The Thrival innovation and music festival is coming up at the end of September! Now seems like the perfect time to talk to Kenny Chen, the socially-minded program director of Ascender, the economic laboratory that brings the event together each year.
Kenny and Scot start out discussing Kenny’s adventurous transition from school into the workforce, covering “rejection therapy”, dance parties, Hong Kong and Pittsburgh. Before long, they’re on to what Thrival truly represents, how it connects to Ascender, and ultimately they work together to craft a concise definition of Ascender’s mission, in a fun and friendly pitch dissection segment to close out the show.
On this episode of the Pitchwerks Podcast, we’re digging into a web series called Spare Change (sparechange.tv), which started off simply with the band Table Ten, but it has been growing into a show and a business. Start with a band, then add in a non-profit cause, and local businesses, and watch them come together to create entertainment that profits all three groups.
This week, Table Ten’s Josh Corcoran and production prodigy Taylor Mantick come into the Epicast Studios to visit Scot MacTaggart and talk about the business model that has taken shape, the rules the band has set for themselves, and what the future might hold for the band that became a business by giving money away.
Have you got something complicated to sell? Amanda Lowe can relate. She and her partner Adam Nelson are the geniuses behind Flywheel, an “organizational design studio” that helps business owners and executives to build a useful and rewarding structure for employees...but it sometimes, people just don’t get it.
Amanda did her undergrad at UC Berkeley and has her Ph.D from Duquesne University, where she spent time as an adjunct professor. She’s smart, she’s accomplished - and Flywheel is a unique startup. This week’s episode works just as a cool story. If you care to dig deeper though, you will find some very useful ideas for selling complex products and services.
This week’s show has a lot to offer across a multitude of topics, but here are two really powerful ones to listen for: the largely untapped needs of specialized communities, and the ways that real struggle can give you perspective.
Ellen Saksen, cofounder of Go Jane Go, is our guest this week. Her company set out to build a toolbox for rushed and lonely female business travelers. They’ve just released Amelia, their first app, into no-cost public beta and are encouraging women to try it out.
As a bonus, be sure to check the Pitchcraft blog to see the beautiful slide deck Ellen presented to investors at a recent demo day event!
Connie Cavrich, Regional Philanthropy Officer for the American Red Cross, sits down in the Epicast Studios with Scot this week to talk about corporate fundraising and volunteer recruitment. Connie works on a different kind of sales than most of us engage in, but offers useful insights about connecting with your client.
This week’s show is also valuable in that it helps to explain the mission and programs of the American Red Cross. We are living in a time when many of our neighbors just assume that the Red Cross is government funded (it isn’t) or assume that the Red Cross is only mobilized for major events like hurricanes (they deploy literally every day).
We hope that you’ll enjoy this week’s show and learn from Connie’s insights, but we also hope you’ll consider engaging with your local Red Cross office as well.
It takes a minute for people to understand exactly what Qlicket does. They understand all of the words individually - wi-fi, survey, service recovery - but something happens when those words get strung together the way Qlicket does it. Maybe it’s because they DO understand the individual terms, and expect the story to go a different way than it ends up.
Vivek Kumar is the CEO of Qlicket, a guest wi-fi system that asks you to rate your experience in the establishment before joining the network. Adding this simple step to the standard process gives business owners the chance to fix things that are bugging you - before you leave unhappy. Vivek comes into the Epicast Network studios to talk to Scot MacTaggart about the product’s success in hotels, its history, and its plans for expansion.
Pitchwerks host Scot MacTaggart has an emotional relationship with the English language, and this week’s guest Alan Houser comes into the Epicast Network studios to balance things out with a more analytical approach. Alan is a technical writing consultant. His firm, Group Wellesley, helps companies to create, edit, translate and just generally manage the very important documents that businesses depend on.
Alan has a successful consulting practice, and is a past president of the Society for Technical Communication, and the two men spend some time discussing the sales and marketing efforts that success was built on.
Sure, we know you’re not a technical writer, but this week’s show is about more than that. MacTaggart and Houser discuss the very nature of business communication, and their analysis turns up interesting insights throughout the show.
If you’ve ever doubted yourself at work, be sure to listen to this week’s show. Mike Neilson’s fields of expertise before setting out on his own were business software and marketing. Two years ago, he launched a product called Switcheroo (switcheroo.com), and it required very different expertise - electrical engineering, intellectual property, industrial design, manufacturing, distribution and retailing.
Mike’s story is a great one, perfect for The Pitchwerks Podcast. It’s about making a plan and sticking to it - adapting when necessary - until all the tasks on the list have been checked off, and you’re finally satisfied.
Mike Stafiej, the president of PICLIF, knows that a lot of disruptive young B2B companies start off with the assumption that they will continually need to check in on their clients over a period of time - a model where a lot of “account managers”, “customer success” people, and “client satisfaction” staff need to be hired.
Mike set PICLIF up to be different. Together with his trusted advisors, Mike set PICLIF up to grow quickly. The company uses a B2B technology sales model to sell to funeral homes, but rather than pinning their hopes of success onto a large scale field team’s ability to upsell and after-sell, they are working a high-speed market penetration strategy instead.
GIS Associates is a government-relations firm, and vice president Peter Madaus has been there for 18 years. If you don’t know what that means, or what he does, you’re not alone. Apparently a lot of people have this problem, so it’s good we’re doing a show about it.
Like a lot of lobbyists and government consultants, Peter doesn’t enjoy prospecting and selling. He’s totally comfortable working with representatives and senators, but when it comes to approaching prospects and seeking out new work, he’s just like the rest of us. Peter and Scot talk about using a “referral first” strategy for initial conversations, and also spend time discussing how entrepreneurs might use government relations services.
This week, Scot goes to San Francisco to chat with Jason Putorti, a well-known and respected interface designer & civic technology innovator. Several of his past projects have been aimed at solving issues in civic engagement, but his latest one is creating a nationwide buzz.
Resistbot (text RESIST to 50409) connects you to your elected officials as soon as the mood strikes. It’s different from Jason’s past civic tech projects, in that there’s no app or specialized interface - Resistbot works on whatever SMS chat app you already have on your phone. For bonus points, it works on Facebook Messenger and Amazon’s Alexa-enabled devices too.
For some reason, everyone loves talking about money. They want to hear how to save it, how other people spend it, how to make more of it. Time is another question though. You start telling people how to save time - or how you spend your own because you can’t make any more of it - and they roll their eyes at you.
So, FINE. This week’s guest is David Oshlag. He’s a successful marketer, product manager and consultant who has mastered the art of saving both money and time. About five years ago, David and some friends started W5 Templates (W5Templates.com), an offshoot business that gave small teams and businesses some easy, dashboard-y CRM and project management tools to save time and money.
This week, Samantha Bute Hartzman from Invest in Her (weinvestinher.org) stops into the Epicast Studios for a fun show with good chemistry. The two talk about the pitch competition Invest in Her is known for, the problem it is intended to solve, and how people get ready.
Sam and Scot talk about Sam’s top frustration - women thinking they aren’t ready to pitch their businesses - at length. It’s a fun, frank, collaborative conversation where the host and the guest pull no punches as they try to find ways to help Invest in Her and address its core mission.
Old friend and past guest Krystle Nirschel was on the show about three months ago, and apparently caught the entrepreneurial bug during her visit. Originally invited on to talk about selling and producing marketing videos, Krystle has since gone out on her own, offering video, social media and ad buying services.
Two weeks into her new venture, Krystle already has three clients - and the company doesn’t even have a name yet. Krystle comes into the Pitchwerks to talk a little bit about naming her company, crafting her new pitch, and planning for the future.
Oh, and if you’re from GrubHub, she wants to talk to you. Mostly about food it seems.
Just like comic books, podcasts sometimes have crossover events. This is one of those. Ed Bailey and Day Bracey - better known as the Drinking Partners from Pittsburgh’s favorite podcast of the same name - bring their stand-up superpowers into the studio to share what it looks like when THEY have to give a presentation for work!
Whatever you’re looking for in a Pitchwerks episode - sales, marketing, entrepreneurial thinking - this one has it. Self-confidence? Check. Presentation advice? Yup. Product testing strategy? You know it. And a social media prize giveaway too!
Want to know how hard it is to earn big grants? Ever want to look under the hood of the Pittsburgh startup scene? Are you able to detect a subtle South Park reference? Then this week’s show is for you.
Josh Lucas is the founder of Work Hard Pittsburgh, co-founder of Academy Pittsburgh, and as of this week he’s also received a Community Infrastructure and Tourism Fund (CITF) grant that will allow these organizations to expand into 9,000 square feet of new space as they continue their mission to build a sustainable co-op for startups and doers in Pittsburgh
MIGHTY is on track to release a disruptive new product at the end of the summer, and thanks to an extensive testing campaign, CEO Jen Yosef has a great deal of confidence that the product will satisfy its intended market.
The story of that testing - confirming that the market is there - is helping to make MIGHTY a standout startup months before the live launch. This week, Jen and Scot talk about this market validation, about how MIGHTY is pitching to angel investors, and who the product is really aimed at. (Hint: It’s real estate agents.)
Sierra Experts is an established regional IT services firm with 10+ years of history, and a solid track record. A couple of years ago, they came across an opportunity to disrupt media technology, and had to make a choice: should they stick with what they knew, or take a chance on a new line of business outside their area of expertise?
They chose the second option, and Sierra Media Services was born. Aaron Brown, the new company’s CTO, stopped in to the studio to talk about how the young subsidiary developed its product and pitch, and what other companies can learn about disruptive thinking.
If you’ve been to a TechShop, you already know that they open a lot of doors for people. The company had the same effect on Olga Pogoda as an employee. She started out working the front desk a few years ago, and has since expanded her role into building new markets and serving as the the company’s liaison to the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy and the Department of Defense.
Olga and her daughter Poppy came into the Epicast Studios to talk a bit about what is working in TechShop’s pitch, what needs some additional refinement, and her personal experiences in the company she loves.
At Robert Morris University, the Massey Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation awaits any student with a vision to build something and the drive to see it through. The Massey Center is like a library or a tennis court - it’s offered to all students that might wish to make use of it.
Eliada Griffin-El is the Director of the RMU’s Massey Center, and she brings a nuanced understanding of international business and how entrepreneurial behaviors fit into a larger worldview - even for those that aren’t considered traditional entrepreneurs. She and Scot MacTaggart sit down for the longest episode of The Pitchwerks Podcast to date, discussing the African continent as a market, the mission of the Massey Center, and interfacing with hesitant parents and prospective students.
This week: an honest and laid back discussion about delays and reluctance in asking for the sale. Lots of reps feel this hesitation. Perhaps it’s anxiety, or a desire to overstuff the buyer with information.
Scot and Lisa Davidson (TheOutsourcedSalesManager.com) offer outside perspectives from a diverse array of experiences, in the hopes of helping the Pitchwerks audience to close more regularly, more confidently, and early enough to prevent the rep and the buyer from needlessly wasting any time or resources.
News media has the ability to make and break businesses and organizations of all types and sizes, yet many of the people in those organizations don’t really understand how newsrooms work, or the appropriate ways to be heard.
We decided the best way to find out was to ask questions of a local expert. Before Mila Sanina became the executive director of the non-profit PublicSource(.org), she worked at CNN, PBS NewsHour and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. She came by the Epicast Studios this week to speak with Scot about accuracy in reporting, advertiser influence, and best practices in submitting press releases.
Remember Lisa Davidson of The Outsourced Sales Manager? She was last in the Epicast Studios for our two-parter with BoXZY in Pitchwerks #7 & #8. Today, Lisa drops in to talk about prospecting - the art of finding new customers.
Lisa and Scot talk LinkedIn, gatekeepers, and the right mix of ingredients needed for a cold call to go well. Whether you’re just getting started, or want to learn the new fundamentals, this episode will help you to fill your funnel and close more deals!
Consultant John Seiffer of CEOBootCamp.com likes to say that he helps businesses through “puberty” - a period where they are becoming what they will ultimately become. This week, John steps behind the mic to talk about making success predictable - and while his specific area of expertise is in guiding companies, many of his observations are valuable for individuals too.
When he’s not working with clients, John spends time as an engaged member of the Pittsburgh Entrepreneurs Forum (pghef.com) and its various events.
Who knows high-stakes pitching better than a decorated trial lawyer? Jason Matzus, a “PA Super Lawyer” and instructor at the University of Pittsburgh, was kind enough to drop in and spend some time in the Epicast Network studios to talk pitchcraft.
When you present your ideas in a personal injury case, there’s little room for interpretation on how it went. The outcome is clear and the jury’s not looking to protect the lawyer’s feelings. Attorney Matzus offers “clear, cogent and concise” advice for making a successful case.