Tips from a Winner: How to Come Out the Victor at Elevator Pitch Competitions

The spunky passion of Black Enterprise’s 2014 Elevator Pitch Competition winner, Gwen Jimmere, oozes through her words. As the founder and CEO of Naturalicious her hair care line is one of the fastest growing in the country. A testament to following dreams, Gwen left her cushy job at Ford Motor Company as its Global Digital Marketing Manager to launch Naturalicious. Now? She makes history, appearing in magazines, on panels, and named as one of’s 30 Under 30 Style Mavens. Wanna be like her? Then you need to retrace her footsteps, which begin at the Entrepreneur’s Conference. Hear what she has to say… How did your experience at the Entrepreneurs Conference and Elevator Pitch Competition enhance and/or change your business from then to now?

Gwen Jimmere: The experience of being at the conference was nothing short of amazing. I was able to connect with some people I’ve ended up doing business with post-event. Others I have kept in touch with either in person or via social media. The value the conference brings in terms of positioning up-and-coming entrepreneurs with heavy-hitting investors, advisors and business rock stars is priceless. The great thing about the BEEC is that everyone wants everyone else to win. It doesn’t feel like a bunch of crabs in a barrel. We’re all looking to grow our businesses and enhance our lives. The information was free flowing, which is often not something you get at other conferences.

What is the one main thing that you learned at the EC conference that you still apply till this day?

Rodney Sampson was on the very first panel of the conference when he mentioned that “We must begin viewing our businesses as investments.” This has been on my mind significantly. I’ve connected with Rodney a number of times even after the BEEC, and his business acumen and investment philosophy never ceases to amaze me.

Why should people go to Black Enterprise’s conference or participate in the Elevator Pitch Competition?

The BEEC was the first conference I attended where I not only gained incredible business insight from those who have been where I am, but where I also really connected with countless people who have served my business well, and whose businesses I have served well…even months after the event has ended.  Many times, at other conferences, I find it to be one or the other; but at BEEC, it’s all there for you. You just have to be there, engage and follow up. Having been a part of the Elevator Pitch Competition was phenomenal, of course, because I won! But even more than winning the $10,000, just being a finalist in the competition provided me a platform to pitch my business to every person in the room.

There are only so many people you can meet in a given few days, but by being in the competition, all eyes were on me and what I had to say about my business. Because of this, I had some people in the audience approach me about investing, others actually became customers and purchased Naturalicious hair care products on-site, and even post-event. I have made some really amazing friends who just happen to be millionaire business people who I am blessed to learn from. And the mentorship I’ve received from Alfred Edmond Jr. has completely changed my life, as well as the way I run my business. I cannot recommend the BEEC enough!

If you had to give someone a tip about attending the EC conference or participating in the Elevator Pitch competition, what do you suggest?

Just do it. BEEC is an investment in your business; and if you work it, you will come away leaps and bounds ahead of where you would have been, had you not attended. You will be inspired and you will likely inspire others. Regarding participating in the Pitch Competition, what do you have to lose? If you feel you’re not savvy at pitching, ask for help. Remember, a closed mouth doesn’t get fed. The BEEC Elevator Pitch Competition was the first time I ever pitched my business for financing.

I asked Lauren Maillian Bias—who I met on day one of the conference and who owns Gen Y Capital—to critique my pitch, which she gladly did. She worked with me and helped me craft the winning pitch. We’ve continued to connect and have become friends since then. What I have gained in terms of relationships, mentorship and financing just by participating in and winning the Elevator Pitch Competition has been the single most beneficial thing I have done for my business. And it would never have happened if I just rested on my laurels. Get up, get out and do it! See you in 2015!

The 2015 Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Summit hosted by Nationwide, May 13-16, at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta. Expect innovative sessions, high-powered speakers, and an early peek at the products, trends, and services you’ll need to stay ahead of the curve. Be sure to enter our Elevator Pitch Competition to qualify for the $10,000 grand prize. To register and find out more, visit