Two weeks ago I stood in in the Council Chamber at London City Hall, in front of a judging panel and an expectant audience, all waiting for me to start my first ever two-minute pitch about Bump Mark. What on earth was I doing here?
I was standing there because a few weeks previously, I heard about something called the Mayor of London's Low Carbon Entrepreneur competition and realised that it closes at midnight. So, I made a cup of tea, gathered my thoughts and answered the seven straightforward application questions.
To be honest, after reading the competition description I didn’t really think that Bump Mark, my bio-reactive food expiry label, was right for it. So why did I spend time applying if I wasn’t expecting to win?
Well, why not? I’d read that all the applicants are invited to a entrepreneur training session at Siemens’ new The Crystal building so I thought it would be a really good opportunity to meet some of the other young people that are trying to make an impact on this world. Plus, the building looked pretty cool.
And it was exactly this session that made the application worthwhile. On that training day, I met some of the most driven, passionate and inspiring individuals and it was impossible to come away from spending an afternoon with them not feeling like you want to go and conquer everything. I built most of this website that evening (not a bad start) and I’m still in touch with some amazing people I met that day.
In the end, I was chosen to compete in the final of the Mayor’s Low Carbon Entrepreneur Prize and attended a pitch training session at City Hall a few days before the real thing. I’m not going to lie guys, it was terrible. My voice was shaking, I was shaking, I wasn’t making any sense. I wasn’t saying what I needed to say.
I knew exactly what to do - I called my new friend Ryan, who I’d met at The Crystal, and asked him to help me out. I was really impressed by his focus and passion to succeed and I knew he would be the right person to help me perfect this shambles of a pitch.
I was right - two cups of tea later at a Wetherspoons on Holloway Road, we had a really strong pitch scribbled on a piece of paper. We couldn’t wait for Friday. I was so glad that I found somebody who I trusted that I could ask for brutally-honest feedback.
The day of the final arrived and after meeting Boris Johnson (yay!), it was soon time to deliver my first ever two-minute pitch. I took a deep breath, looked at the panel which included Dame Ellen MacArthur and Innocent Smoothies co-founder Richard Reed, and began telling my story. I nailed it. I left feeling so proud of how I presented my idea, I didn’t even care about winning.
So, I couldn’t believe it when Bump Mark was announced as the winner - I’d had such an amazing experience being part of the process that it truly was the icing on the cake. I still maintain that the most valuable thing about being part of the competition was the people that I met.
My point is - apply to things. Get involved. The events you’ll be invited to and the people that you’ll meet are far more valuable than the time you’ll spend writing an application. You should really know by now that your network is everything and the most successful people ensure that it is constantly expanding.
Not just this, but journalists regularly check out competition entrants before the winner is decided to write stories about the most interesting ones - even if you don’t win, getting your work out there is never a bad thing. When I applied for the James Dyson Award, I was featured in the Daily Mail and Fast Company, even before I was shortlisted to win.
Go ahead, my fellow thinkers and scribblers, take a look at what’s going on, get your work out there, be open to learning from people of different industries and make sure you’re not watching life pass you by.