But the heat couldn’t match the fire and passion of the presenting firms. Each entrepreneur had four short minutes to convince the judges that they were worthy to go through to The Pitch‘s final showdown in November, where £50,000 worth of business prizes are up for grabs.
The illustrious panel of judges included the fabulous Call Britannia and SimplySwitch entrepreneur Karen Darby, Bill Morrow from Angels Den, Simone Brummelhuis, founder of The Next Women, a magazine for female internet entrepreneurs, and Simon Gorman from The Pitch sponsor, Sage.
The Pitch 2009, in association with Yell, made its final stop in London, having travelled all across the land looking for our nation’s most promising entrepreneurs. Finalists so far include: Craig Smith, founder of The Printed Bag Shop; David Webb and David Wright, co-founders of Super Mouth, the producer of Vibe Gum; Kenneth Cheung, managing director of recycling start up BEEcycle; and Tom Warrender, founder of Get Set Schools, an organisation that teaches children about the dangers of drug abuse and knife crime.
The entrepreneurs vying to win the London heat were all incredibly impressive. First up was Paul Hewitt, founder of Primo Smoothie. He was an instant favourite with sweating judges and audience alike as he handed out ice-cold strawberry smoothies. But Primo isn’t just any old smoothie firm. Hewitt is tackling an unusual demographic: school children. He travels round in his smoothie van ensuring that kids get a few of their five-a-day. Next, Anthony Lau. This architecture student has invented a novel way of reducing bike theft. His Cyclehoop can be clamped onto street furniture to create instant, secure bike stands. Some 200 Cyclehoops have already been installed around London: Boris Johnson was on his way to view one as Lau made his pitch.
Richard Davis stepped up to the plate next. Davis launched online exercise website Virtual Gym in January last year. He’s successfully broken the corporate market but wants to move into the consumer space. "What’s your USP?" asked Brummelhuis. "Our content can be used limitlessly," countered Davis. "On your iPod or your mobile as well as on your PC. Over 85 per cent of the UK adult population don’t want to go to the gym. We’re the only firm to offer a viable online alternative. And we have consistent, fresh content – the routines don’t get stale like a DVD."
That answers that, then.
Jenny Twigg, founder of care home hairdressers Lily Pins, got more that she bargained for when she made her pitch. "Have you considered VC investment?" asked Darby, after hearing about the incredible work Twigg’s staff do with elderly dementia patients. "Because I’d be very happy to talk you through some options." This could be the beginning of a great mentoring relationship!
For all you frustrated authors out there, Oliver Brooks may have the answer. His self-publishing firm, Completely Novel, not only allows you to print your works, but has a social media arm that actively publicises your masterpiece too. "Completely Novel will do for the $125bn book industry what Myspace has done for the $65bn music industry," Brooks said.
Last, but certainly not least, Girl Meets Dress, a couture hire firm founded by fashionista Anna Bance. The firm has only been going for six months but has already seen critiical acclaim in the press and draws 500 unique page views a day. Dresses are available for two-day or seven-day hire, from £24. The Real Business ladies are aving a browse as I write…
But there can only be one winner. One entrepreneur to go through to the final.
And the winner is…
Congratulations, Anthony! See you in November!
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