Entrepreneur teams race to hone sales pitches
For the next six weeks, five teams of budding Reno-based entrepreneurs are in a race to hone their business ideas and polish their sales pitch. The finish line is the Nevada Museum of Art, where on Nov. 15 each group will pitch their idea to investors in a bid to finance their projects.
The business concepts range from a new consumer drink to education software to a biofuel project, but all the teams have one thing in common: At least one woman is running the show.
The project is the brainchild of Girlmade, a year-old Reno start-up accelerator program founded by Ashley Jennings and Shay Wotring.
Jennings, an entrepreneur herself who six months ago sold her e-commerce software start-up called Checklet, got the idea for Girlmade after visiting her husband in New York City where he was taking part in a 2011 Techstars accelerator.
“The feeling was electric,” says Jennings. “The teams there got more done in three months than most start-ups do in a year. I came home and said this needs to happen for women.”
The Girlmade teams were hand-picked by Jennings and Wotring, who scouted prospects at local start-up events such as 1 Million Cups, held weekly at Swill Coffee & Wine, and House of Genius, a similar event which is soon moving to the Reno Collective.
The pair interviewed nine contenders and whittled it down to five teams based on the viability of their business ideas and ability to execute them. (A sixth team, from the University of Nevada, Reno, working on turning coffee grounds into fuel, is observing.)
At the same time, Jennings networked at industry conferences to recruit a roster of about 50 mentors.
“Most people I spoke to were excited,” says Jennings. “They know there’s a problem with the ratio of women in tech.”
For the next six weeks, the mentors will help each team fine tune their business model and more importantly, says Jennings, perfect their pitch.
The teams will be working in Girlmade-sponsored space in the Reno Collective, a collaborative workspace housed in the Arlington Towers in downtown Reno.
Girlmade has invited local investors to the Nov. 15 event with the goal of filling the museum’s Wayne and Miriam Prim Theater with about 50 so-called angels ready to back the start-ups.
Jennings says the project’s goal is to both help the fledglings find funding and advance their business models as well as give a boost to the downtown tech scene.
Details about Girlmade and its accelerator program can be found online at girlma.de.
From a national standpoint, research shows the embrace of digital commerce is a whole decade ahead of schedule thanks to the pandemic. We spoke with the Retail Association of Nevada, Downtown Reno Partnership and the Reno+Sparks Chamber of Commerce to give local context to the growth of online retail.