The Perfect Pitch: Lessons Learned from Business Competitions

RedHead wines, one of the premier startups on campus, has developed a fantastic new wine. As I wrote last year, Marisa Sergi founded RedHead when she had to develop a wine label for a design class. She ended up taking the concept and creating an entire wine brand around it. Since the previous article, Marisa has been working to expand her team and customer base. She has competed in multiple business competitions, winning awareness and funds.

Since last year, Marisa has added three members to her team. This new members assist Marisa with the core functions of the business. They have helped her market her product and write a business plan. In order to remain productive, she emphasizes the importance of constant communication between everyone on the team.

One of the changes Marisa has been most excited about is the growing distribution that is currently underway, and the large following it has developed. RedHead Wine is distributed through Superior Beverage Company, which has 11 thousand locations in and around Ohio. Additionally, she is working to expand to Pennsylvania within the next year. One of the reasons she is trying to expand is to reach the growing demand for her wine. Marisa has developed a large and growing Instagram following, with individuals who have gone great lengths to get her wine. Possibly even more exciting is how quickly her wine flies off the shelves in Ohio. Marisa showed me a picture from a store near here home where all but one of the RedHead bottles was gone. Marisa accredits much of her wine’s success to the catchy label. People buy originally for the label, but keep coming back for the taste.

Another very successful way Marisa has seen her brand grow is through competitions. She has participated in quite a few and done quite well. Recently, she participated in the Queens Entrepreneurship Competition and was ranked as one of the top 15 business plans in the world. What was extremely exciting about this competition was that one of the judges was an executive at Constellation Brands, a wine, beer, and spirits company. After her presentation, the executive told Marisa that he recognized her brand!

It is moments like these that have proved the Marisa the value of these competitions. They have forced her to get straight to the point with her business and allowed her to meet amazing people. She has also gotten very helpful feedback that she has incorporated into her business model and she continues to grow RedHead.

For ambitious individuals preparing or thinking about pitching at a business competition, Marisa emphasizes the importance or preparation and practice. Pitching is a skill that needs to be developed and the pitch should be practiced to ensure confidence and that the correct message is conveyed. Part of the preparation is knowing your company inside and out. Marisa was able to learn a lot about her company by building her business plan. But whatever method you might use, it is extremely important that you can answer any questions about your business model, customers, market, and anything else that might arise. Finally, it is important to relax, and the better you do the above three things, the easier it will be to relax.

RedHead wines has been growing much more quickly than Marisa ever imagined. Over the next year, she hopes to introduce a new product line under the RedHead label and purchase a 50 thousand gallon tank to produce wine at a higher volume. Eventually, she hopes to move production to California, so that she can bottle RedHead as a California wine.