A Student’s Experience Attending THE CLIMB I Pitch Market 2024

Daniela Ibarra-Hernandez shares her experience attending and participating in Pitch Market, the final workshop before the application deadline for THE CLIMB, on Thursday, March 28. 

By Daniela Ibarra-Hernandez, student marketing assistant at the Jake Jabs Center for Entrepreneurship 

On the last Thursday in March, aspiring entrepreneurs and mock investors came together for a night of learning, support, and growth. The gathering at the CU Denver Business School was for Pitch Market, the final workshop for THE CLIMB at the Jake Jabs Center for Entrepreneurship. This annual pitch competition and workshop series invites students and community members to learn how to craft an idea into a compelling pitch and full business plan. As both an educational experience and a pitch contest, THE CLIMB is designed to help participants learn how to validate their idea, use feedback from mentors, and practice their presentation skills. This is all leads up to Pitch Night in April when selected finalists compete for the chance to win a $10,000 first prize. 

Just a week away from the competition deadline, Pitch Market is meant to be the last opportunity to practice and refine your business idea before submitting your application. Following a speed-dating format, the workshop lets you work the room and meet with Denver business professionals to practice your pitching skills. After two minutes of sharing your idea, you get real-time feedback from mock investors, who then decide whether to invest any amount of their fake $1,000,000 of available funding into your business. If you didn’t feel ready to jump in right away, you could practice your pitch with the Center’s staff to help get it down to a comprehensible two minutes. From there, it’s up to you to meet with as many mock investors as possible and see how much mock funding you could earn!  

As a student marketing assistant for the Jake Jabs Center, I usually help run these events from behind the scenes and watch as others pitch. However, after taking a few business-focused courses this year, I decided I felt ready to jump in and participate. Even though I am not applying to THE CLIMB (you don’t have to be an applicant to attend these educational workshops), I still thought it’d be fun to practice and meet the many successful entrepreneurs and business experts in the room. At first, I felt nervous, and my pitch seemed a little slow and a bit sour. But I found that once I got going, I began to feel comfortable knowing that everyone was there to help me. 

An entrepreneur’s pitch is arguably one of the most important aspects of successfully selling a business idea. Your pitch must accurately and persuasively convey your passion, product or service, and strategy to a wide audience—whether that includes friends, family, potential business partners, or investors. So, I understood the importance of understanding the perspective, suggestions, and questions that the investors shared with me and really took it all to heart.  

I started off by reading my written pitch directly from a Word document on my laptop, but after the second or third time, I closed my computer so I could focus on our conversations instead of the screen. As the night went on, I could hear and feel myself becoming more and more confident in my idea. I also started to refine my pitch with each piece of feedback I received, removing unimportant aspects and emphasizing others.  

I thought the diversity of the night’s mock investors was a very important and helpful aspect of this event. From marketing to operations and financial strategy, the investors analyzed and questioned aspects of my business that I didn’t even think to and allowed me to revise and integrate those concepts into my next pitch at an accelerated pace.  

Mock investors in attendance included many Jake Jabs Center partners and instructors, such as… 

  • Anoud Ibrahim Bani-Hani
    Researcher, speaker, entrepreneur, and entrepreneurship instructor at the Jake Jabs Center 
  • Kristen Blessman
    President and General Manager at PBS12 Colorado Public Television 
  • Jordyn Hartlein
    Senior Marketing Manager at Wet Laundry  
  • Matt Kaspari
    President at Kaspo, Inc. and entrepreneurship instructor at the Jake Jabs Center 
  • Kathryn McIver
    COO at the Donor Services Laboratory and instructor at CU Denver 
  • Dave Ruderman
    Senior instructor in entrepreneurship and management at CU Denver  
  • Adam Sanchez
    Operations Associate at the Rockies Venture Club 
  • Sandy Zook
    Assistant Professor at the CU Denver School of Public Affairs and entrepreneurship instructor at the Jake Jabs Center 
  • Jason Zotara
    Managing Partner at Ten26 Media 

Pitch Market became an evening of development and support for me, with valuable feedback coming from the mock investors, faculty, and staff, as well as fellow classmates. Students connected in between meetings with mock investors and talked about the feedback they were getting on their business ideas. This helped us come up with different pitching strategies and allowed some to connect and collaborate on how they could work together. A student even came up to me and encouraged me to seek out more investors. 

 I liked that, throughout the night, we were allowed to step away from the competition, reformat our pitch, practice it at the practice table, and jump back in when we felt comfortable.  

Despite not applying to THE CLIMB this year, I found the event informative and helpful in learning how to effectively convey an idea to an investor. The mock investors allowed me to ask questions about certain areas in my business plan and tweak how to best include them in my pitch. Overall, Pitch Market was a fun, low-stakes experience that encouraged many to connect and practice before the official competition (again, that’s Pitch Night on April 25th!). Winners were announced at the end of the night, with first place taking a $100 Amazon gift card, second taking a $50 Amazon gift card, and third taking home a swag bag of Jake Jabs Center items.  

Here were the night’s winners:  

  • First Place – BioWell  
  • Second Place – Spiruwater 
  • Third Place – All That I Am 

I can’t wait to see some of the same teams and ideas take the stage for Pitch Night on Thursday, April 25th  from 5:30 to 8:00 p.m. at the Jake Jabs Event Center. Maybe I’ll see you there, too!  

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