When Krystal Rietkoetter was looking for expert feedback on how to grow her wedding gown business, she decided to enrol in the Further, Faster program offered through the Henry Bernick Entrepreneurship Centre (HBEC) at Georgian College.
Throughout the intensive seven-week program, participants gain many valuable tools to help start, grow and scale their businesses. In the final workshop, everyone delivers a one-minute pitch to a panel of five judges to qualify to compete for $10,000 in the Grand Pitch Competition. Rietkoetter, who owns Ceremony Bridal Studio in Barrie, competed and won out of seven finalists.
“Winning this competition means the world to me,” said Rietkoetter. “There has been a number of things I wanted to invest in, and now I have the funds to accomplish them. The money will allow me to bring in a team to help me with digital marketing, and I’m also going to invest in a budget-friendly line of bridal gowns in order to become accessible to more brides in our community.”
Rietkoetter added that while she enrolled in the Further Faster program to study from established entrepreneurs and connect with other emerging small businesses, she also learned more about branding and the importance of using all your resources and connections.
“Barrie is an incredible community to be an entrepreneur in, so I would encourage others to take advantage of programs like Further Faster, and to learn from mentors and business professionals who are willing to donate their time.”
Shelby Taylor, founder of Chickapea Pasta, was one of the competition judges and knows firsthand the value of the Further Faster program.
“As the winner of HBEC’s inaugural pitch competition, I know what an impact it can have on an entrepreneur’s growth and the success of their business,” said Taylor. “There wasn’t even prize money when I pitched, but the advice and the connections were invaluable, and that’s what I hoped to offer this year’s contestants.”
Taylor added that the calibre of the pitches was high, with everyone showing great resilience in the face of a global pandemic.
“Krystal’s pitch stood out for a few reasons,” Taylor explained. “First, she communicated her value proposition and her sales model clearly, along with her milestones and her use of funds. She knew her numbers and had great confidence. Lastly, her sales model made sense as she was growing and adjusting her existing model rather than pivoting to a completely new model.”
Other judges were equally impressed with Rietkoetter’s presentation.
“As an active angel investor, I look more closely at the founder than the product or service,” said Paul Larche, President and CEO of Larche Digital. “Krystal stood out because she conveyed the confidence and ability to get through the many challenges that await her, or any startup. She projected pose and trustworthiness, which investors crave.”
Domenic Spataro of DS Designs – The Tanglegripper received a runner-up award giving him 10 hours of specialist mentoring (valued at $1,000) from HBEC.
The Further Faster program, which launched in the summer of 2018, has helped more than 220 entrepreneurs.
• Story and photo supplied by Georgian College