Bold Canadian Pitchpreneurs Swim in US 'Dolphin Tank'

For over ten years, United States based Springboard Enterprises has promoted and supported women entrepreneurs who want to grow their companies BIG. “'We know that entrepreneurs often have a very short time to attract the attention of those strategic connections that can catapult their businesses forward.'”

“'We believe in most cases it's about how you pitch and who you meet.'”

Springboard's record is impressive with over 500 women participating in accelerator programs, generating billions of dollars in annual revenue, creating thousands of new jobs, and....

“Raising more than $5.6 billion in financing.”

Eighty per cent of Springboard's companies are still in business and include 10 IPOs, and many technology engines of publicly traded companies.    

The accelerator program, aka, the 'The Dolphin tank', was brought to Halifax, Nova Scotia on January 31, 2013 and held at Mount Saint Vincent University.  CanWIT, Canadian Women in Technology and the Centre for Women in Business partnered to bring US Springboard and the 'Dolphin tank' to Canada.  The Centre for Women in Business has been Atlantic Canada's resource for women entrepreneurs and is the only Canadian university business resource centre for women. CanWIT is a national volunteer organization in Ottawa that encourages young women to consider a career in a technology field and helps accelerate the careers of women already in the field. They also offer both national and local events to promote networking and education among women in technology.  

What happens in the Dolphin Tank™?

The Dolphin tank promises to be different.  Definitely not about Sharks or Dragons or a competition for the best idea.  It promises to be kind. 

“Actionable insights from knowledgeable people who might help you make a change in your message and make all the difference in which opportunities come your way.”

Applications were taken a few weeks ahead of the event and a few lucky Canadian women entrepreneurs were eager, anxious and ready to dive into the tank (no real tank!) to give their 2 minute pitches.  

“'We swim alongside you. Friendly feedback...not a feeding frenzy.'”

Katie Gage, Manager of Programming for Springboard was the moderator.  The panellists included Brian Lowe, from the First Angel Network, Jan Miller of Lowenbe Holdings and Shelley Simpson McKay or Prisma Management. 

“There is a way to give the perfect pitch.” said Jan Miller, Panelist

Jan Miller has over twenty years presenting Pitching and Content Development Workshop nationally.  “The goal of pitching is to engage with your audience. Your first goal is to connect to the person you are pitching to, then second, to your project.” 

“Connect to the person you are pitching to, then second, to your project.” 

Her background in pitching is mainly from the film screen industry where she would have 3 minutes to tell her story to get funding.  “It’s like painting a picture,” Jan told to a captive female entrepreneurial audience.  “It’s also about risk taking….taking the risk and showing your business. It is also about listening.

“Take time and listen, let people respond to your pitch, be it your dolphin, shark, or dragon pitch.”

Miller could not over stress the importance of preparing ahead of time.       

“Address questions that will be asked before hand.  Prepare.”

Gena Arthur of Fundy Paints in Truro, Nova Scotia was one of the pitchers.  She began by telling us her story.  She began with her background – “ I am coming from a sustainable living background and am now taking my natural paint business from my backyard into an industrial facility in Truro, Nova Scotia". Her paint is organic and the first market entry will be “First Impressions,” released at the end of April 2012.  

Karen Purves of Flick Pet Products, another pitcher from Nova Scotia, began her pitch by telling her story.  “I travelled quite a bit, and from travelling I found out about Baltic Amber and now we're producing a natural solution for fleas and ticks for pets. Our products besides protecting your four legged friends from unwanted pests are pet and environmentally safe.  Our products also have an anti- inflammatory component in them,” says Karen.   Karen knew her market, “There are over 67 million pets over North America and the market is very active.“  They currently offer their products retail in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada.  Karen was one of the lucky pitchers who was asked by Brian Lowe, First Angel Network to contact him for further consideration for financing.  Think there might be something to Springboard's “Dolphin Tank.”

“'We believe in most cases it's about how you pitch and who you meet.'”

Patti Ryan, of Health QR, pitcher, said she is targeting technical health management to enable invidivuals to secure one's own health information. “I have over 20  years in the health field and management", says Patti.  Patti said she need help with the technology and marketing was seeking a partner.   

Traci Johnstone, of eOlio, presented a free online social recruiting network.  She told her story about how she became unemployed in 2011 and her business was created because she sees a need.  “eOlio will do two things, help create personal brands for employment seekers and help connect the employee and employer.”

 Numerous diverse women entrepreneurs received very valuable feedback and tips in the Dolphin tank.  The panellists that needed help received valuable actionable insights to move and grow their business BIG.  It's what the Dolphin Tank does.  

Katie Gage, Manager of Programming for Springboard, said, “The people at CanWIT and CWB are fantastic resources and the audience was so engaged and willing to share connections, and constructive advice and the presenters were all so supportive of each other. Seems like a great community for building a business.” 

“Canada is a great community for building a business in,” says, Manager of the US Dolphin Tank.

In 2000, Kay Koplovitz co-created Springboard Enterprises, a national organization that fosters venture capital investments in women-led high growth companies. Kay is the founder of USA Network and the first woman network president in television history.  She is the author of Bold Women, Big Ideas, which she wrote to inform and inspire women entrepreneurs to create wealth through equity. Kay counts among her accomplishments the Presidential appointment as Chair of National Women’s Business Council (1998-2001). She is the recipient of numerous awards and inductions for her leadership accomplishments in the areas of Media and Entrepreneurship.

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