Voom 2016 was quite an experience! I didn’t get to #pitchtorich, but thanks to phenomenal support from friends old and new, I made it onto the shortlist and pitched Flaparaps to the panel of experts.
Here’s a roundup for those who want to re-live it, a hint at what the future has in store, and a big dollop of encouragement for anyone feeling inspired.
Born Ready Jenn, pitching Flaparaps to the #voom judges. (The thumbnail isn’t me! Hit ‘play’ to start in the right place.)
This wasn’t just a pitch, it was a pitchathon – for the judges, at least!
If you watch my pitch, the judge on the left is Peter Williams, co-founder of Jack Wills – he’s looking alert and sprightly because he arrived in the morning just like me. Then come the ‘marathon’ judges who have been sitting in that room (with the odd 15 minute break) for nearly 24 hours: Andy Fishburn, Head of Investment at Virgin StartUp, Julie Deane OBE, Founder of Cambridge Satchel Company and the guy controlling the panel in the pink shirt is Peter Kelly, Managing Director of Virgin Media Business. No one ever told me who the last chap was…
“Stand shoulder to shoulder with like-minded souls for a cartoonly show of parenting camaraderie!”
“An imaginary meet-up like no other, to be held in a large field, slightly off the beaten parenting track.”
67 people ‘came’ to our virtual rally and together pledged £609 which will be put towards advertising on social media.
I’ve never mingled with so many pottying fans in my life!
Here’s the cartoon
Video that pans across the Born Ready Rally cartoon. There are too many people to see them all in a static image on a small screen.
See close-ups of individual cartoons here.
My Voom Story – The ‘Why?’
I decided to enter voom on a whim. The competition was already live and had over 150 entries – some of which looked pretty sophisticated.
It was the school holidays so I was tripping over children left right and centre, we were visiting the grand parents, I didn’t have any time, or a plan, and I was about to dive headlong into a Virgin publicity stunt.
Not only that, but the first round was a straight up popularity contest and baby pottying is a seriously niche activity.
Were the odds worth the effort?
Yes!! Little to lose and lots to gain
Especially because I didn’t enter #voom for the grand prize.
I entered for the association with Richard Branson.
I wanted to use his name to introduce myself to the local media, and borrow his image to lift my own confidence.
With that in mind, I’m delighted with the outcome
We clocked up 2,052 votes (every single one a vote of confidence for me), I was in the paper and on the radio, and I made contact with people I’ve not spoken to for years to ask for their support.
Now, that’s a pretty lame reason to contact someone, but couple the begging-for-a-vote with a bit of family news and a photo of the kids and soon my inbox felt like Christmas. That’s a win right there.
Making a go of it
The first step was creating a pitch page to be proud of with a decent video to go with it – and thus began a string of 4am bedtimes that I couldn’t blame on the children.
After the success of this facebook video, I decided to liven up my entry with cartoons to illustrate my key objections to disposables (convenient though they may be).
From there, came the idea for the crowdfunder cartoon – much to the delight of my girls, who had never had so many people to dress in pink. We compromised on blue-y purple a lot of the time, because pink is so… PINK!
Finding the Votes for the first round
Entering a public vote is setting yourself up for humiliation :-/
But, facing up to that was part of the appeal of entering. Up-sides everywhere 😉
I knew my friends would vote, and the Born Ready crowd of course. But what I didn’t realise was that so many people would badger their friends to vote on my behalf.
That Upminster locals would be so incredibly supportive. That mums with micro businesses in Australia would cheer me on. That cloth nappy lovers around the globe would adopt my cause as theirs. That I would find it in me to pitch to parents in parks, and on trains and at the disco (get down and dance Center Parcs!). That I would get emails of support from people I’d never met who were really rooting for me!
With a week to go, when I realised we needed 50 votes a day to stay in the game, I thought we would never keep up. But every day the ‘votes to keep pace’ kept increasing, and somehow we hung in there. I had less than 3 hours sleep a night over the last 4 days. In the final 24 hours we got more than 800 votes and most of them were from friends of voters! Incredible!
In the end, there were 4,096 entries in voom.
We finished in 46th and were shortlisted for the pitchathon – Hooraaaaaaaay!
Now I needed a new plan. A business plan.
(You probably thought I had a business plan already… and I do, but it’s all in my head and revolves around the way I interact with parents on the internet. The numbers of people who join my facebook group every month, or sign up for Born Ready videos or articles. These are not the kind of numbers that anyone obsessed with VOOMing is going to find impressive… I find them impressive – but I swim in a small pond.)
I decided to spend most of my 3 minute pitch selling the concept of baby pottying. I felt it was the only way to do Flaparaps justice.
All the features that make them fantastic for pottying don’t mean anything if you can’t see why someone would bother in the first place. So, I tried to pitch both a concept and a product in 3 minutes flat… Tricky.
I would have liked to ad lib my pitch, but time was so tight and there was so much to say, I didn’t dare! Instead I mounted my script on coloured cardboard like a 6 year old narrator in a school play
Three Minutes Plus Five
Voom had a pitch warm up man. His entire job was to make pitchers feel good about themselves before they stepped into The Room.
He gave a pep talk as I moved into the waiting room to be mic’d up, and then another 10 second booster as we waited together at the door.
“You’re the only expert on your product. Those guys – they know nothing! When they ask questions it’s because they don’t know the answers. They’re not trying to trip you up, they’re just interested. Go pitch. Good luck! Enjoy yourself! (And don’t trip over any cables…)”
There was a cross on the floor to stand on and I was told ‘try not to move about too much’.
As soon as it was underway, I didn’t notice the cameras. I forgot there were more people standing behind me than sitting in front of me (cameramen, photographer, Guinness World Record timekeepers etc). They were all so quiet – except when they were cueing me in or timing me out.
A very slick operation indeed! (but they had practiced on 124 pitches before mine 😉 )
All in all, the pitch went well – and I don’t look nearly as nervous in the video as I felt at the time.
I demo’d with the bear (who had been unstitched, filled with large stones and sewn back up only the day before so that he would be a better weight for the demonstration), I have nice photos and I didn’t let anyone down. Good show.
I know I didn’t present a vision for world domination and sackfuls of cash, but through voom thousands of people have now heard of baby pottying and Flaparaps. As I said in my pitch – we need to start with education so I’m very pleased with that 😉
The Buzz of ‘Backstage’
I have two favourite memories of the pitchathon (and neither one relates to being in The Room in front of the panel!)
Watching other people pitch. I saw some fabulous pitches! (On youtube, we didn’t get to watch via a two way mirror or anything 😉 ) From people who started with the seed of an idea and ran with it so fast I wouldn’t see them for dust, to people who have clearly been at the top of their field for a long time and had the same confidence in their business goals as they had in their products. I learned a lot.
Being in a room crammed with ‘do-ers’. People who saw a need or a problem or an opportunity and decided that they should be the ones to do something about it. Backstage at the pitchathon was buzzing. Every single person there had a strong idea and a whole heap of stories to go with it. I could have chatted my way around that room all day! Which is why…
I’ve booked my ticket for the voom Grand Final. That should be quite a show
More Flaparaps, of course But also…
More guest blogs and magazine articles.
More videos! Starting with another cartoon.
And more focus on reaching parents-to-be so they see pottying as a bonafide alternative to disposables-until-three.
The pitchathon reminded me that there is nothing like being in a room full of people brimming with ideas.
This year I found that feeling at a national competition run by a billionaire. Last year it was when I gave a talk about micro businesses to PTA mums in the school hall.
Different setting, different scale, but exactly the same buzz!
The talk showcases micro businesses that started with just one person, an idea, and the internet – and they will make you believe that anything is possible.
I run through examples of businesses run by mums that I identify with. Parents with ideas that could so easily have stayed ‘just ideas’ but are now great success stories.
Some created empires and inspired the masses. Others made a big difference in their own little niche. You don’t need to conquer the world for your skills to be useful or your knowledge to make a difference.
The internet is a great leveller – if you can write an email you won’t be daunted by the technology – and web based business is fascinating. Maybe I’ll be cheering you on in voom next year?
I’ve not rigged up the youtube links yet, but if you’re interested, let me know where to send them.