For those of you who are not aware, Naturally Bamboo ended up being a runner-up in the 2009 Forbes.com “Boost Your Business” competition. Although I did not win the $100,000 prize package, it sure was one hell of a ride.
It all began back in May when a public call for entrepreneurs in America to submit a 500 word summary of their business plan. I received word in July that I made the 1st round cut. Forbes judges selected 20 semi-finalists out of over 1500 submissions. For the 2nd round, Forbes required that we make a 30 second “pitch” video that would be shown on Forbes.com throughout the month of September. Forbes readers, family and friends were allowed to submit online votes to determine who would make the 3rd round cut to five finalists. I was leading the pack until the last day of voting and then Green Soul Shoes shot to the top spot overnight. Something must have happened to disqualify that company though since they ended up not making it to the final five….hmmm…Forbes never did reveal what the deal was.
I received a registered overnight letter on November 2nd from Forbes indicating that I made it to the 3rd and final round of the competition. Whoo…hoo I was going to New York City! I had less than 2 weeks to finalize my 20 page business plan, financial statements and prepare a 10 minute power point presentation. Forbes paid for my flight and 3 nights at The Carlton hotel in NYC. Jason came along with me and we had an awesome time checking out the city. It was my 3rd time to New York and Jason’s first so I took him to Central Park, Times Square, Grand Central Station, etc. We were extremely lucky the weather was beautiful (60 and sunny every day) so we could walk everywhere without relying on taxi’s or the subway. I think we clocked an average of 13 miles each day walking.
The day before the formal presentation to the judges panel, I met with a professional presentation coach who flew in from Seattle. I pretty much finished writing my notes to go along with the power point on my flight in the night before at midnight. Needless to say, I hadn’t practiced my speech so the coach completely ripped me apart. It was good though because it’s what I needed and then went back to the hotel room for an afternoon of editing and verbal practice.
I was the first presenter of the five and met all six of the Forbes judges at 8am the next morning. Here’s me and Forbes Entrepreneur’s Editor, Brett Nelson, inside the studio:
I was given 10 minutes to make my presentation and then it opened up to a 10 minute question and answer session to the judges. I must say I wasn’t quite as nervous as I thought I would be….guess all the practicing actually helped calmed my nerves. Here is the link to my presentation:
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I left New York with a really good feeling that positive things were happening for Naturally Bamboo. I knew though that it was going to take a ton of work over the next month or so to market this competition and get all the votes I could. I could tell by watching all of the finalist’s presentations that the judges liked Ksplice the best so I knew that the only way for me to stay in this thing was to pull out a first place ranking with the online votes. I believe I have the best network of family, friends and business colleagues that a girl could ask for, because without all of you I would have never made it as far as I did. I held the 1st place ranking the last 2 weeks of the competition and then overnight, my dream slipped out of my hands. Literally overnight, Ksplice jumped from the 4th position to 1st and I knew it was all over.
People ask me what does the runner-up get out of all of this? Definitely I gained some great brand exposure and increased sales. I also got in an investor presentation practice run if I ever end up on the show “Shark Tank”. Hopefully someone with the right connections will notice how cool of a story we have going on and that Naturally Bamboo will grow into something really awesome.
2009 has been quite the trying year, as it has for many small businesses, but somehow we still survived it. I have found out who my true supporters are and I am so deeply moved about how many of you there are out there! I look ahead to 2010 as a year of learning, change and growth. Life will always have it’s challenges….it’s all about how you view them….setbacks? Or something that will make you stronger in the long run? I’ve chosen the latter. Cheers to a New Year!