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Women Owned Businesses – Speak Up!

I recently competed at the Citi Salutes “Realizing Your Dream” Business Plan competition in Washington, DC recently. It was part of a larger event in which veterans and military family members were learning about how to start and grow a business, V-WISE. As a graduate of V-WISE, I was able to compete in this business plan contest and had time to hang out when I was not competing. I spent a few hours visiting the Capitol, but the rest of the time I had meals and socialized with the V-WISE attendees. I find I learn by mentoring, so that’s what I did.

One topic repeated itself throughout the event almost every time one of the V-WISE ladies found out I was one of the Citi competitors. I can’t tell you how many times I heard, “I couldn’t speak in public like that.” What did I tell them? You CAN and you HAVE TO in order to get the word out about your business let alone compete!Since I come from a writing background, I like nothing better than to sit behind my keyboard and am happy to work alone in my home office. You would think that if my first career was in theater, I would love to pitch, but when it comes to pitching my business idea, it is a struggle. I write and write until the script for the pitch is perfect and then freak out trying to memorize it word for word. This time I gave up on the memorization and settled for writing bullet points on index cards and speaking off the cuff. A friend suggested I get nervous because I don’t have a director like when I worked in the theater. Now I AM the director. I have pitched several times now and each time it gets easier, but I cannot say it is ever easy. These last two times (out of 4 maybe?) were for my new service, Veteran Stories, so things were fresh and new. This time was also the longest pitch I have ever had to do (15 minutes). The technique, however, remains the same. Over-prepare and then just get out there and do it to the best of your ability.

Many of my friends from the military community have done things MUCH more difficult than speaking in public. I heard some stories that weekend and thank everyone one of you for your service including those who have ‘served those who have served’ as a military spouse. The message here is simple: You have to learn to believe in yourself, your business or business idea, and then tell the whole world about it, without being obnoxious, of course! The judges or whatever audience you are speaking to want you to succeed, so know you are being cheered on and just get up and get it done!

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