We live in challenging times. So, it’s perhaps no surprise that more people than ever are looking to take control and turn their business dreams into reality, whether they’re going it alone or jumping in with a trusted partner.
Even established businesses are aiming to grow and evolve with their customers’ needs and expectations.
To do either, you’ll need investment, often across several rounds depending on the size of your business.
Creating a pitch deck is central to this. Here’s some advice. And to celebrate International Women’s Day we include a story from Rushina Shah, an inspirational entrepreneur who has pitched for several rounds of investment and is seeing her business thrive. Her story is excerpted from episode 7 of the Sound Advice podcast.
How to create a pitch deck for investors
It might sound obvious, but the first thing you need to do when trying to get funding is communicate why you want it. You can do this in person, but it’s often the pitch deck that will do the talking on your behalf.
This is made up of a short series of slides, which you can put together and share with apps like Microsoft PowerPoint or Google Docs, or as a downloadable PDF file.
It needs to tell prospective funders a handful of things, namely:
- The nature of your business and its products or services.
- Where you are in your business journey.
- The goals you’d like to achieve in in given timeframes.
- Your financial situation, and what funding amounts you require.
- The team behind your business.
Let’s take a look at some of these.
The nature of your business and products
In just a few paragraphs, outline the reason why your business exists. What is its unique selling point (USP)? What problem was it created to address? And how does your business fill the gap in the market?
Next, discuss your market segment. How big is the market in pounds, Euros, or dollars?
Who are your customers? How numerous are they? Don’t be afraid to provide a snapshot persona of a typical customer, and their pain points. But, again, keep it brief! This is often where you can truly differentiate—if your business is selling burgers, for example, you can explain what kind of person would choose to buy your burger over the competition.
One top tip to keep in mind as you create your pitch deck is to back up what you say with data points. Your own figures are fine, but the best data is objective research from third-party sources. This strengthens your argument and increases your chances of winning over investors.
Where your business is today
There’s a reason why you’re looking for funding, and why you feel justified doing that right now. This is the time to outline that.
Maybe you’ve experienced growth but now find getting to the next stage requires further investment. The term often used here is incubation, which means you have been biding your time, building and planning until this point. Now, you’re ready to accept the support your need to strap your business to a rocket and blast off!
Either here or under the previous heading, you can discuss competitors. Be frank about this, and don’t try to hide details that aren’t necessarily flattering. Explain how you’re different from your competitors—but in the same breath, discuss how you’ve learned from them and plan on using that to your advantage.
Your business goals
Explain where your business will be in six, 12, 24 or 36 months—or whatever time periods suit your business. For example, it might be unrealistic for a finance firm to say they intend to rule the world after just six months when the terms of their investment products take longer to mature.
A terrific tip is to have confidence as you write. Don’t state where you’d like your business to be in, say, 12 months. Tell people where it will be.
Beware of making the pitch deck seem a series of pipe dreams, which can happen if you use weak phrasing (e.g. “would like”, “want to see”, “hope”). Instead, provide a genuine and concrete explanation for what will happen, regardless of whether the particular investor reading the plan will be involved, or not. Talk about it as if all-but already happened—or is certainly inevitable.
The business goals you mention should list growth rates, and it’s wise to provide a spectrum of good, great, and awesome growth patterns. Fun fact: providing alternatives like this is a psychological quirk that somehow encourages uncritical acceptance of at least one of the options given.
Your finances and the funding you want
This is the paydirt section of your pitch deck. It’s the section the investor is likely to jump straight to after flicking through the earlier sections if they find your business attractive.
But don’t think you should just insert it right at the beginning. That would be odd. In theory at least, the pitch deck is selling your business, rather than its financial position.
You should discuss two key factors in a nutshell: the state of your finances, and the growth you’ve experienced.
Graphs are good, of course, because they visualise the data and make it easier to digest. You certainly shouldn’t just look to provide endless tables of figures..
This is another incredibly valuable section and another page that the investor will flick straight to if they find your pitch attractive. There’s a reason why entrepreneurs consistently say that getting the right team is vital. History is full of awesome ideas that have fallen by the wayside because of poor execution.
Your reader is looking not just at the calibre and qualifications of your team, but also at their passion, personality, and experience. For example, if yours is a retail business, investors will want to see real and extensive experience in that sector, and a real flair for the industry.
How I did it: Rushina Shah, Insane Grain
Since 2017 Rushina Shah has been the co-founder and director of Insane Grain, the nutritious snack food brand.
She’s won and been a finalist in numerous awards including The Grocer’s Top New Talent 2018, NPN’s 30 under 30, and was the recipient of the Federation of Small Business’ Business & Product Innovation of the Year.
She would eventually go through three rounds of funding but her first was less than typical. Here she tells that story.
“I found very early on that it was really difficult to get funding. I’d also heard the statistic that less than 1% of venture funding in the UK goes to female-led businesses. Naturally, that was really, really daunting.
“I realised that I needed to prove my concept, and I needed to prove the business before I could really start looking for VC funding.
“I guess, because I knew that stat, and because I was almost a little bit scared to start looking for VC-led funding, I started looking for non-traditional routes.
“So initially, I actually reached out to my Instagram followers, which sounds ridiculous. I had about a thousand followers, which was nothing. And I just thought, ‘I just need to find ways in which I can get around getting funding’—because I knew that, actually, it was harder for a woman to secure funding in the earlier stages.
“I ended up getting four people respond to me on Instagram, and they ended up all being my investors. Three were men, one of them a woman, which was really great, and it got the foot on the ground. Then I was able to prove the concept.
“And I realized that, actually, my experience and my passion for the business shone further and more than people considering my gender to be a barrier.”
Getting funding is a huge undertaking at the exact moment when you’re also climbing the mountain of other challenges that come with trying to grow a budding business—all while developing your products, services, and brand.
But it’s a challenge you need to conquer because it’s the key to growth.
While building the perfect pitch deck is your first step, the route you decide to take will be the one best for your business. It’s always worth reading stories from entrepreneurs who’ve seen and done it all before. There isn’t always a clear path to getting funding.