A class that meets in a 2,500-seat concert hall? Can any learning come of that?
Students, Community Share Business Ideas at 'Pitch McGuire'
Members of the UA and Tucson communities are invited to pitch their business ideas to a panel of experts every Friday.
Chris Woyewodzic approached the front of the room tentatively. “I didn’t think I’d be this nervous,” he said as he prepared to present his business idea to a panel of experts.
Moments later, Woyewodzic received his first piece of advice from the professionals: “Never admit to being nervous, because we never would have known.”
Woyewodzic was among the first people to participate in Pitch McGuire, a new program launched this fall by the McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship in the University of Arizona’s Eller College of Management.
The weekly program invites UA students and employees, as well as members of the general public, to pitch their business ideas in front of a panel of experts from the University and local business community.
“This is an excellent resource,” said Woyewodzic, a UA alumnus whose Tucson company, Western Harmonics, manufactures solar devices. Woyewodzig came to the event to get advice on what steps to take next with a new product.
“There are a lot of people out there who have ideas, and most people won’t act on them. One of the fears is not knowing what to do next,” he said. “This is a good environment to get professional advice in an informal setting.”
That’s exactly the type of environment Sherry Hoskinson, director of the McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship, hoped to create when she started Pitch McGuire.
“We’re trying to do something informal and inclusive, to be a go-to place for the academic and business community to pitch ideas and get realistic feedback,” she said.
Participants are given the opportunity present a three-minute pitch for a new venture idea or an idea for an existing business.
“A three-minute pitch is standard in business,” Hoskinson said. “The idea is that if you bump into someone on the street who has the resource or skill you need, you should be able to tell your story quickly.”
The experts then provide feedback or refer to individuals to community resources that might be able to help them advance their ideas. Panelists vary from week to week and may include Eller faculty members, local business owners and other experts.
“We act as a sounding board for them,” said Jim Jindrick, mentor-in-residence for the McGuire entrepreneurship program and one of the recent Pitch McGuire panelists. “I try to help them filter and focus – the ‘f and f’ – so they can move forward and be successful in their ideas.”
When hearing pitches, Jindrick said he listens for whether or not a customer problem exists, whether presenters have researched their competition, how they are better than the competition, whether a concept is innovative and whether or not it is a sustainable idea with the potential to make money.
Topher Hatton, a pre-business junior at the UA, attended Pitch McGuire to hear from the experts about his plan to create a company that would act as an online matchmaking service for landlords and tenants and. He said he was grateful to get recommendations from professionals in the business world.
“I got some great feedback, and it gave me a lot of confidence,” Hatton said. “Having experts talk to you one on one is an experience you can’t receive just anywhere.”
Hoskinson said she often receives calls from students who don’t know where to go with a business idea, which is what led to the creation of Pitch McGuire.
“It’s hard to find a place to find out if you’re on the right track,” she said. “This gives them an entry point.”