Entrepreneur Program Blog / Accelerator Week 8 – Conquer Your Fear & What Kind of Business Are You?

EforAll Accelerator 2013

EforAll Accelerator 2013

What do people fear more than dying? Public speaking, we learned this week. So, what better way to bring an Accelerator class together than to conquer this fear head on. Tuesday night Todd Fry, the Co-Executive Director of Entrepreneurship for All, joined us to work with the Finalists on their presentation and public speaking skills. A theater teacher by training, Todd brings  public speaking training to another level. He started off by breaking it down into three basics: 1. Managing Nervousness; 2. Beating the Curse of Knowledge, and; 3. Practice Bringing it All Together!

We then dove right in. Floyd was the first up (see picture on the right), and I don’t think he had any idea what he had volunteered for. He had barely finished introducing himself when Todd cut him off walked right up to him, giving direct feedback verbally and positioning his hands in the appropriate places. At first I think everyone was pretty surprised at how direct this approach was. But soon we were all laughing together and watching in awe as minor changes in movement and tone could so vastly improve one’s pitch.

Some great quotes that have stuck with me from the evening include “Movement is a visual paragraph” and “Remember, selectively break people’s expectations.” Overall I really liked Todd’s emphasis on bringing your own self into the pitch and remembering that your business or idea is “giving a gift” to those you’re presenting to. This was the most engaged I’d ever seen the whole class. So I was not surprised when the feedback results ranked this the most popular session to date!

Next up on Thursday, we had guest entrepreneurs Lydia Blanchard of Sweet Lydias and Josh Resnikoff of Cuppow. Sweet Lydias is a handmade gourmet marshmallow business a little over three years in, and Cuppow is  a year old manufacturer of plastic lids for mason jars, turning them into travel mugs. Both have great start up stories and lots of candid advice to share.

Sparked by the question would they ever go on Shark Tank, the conversation turned to a discussion of business values.  Both Lydia and Josh had a pretty sharp reaction to the question, with an unequivocal “no way.”  They spoke about the detriment of discounting too much, the importance of valuing product, and how their businesses reflect their own personal values. Whether using a higher quality ingredient or making sure everything is made in the US, these decisions also maintain the brand they’ve created. They posed to the class, “It really comes down to, what kind of company do you want to be?” – a very important question for entrepreneurs to ask themselves when starting up. Overall they were both very entertaining, informative, and inspirational!

From the management perspective, I’m delighted when a week goes this well and the entrepreneurs seem to gain so much value from their time together and with our invited guests.. Thanks a bunch to Todd, Lydia, and Josh for making it so!

–Lianna