At last night’s Emerging Talk conference I enjoyed watching a recent grad pitch celebrity marketer and entrepreneur Kevin Harrington – chairman of As Seen on TV, pioneer of the infomercial, original Shark Tank panel member and launcher of 500 products that collectively have generated more than $100 billion in sales.
Kevin is in business to screen pitches and he takes thousands of them each year throughout the U.S.
Like a movie producer who constantly hears ideas delivered from a short pitch, he has a finely tuned filter to decide which ones are worth delving into more deeply for deploying his product marketing machinery, media and celebrity relationships, distribution networks and other resources that have to date been responsible for more than 20 different products exceeding the $100 million sales mark.
In short, backing from Kevin Harrington can be an entrepreneur’s shortcut to turning an obscure product into a media and commercial success almost overnight.
The pitch was delivered by Michael Amadori, who last year while a student at SUNY School of Environmental Science & Forestry came up with the idea of recycling disposed food from university and casino buffets into biscuit style dog treats.
Michael’s vision and passion for a green solution to food waste was compelling enough to get other students to join his Full Circle Feed team and commit a summer in the Syracuse Student Sandbox – Upstate’s mentor led accelerator with 30 student teams in a collaborative partnership with local universities, economic development organization CenterState CEO and seasoned entrepreneurs volunteering their expertise to help students build startups over an intense summer program.
Michael’s pitch was carefully planned, selecting the right time and location in the Emerging Talk conference to get Kevin’s attention prior to his scheduled keynote.
As I was speaking to Kevin right then, I got to watch the pitch unfold starting with a courteous introduction and offer – making it easy for Kevin to say no if he wasn’t interested.
With Kevin’s permission, Michael described his product, the unmet niche segment it was filling in the market, size of the opportunity, competitive landscape and his startup background to date – all in less than 2 minutes.
I hear quite a few pitches myself for startup investing I do through UpVentures so was quickly impressed with how concise and on target the pitch was, communicating essential information an investor wants to hear in the shortest time possible.
As Kevin responded with a few questions, they were right in line with the thoughts streaming through my investor lens including regulatory issues, target market and production scalability to name a few.
None of the questions or objections were left unanswered. Even better, Michael’s responses were crisp and on target, showing he understood the value of the investor’s time and at this stage, the objective of just advancing to the next step by getting a commitment for a follow up meeting.
Michael also handed over the Doggy Bag product sample, professionally packaged and slick enough to look right in place on a retail store shelf.
Kevin shared a few observations on the value of teaming the Doggy Bag product with a celebrity who was both a dog lover and environmentalist. He mentioned one such person in his network and believed the product had enough merit for him to commit additional follow up.
Where it goes from here will have to be seen. But if you would have asked me a week ago if I would be interested in dog treats (I’m not even a dog owner), the answer would have been an emphatic NO.
Now, as a result of this pitch, I saw the qualities of a winning entrepreneur and plausible opportunity. I’ll be watching closely what happens with the upcoming interactions between Kevin and Michael. Dog treats would be outside my normal startup investing path, but I will always give quality entrepreneurs who can pitch and sell the opportunity for more than just a passing glance.