Help! My idea is complicated...

This column first appeared in Silicon Prairie News for Prosper Women Entrepreneurs, where Aimee serves women entrepreneurs as Senior Director of the Prosper Institute. Thanks, SPN!

Dear Prosper Women Entrepreneurs,

My business idea is complicated and includes a lot of detail. When I talk to people in a networking setting, they don’t seem to understand it. Plus, I’m often one of the few women entrepreneurs in the room, and I don’t know how to “break into” the mostly male conversation circles. My idea is great, and I want people to be as excited as I am about it.  What should I do? How can I help them understand what I’m working on?

Signed,

Complicated

Dear Complicated,

It can be difficult to be one of the only women entrepreneurs in a room full of male networkers! Knowing your pitch and setting goals for the interaction will make you more comfortable and confident as you engage people in your idea.

Some other tips for breaking into those all-male conversation circles (or any kind of circle for that matter) include: starting the conversation at the bar or buffet table, engaging with someone that is on the periphery or angled outward, or just smile and dive right in! But most importantly, know what you want to contribute to the conversation and be comfortable with your pitch.

Entrepreneurs are full of ideas and exciting ways to make things happen – that’s what makes you an innovator! But as a business owner, it is your job to help people focus on what you most want them to know. If overwhelmed with detail, it’s easy for someone to say, “That sounds nice, good luck!” and walk away. And then you’ve missed an opportunity for support, resources or even a client. To help them understand your idea, you need to:

Focus on the problem you solve. Your idea must quickly resonate with your audience. Tell them what problem you’ve identified and how your idea solves it.

What makes your idea better. What makes your solution better than others? Be able to clearly differentiate your product or service and describe the value you provide. People understand benefits, especially if what you offer will benefit them.

Prioritize what you need. If you’ve gotten this far, you should have an “ask” ready. Let people know what you’d like to learn, resources you need, or types of people you’d like to connect with.  This is not the time to ask for money or a big introduction (that might come later), but it’s a great chance to gain information and get further connected to what you need.

You might use a Business Model Canvas or just a bulleted list to help you focus on your most important customers or activities. Remember, people can only remember 2-3 things, so don’t pitch more than they can handle!  Most importantly, let your competence and passion shine through. That way, people will walk away thinking, “That person knows what they’re talking about, and I want to get on board!”

Entrepreneurially Yours,

Prosper Women Entrepreneurs

Prosper Women Entrepreneurs was created to address the entrepreneur gender gap in the St. Louis region. We are a group of business leaders, thinkers, doers, innovators and students who want to make sure that our community is well positioned in the new economy and, more specifically, that women entrepreneurs are a vital part of its future.

Prosper Women Entrepreneurs is comprised of two separate divisions: Prosper Institute, a non-profit organization focused on training and mentoring women in the entrepreneurial community, and Prosper Capital, a for-profit organization focused on increasing women entrepreneurs’ access to growth capital and the number of women investing in early stage capital markets.