.
It was then my time to talk, the 4K Perfect Pitch. I was beyond nervous but was so inspired and in awe of the businesses I was pitching against. Each company had a strong mission to create change for the better while being led by such powerful women.
I was truly blown away to be chosen as the winner of the 4K Perfect Pitch, anyone that was there can tell you I was genuinely lost for words.
After a five-minute lunch, it was time to head to the Great Hall in the Galgorm for the Women in Business conference and the Yes You Can competition.
I spent 40 minutes in my car going over and over and over my two-minute pitch for the afternoon while trying to settle myself and my nerves from the morning.
I was over the moon when I arrived to find out that I had won my regional, another £3,000, I honestly couldn’t believe it! I then had the pleasure of listening to Samantha Kelly talking about how to get the best out of Twitter, I have taken these on board, and I am excited to implement them.
We then all got ushered into the Great Hall for my second lunch, had a well-defined food baby at this point! When I got talking to the others at the table, they had told me about the inspiring talk from unstoppable Tracey and what a success the event had been so far.
Now it was time for the second pitch of the day. At this point, my nerves were all over the place, a mix of excitement, anxiousness, and happiness. I sat on stage with five other amazing, strong women, everyone was so incredibly supportive of one another, which ultimately settled my nerves. We all got up one by one and pitched, then the votes were cast.
At this point I was in complete shock, I had been voted the winner of the Yes You Can competition.
Today I’m still blown away from the support and all the kind words I have received over the past few days, and I would also like to thank everyone that voted for me on the day, without you I wouldn’t have this massive boost to my business and my dream.
Thank you for all of the support I have received on the lead up to the competitions from the University, mentors and my family.
I want to thank IoD and Women in business for the opportunity and also for all the help and support I have received since.
I would like to take this opportunity to announce that I am so excited, from winning these competitions it has allowed me to take products over to a trade show called Naidex I will be exhibiting at on 26th and 27th March 2019
Friday 8th March will be a day to remember.
Finalist for the Santander Entrepreneurship awards - final 6 out of over 2000 businesses
This pitch took place in the Glandore offices in Belfast, and if you haven't been, they're gorgeous! They have a meeting/events area which goes out onto an outdoor space with a retractable roof. As a designer, I'm in love with their interior!
Anyway, back to the event; Pitch to Pros was organised by the Belfast City Council and hosted by Sarah Travers. I hadn't pitched in a couple of months, and this event coincided with my Santander final, so it was great to practise regardless of the result. I especially enjoyed the event as it was the first time my mum met Nancy, my mentor and No.1 supporter. It was also the first time my brother and mum were seeing me pitch. I felt emotional starting my pitch as my first slide was of mum and me when I was young, before the stroke.
The evening went very smoothly, all the other pitches were fantastic, and it was so inspiring to meet all the other entrepreneurs. My favourite part of the night was when the judges were deliberating, and my mum was fangirling over Sarah Travers and her week was made when she got a photo (sorry for telling mum!).
Backstory; Sarah Travers is a very successful journalist from Northern Ireland who worked her way up to the BBC Newsline's flagship 6.30pm programme and then crossed over to work as a news anchor for UTV. She then left the BBC to start her own company with Camilla Long called Bespoke Communications in which they offer media training, presentation skills, conference & event host. Sarah is very well known, connected and respected across Northern Ireland, so in fairness, my mum's reaction was acceptable.
When the judges came back, I was over the moon to find out that I won second place prize; A year of working space at Innovate Belfast. The award was even better as I got to meet up with Majella from Innovate Belfast who has been so helpful and supportive since the competition!
One thing I learnt from this experience and would recommend is someone taping you pitching. My brother recorded me without me knowing, and I'm so grateful he did. I had a perception in my mind of how I looked when I pitched when I messed up my pitch I thought it was so obvious, that I didn't look confident etc. This video made me realise that when I messed up my presentation, you couldn't notice, and I seemed so confident, which in turn gave me such a confidence boost.
It also points out the habits I had developed in terms of moving a little bit too much, and my hands being a bit too dramatic at times. This video allowed me to improve the overall performance of my pitch which was a massive advantage in the pitches to come.
I had completed a year in the Belfast Enterprise Academy (BEA), and as it drew to a close, the opportunity to pitch at UU Dragon's Den for equity-free money came up. Nancy, my mentor and No. 1 supporter, encouraged me to go for it, and so I thought - why not!
At this stage, I was still using the very first prototype of my sock-aid, which consisted of plastic, from a corner of a mop bucket, and fabric from a bath mat and t-shirt. It was a bit rough around the edges, even with t the help of superglue on the fabric to try and tidy things up, my sewing skills were not up to scratch at this stage. I had acquired the new materials at this stage to reconstruct a new prototype, and the night before the pitch I felt it was the perfect time to take apart my only product and make a new one... it was not!
I stayed up late trying to make it, hand-stitching four layers of material together, and I continued to still work on it until midday the following day. I was a mess. I hadn't given myself any time to go over my presentation, I wasn't happy with aspects of the product, and I didn't even have the time to test it out. At this stage, I thought to myself: "there's absolutely no way I'm doing this pitch, I have to pull out."
As Nancy was facilitating the event, I thought to myself: "Sure I have to go into University anyway, I'll not be rude, and I'll pop by and tell her I'm not doing it face to face."
When I met Nancy and told her I wasn't pitching it went through one ear and out the other as she replied with "yes you are!" She took me aside, calmed me down, gave me a quick pep talk, and then I walked in to meet the 6 dragons.
To say the pitch went terrible is an understatement! It went that badly I felt so calm after as I thought to myself "there is no way this could get any worse, I'm not going to win this". The Judges asked me loads of questions as I had left out so much information, and I was able to talk in length in each area.
I was quite embarrassed leaving the room as I was annoyed at myself that I wasn't more prepared. It was a big learning curve for me in terms of preparation for a pitch, and I got to understand what the judges were more interested in knowing. Also, by being thrown into the presentation, it made me face my fear of public speaking and overall, I was proud to have done it.
The next day I got an email congratulating me that I was the winner of Dragon's Den, and to this day I'm still not quite sure how I won!