Business

Steal This Strategy: Sarah Haggard’s Winning Pitch at the iFundWomen Seattle Pitch Competition

iFundWomen is a full-service funding platform aimed at women that offers four invaluable resources to entrepreneurs and creatives: crowdfunding, coaching, creative, and connections. Founded by women, IFundWomen aims to fill the void left by venture capital, which funds less than one percent of startups, and help female founders get their ideas off the ground. 

At a recent iFundWomen event at The Riveter, entrepreneurs Cheryl Ingram, of Diverse City, and Sarah Haggard, of Tribute, won $5,000 in grant money from iFundWomen’s Seattle chapter.

There’s an art to delivering a winning pitch. Sarah Haggard’s triumphant pitch was clear and concise. She presented her app, Tribute, which is designed to help women find female mentors in a groundbreaking new way: Employees “follow” other users, read their profiles, and request to be paired with people whose stories speak to them, as opposed to the traditional method in which employees are paired with random people as their companies see fit.

“It’s so clear to me that we need a new way to find a mentor at work.  A way that is not only more accessible, but more enjoyable and authentic.”

– Tribute’s Sarah Haggard 

Tribute’s value proposition is compelling, but we were particularly impressed with her pitch. Here, we break Haggard’s pitch down into the seven components that made it so successful, and show you how Haggard put those key components into action.

1. Be brief: Sarah’s pitch was less than five minutes long from start to finish. In this short time, she laid out what her app is, why it’s needed, and why her company was the best one to offer this solution. She went into further detail during a Q&A, answering more specific questions in under three minutes.

2. Describe the problem: Before she launched into her pitch, she set the scene:  “I want you to think back to a time in your career when you really needed advice,” said. She asked her audience to put themselves into a situation where they needed a mentor, and didn’t have one.

3. Introduce yourself and your company. Now that she has your attention, Haggard tells you who she is and gives a very simple explanation of Tribute and what it does. “We use personal storytelling and shared life experiences to create more authentic connections between employees,” she said. “We allow you to find a mentor for a moment or a lifetime. We simplify mentorship, and best of all, we’re impact-driven to accelerate women and underrepresented minorities in the workplace.”

4. Offer a Solution: In her presentation, she asked a series of rhetorical questions, thereby giving answers that funders might be thinking and answering them before they need to ask: “Why are we doing this?” she said. “The millennial Gen Z workforce, they’re digital natives,” which means that the time is right for a mentorship app. She details the way the app will work for users and employers 23:46 (browsing through user stories, following other employees, helping employers build a more diverse workplace). 

5. Explain your goals: Sarah explained that she’s aiming to make Tribute the “defacto mentorship platform for all Fortune 500 companies.” Her goals are big—a $50,000 annual subscription,” and she explained, it is scalable and customizable. 

6. Explain how your solution is different: Chances are, you aren’t the only one with a bright idea. But as Sarah explained, like Elizabeth Warren, she has a plan: To differentiate her product from the rest of the market, Sarah said, “First, we’re betting on mobile first. Second, we connect to you through storytelling and shared life experiences, not your resume. And third, we’re going to offer more features for less.”

7. Talk about your successes so far: In her closing statement before the Q&A, Sarah detailed what they’ve accomplished in the 18 months since launching Tribute. Namely: Establishing the business and the brand, raising a crowdfunding platform, gotten local press, establishing strategic partnerships, and launching a paid pilot with Microsoft. When you’ve had a successful run so far, this is your chance to flaunt it. 

So what’s next for Haggard and Tribute? “Winning the iFundWomen pitch was an incredible honor, especially in the company of such amazing women,” Haggard says. “We’re looking forward to bringing on our COO and raising our first round this fall to strengthen our product offering and grow our team.”

Writer and editor Tricia Romano is the former editor-in-chief of the Stranger. She has been a staff writer at the Seattle Times and columnist for the Village Voice. She is currently working an oral history about the Village Voice for Public Affairs. You can also find her at Patreon.