Two-minute pitch

Entrepreneurs from universities in the U.S., Canada and Thailand will compete for cash to help turn their ideas into innovations during the 12th Annual Wake Forest University Elevator Competition on March 25 and 26.

Thirty-seven teams will compete, 24 participating in the traditional business track and 13 in the social entrepreneurship track. Teams have two minutes to present “an elevator pitch”— a succinct summation of a their business idea. One winner from each category will receive a cash award and an opportunity to compete for additional funds.

Undergraduate business and entrepreneurship major Afton Vechery is hoping to interest judges in her business idea that crosses biotechnology with cosmetics.

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Follow the Elevator Competition blog, watch videos and vote for your “fan favorite” March 25-26. ElevatorCompetitionLive »

During a summer internship last year, Vechery spent up to 80 hours a week conducting laboratory research related to keratin, a protein found in hair, skin and nails. In the process, she developed an idea for a company that could succeed in the billion dollar cosmetic industry. This year, she continues to keep full-time hours in the lab conducting research while maintaining a full academic course schedule. “The cosmetic application of keranetics has the potential to raise funds to enable continued research in life-saving technology,” Vechery says. And that inspires her.

“Afton possesses a strong desire to achieve, says Benjamin King, Vechery’s mentor and professor of practice in the business school. “She properly seeks and manages feedback and vigilantly pursues opportunity. The way Afton leverages her own native talents along with the many resources that Wake Forest offers entrepreneurs is a winning combination.”

Top 5 pitch tips

    Being able to sum up ideas is a fundamental skill. Roy Hykal, a 2nd year MBA student majoring in management and an organizer and co-chair for the competition, offers tips for sharing thoughts in a way that excites others.

    1. Use simple language.
    2. Summarize you idea. Don’t share every detail.
    3. Prepare ahead so delivery is optimal.
    4. Maintain eye contact, and be confident in posture and speech.
    5. Be prepared for questions and respond in a way that engages your listener.

    After graduation, Hykal will join Frito-Lay (PepsiCo) in Plano, Texas, in the corporate finance department.

“My personal value system is derived from innovation that has the ability to affect humanity directly,” says Vechery, who in addition to concentrating on new business development in her major is earning minors in neuroscience and entrepreneurship.

In 2008, as a first-year student, Vechery competed in the Elevator Competition with a team of students pitching a plan to build a biodiesel production facility on Wake Forest’s campus. Her first business, which she launched while in high school in Woodbine, Md., was a residential well-water testing and public education company she founded after a science fair project when she detected harmful bacteria in community water supplies.

When it comes to the pitch, Vechery says it is a balancing act. “Judges may interrupt to ask questions or may express a stronger interest in one aspect of my talk over another. I have to stay on my toes this year. As an individual participant, there are no teammates to pick up the pace if I stumble. But I’m confident, prepared and ready to have fun inspiring others about the project. When I make the pitch, this is what I hope will come across.”

Competitors also supply a detailed business plan and prepare a formal presentation. Finalists get to make a 25-minute presentation in a boardroom filled with competition judges. Winners of the Elevator Competition will be announced March 26 during a ceremony at the Marriott in downtown Winston-Salem.

The Wake Forest Elevator Competition, first held in 2000, allows students to test their skills at making the perfect elevator pitch. Each student team is required to perform a two-minute pitch, supply a detailed business plan, and prepare a formal presentation of their business venture.

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