Powerful. Passionate. Engaging. Innovative. Environmentally conscious. Equity oriented. Financially sustainable. Community centered. Bilingual.
These are some of the characteristics of the business pitches I have seen, as an InnoVentures judge, at the InnoVentures quarterfinals and semifinals. Enjoying my immersion in these qualities of pitch presentations is but a small privilege of being an InnoVentures judge. In addition, I get to have fun (who doesn’t enjoy a good competition); see firsthand the impact of donor’s dollars; witness the community support and the hope that pitch participants inspire in each other; and experience transformation at multiple levels.
Witnessing Ventures’ impact
For many of the entrepreneurs participating in InnoVentures, before becoming a Ventures’ client, they had never owned a business, never created a PowerPoint deck to present in front of a large audience, never had to estimate their operating expenses and break-even point, or hire and manage employees to optimize their revenue. Their five-minute business pitch is the culmination of their unique business ideas, graduating from Ventures’ 8-week-long Business Basics Course, applying the knowledge learned unto their businesses, utilizing resources such as Ventures’ microfinancing, one-on-one business coaching, pitch competition clinics, pitch competition practice sessions, and much more.
How I became an InnoVentures judge
Becoming an InnoVentures judge did not occur by chance but was a trajectory: from my commitment to equity, volunteering as a Ventures’ Business Basic Course’s coach, and becoming a Ventures’ board member. In the fall of 2019, I volunteered as a business coach at Ventures’ English Business Basics course. I was motivated to volunteer as a Ventures Business Coach because I wasn’t satisfied with the definition of “coachability” in Executive Coaching: “readiness for personal insight” and “readiness for personal initiative.” My thinking was, if Executive Coaching (EC) would be widening the inequity gap: with those who are “coachable” continue to grow personally and professionally, and those who are “not coachable” lag further and further behind as the “coachable” move further “up.” Ever since I became aware of such potential inequity, I became committed to deploying my leadership to causes that closed such inequity gap.
This past fall I joined Ventures’ Board of Directors. Seeing the intentional work done by the board and staff to support Ventures’ clients, I naturally yearned to see them succeed: “What did success mean to them? What other support did they need? How was Ventures addressing the needs of clients, the broader community, and those served by its clients? How do community members benefit from Ventures services? How could Ventures’ services reach those who need them but are not aware of Ventures’ services?”
When Aria, Ventures’ Development Coordinator, asked me if I would consider being an InnoVentures judge, I accepted without hesitation because being an InnoVentures judge would allow me to see Ventures’ clients come full-circle: from before creating a feasible business plan to their current success and vision for future growth. As a Ventures’ board member, witnessing firsthand the experiences of Ventures’ entrepreneurs enables me to contribute to Ventures’ strategic planning.
Being transformed by seeing others’ transformations
Outside of being a board member, volunteering as a judge is also personally valuable. When we are fully present with others, being authentically curious about how they learn and make intentional shifts, over time, our consciousness is inevitably also transformed. And, increased consciousness is the basis for leadership development1. After seeing InnoVentures’ participants improve and grow, I am transformed by realizing that I can make small shifts to build community and have a positive impact on others’ lives, such as making my daily purchases a medium through which to build connections with local small businesses. Coincidentally, shopping locally is also fruitious economically and environmentally, reducing our carbon footprint and boosting the local economy.
You too may discover your own transformation when you come to InnoVentures! You will no doubt enjoy it. Most importantly, I kindly ask you to consider:
- How will you show up and relate to the small business owners you meet?
- How can you draw from your inner curiosity to authentically connect with those around you?
- How can your full presence make your aware of small shifts you can take?
Supporting an organization like Ventures is as much about the clients as it is about us, the community, and our relationship with our communities. Your participation matters. Thank you for reading, and if you read this far, I do hope I have the honor to meet you at InnoVentures!