The James Beard Foundation is hosting a series of bi-monthly webinars on topics relating to women in the culinary industry. On the March 4th episode of the Women's Leadership Webinars, The James Beard Foundation spoke with Culinary Agents CEO and Founder, Alice Cheng, on how to approach starting your own business, leveraging your network, fundraising, and negotiating with investors. If you have an idea for a product or restaurant and are looking to raise some money to get that off the ground, here are Alice's five takeaways covered in the webinar.

Build A Plan And Do Your Research
The act of writing a business plan is a great early step to organizing your ideas, it also helps you identify gaps that need to be addressed. It will force you to ask yourself hard questions about how viable your idea is and if it is a business worthy. Who are the competitors and why are you better? Even if you don’t share or use the plan, you’ll find that it will help build the foundation of your story and give you insights around questions that will inevitably come from potential investors. 

Do Your Homework And Have A Strategic Approach
Create a list of your desired potential investors and become the expert on them. Know which firms or individuals already support your competitors or similar businesses and don’t waste your time on them. Identify which ones have domain expertise that could be helpful to you and your team; most investors want to help companies grow and thrive in addition to supporting them financially. Be intentional with which events to attend and find creative ways to approach and connect with your target list.

Master Your Elevator Pitch - Practice, Practice, Practice
Know the difference between your pitch and your “elevator pitch”. Can you succinctly communicate your business idea in a compelling way in 15 seconds? How about 5? A well-executed elevator pitch can land you a followup meeting so that you can share more about the investment opportunity. Have a 5-second pitch ready and a follow on 15-second one to provide additional details for those opportune times.

If They Didn't Say "No", The Door Is Still Open
Oversharing your ongoing accomplishments during the fundraising process keeps “on the fence” investors engaged. Sending short progress reports periodically keeps the curiosity high and builds early trust and transparency. Don’t be afraid to ask for the investment when the time is right and if the unfortunate answer is no, be grateful and keep in touch where appropriate. Investors network with each other and share deals. Better to be the business that got away, not the business that won’t go away. 

Fundraise With A Sense Of Urgency, But Remember That It Takes Time
Fundraising is hard, period. Everyone wants to be the first-second investor so locking in your lead investor while pitching and gaining interest with all potential investors can be exhausting and frustrating. Before you start, mentally allocate five or six months for the full process. Fundraising with a sense of urgency (not desperation) can keep everyone excited and engaged throughout the process. Preparing, having a plan, and setting your expectations will help you stay focused.


If you'd like to watch the full webinar, click here.

To learn more about the Women's Leadership Webinars and watch some of the previous episodes, click here.