Texas Offers Women Entrepreneurs a Cash-Prize Pitch Competition

The competition will award $7,500 to each of five winners across Texas. Ashlee Hunt Kleinert of the Governor's Commission for Women says it's just one of many resources the commission offers to women-owned businesses, from help with loans to certification and more. She offers great advice on how to pitch and give your business an edge.

Many women-owned small businesses in North Texas have great ideas to pitch. They just need someone to listen—and help fund their dreams. Now Texas is stepping in to help. The Beacon State Fund, in partnership with the Governor’s Commission for Women, is hosting a cash-prize competition for women entrepreneurs that will award $7,500 to each of five winners across Texas, with live pitches presented to judges via a regional webinar. 

$7,500 may not be a huge funding windfall, but it can make a big difference for many small businesses. Ashlee Hunt Kleinert, who was appointed to the commission last year, says there’s a lesson in that. The point isn’t to win once and be done, but to always keep pitching and striving, taking advantage of every opportunity you find.

“The website for the Governor’s Commission is one resource that I don’t think is utilized,” she told WFAA in an interview. “It covers everything: if you need a license for your business, if you need a loan, there are angel investors that will invest in businesses. If you need help with any kind of certification, employment, training. Anything that you would need is on this website.”

Kleinert is an entrepreneur herself: she owns Ruthie’s Rolling Café and Baldo’s Ice Cream and Coffee, a stylish attraction near SMU. She’s also active on numerous boards that do social good and make a difference—so she knows an opportunity when she sees one.

Photo: Weedezign/iStock

The pitch competition

The Women-Owned Small Business Pitch Competition is open to all business that meet these criteria:

  • Your business is at least 51% owned, controlled, operated, and managed by a woman or women.
  • Your business made $1,000,000 or less in revenue in 2020.
  • Your business employed 15 or less in 2020.
  • Your business must be registered in the State of Texas, and must have operated for more than 12 months.

The deadline to submit a pitch in North Texas is September 1st. Finalists will be selected and notified more than a week before the regional webinar event. They’ll be invited to present a live pitch to judges on the day of the webinar. 

You can learn more and apply for the competition here.

Kleinert’s advice: “Solve a problem”

Kleinert has made a pitch or two in her time and has great advice.

“One way to stand out [is] if you’re giving a pitch talk about solving a problem, like the root of a problem,” she told WFAA. “We have a lot of ideas on the end of the stream. But if you’re solving a problem, what’s the root of the problem?”

She also warns not to get bogged down in details.

“If you get stuck in the minutia or you’re wandering around in your talk, it’s hard to follow,” she explained in the interview. “You might know what you’re saying, but it’s hard for others to understand.”

To help hone your pitching style, Kleinert says to see how others do it best. She’s a big fan of TED talks.

“I love the TED app, like TED talks, because there’s so many authors and speakers out there, and you may not have time to read a whole book. I think that’s a great and underutilized resource that’s also free.”

She also recommends the Side Hustle podcast for small business owners. 

Above all? “Practice, practice, practice,” she told WFAA. “Listen to critique and video yourself repeatedly.”

Customer service and finding great employees

More advice for small business owners: “Customer service is huge,” Kleinert said. “For us, we are in the service business, so our relationship with our customers was key during the pandemic.”

That can come down to how your employees relate to customers. Hiring has been tight for many business owners lately, so Kleinert’s “passion” idea may give you an edge.

“I hire passion over pedigree,” she said. “If the person has the right fit culturally. I can teach you how to make a grilled cheese sandwich, we can teach you how to scoop ice cream. We must have the right people on the bus and find the places for them later,” Kleinert explained.

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