When pitching becomes personal

11th April, 2017

On some level, all business is personal.

But how do you pitch a startup idea that is so personal that it risks alienating your audience?

That’s the challenge facing Sally Coldham, founder of When a person passes away, the Airloom app collates information about that person that can be used to make life a bit easier for family members left behind.

It was an idea borne of Coldham’s own experience, when her mother passed away.

“In the lead-up to her passing there were so many things my family has lost because we didn’t know the right questions to ask her,” Coldham told The Pulse.

“For everything we did get to ask her, there was no easy way to record that information.”

Coldham is pitching Airloom as a one-stop shop for family members to gather information on those who have passed from legal documents such as wills to recording personal memories.

“[When a family member passes], in a moment of chaos you’re forced to make massive decisions which could have a lasting impact,” she said.

She knew Airloom could be a fantastic resource for people going through an enormously difficult time – but to create it she needs to convince people to put money into it.

Sharing her personal story and talking about death without alienating her audience has been central to Coldham’s journey in the SheStarts program.

“For a long time I was afraid to bring that personal story in, not because I was afraid to share it but because I was worried about making people feel uncomfortable,” she said.

Know your audience

Coldham said one of the key insights the program has given her about pitching on a sensitive subject is to alter the approach to each audience rather than giving a one-size-fits-all pitch.

“Any pitch needs to speak to your audience,” she said.

“It’s easier if you’re speaking to a room full of investors because you can tailor it to the things they’re interested in.”

One of the first things Coldham has started to do is define her audience by demographic – to try to figure out if they had kids.

“You can then talk about guardianship, whether they know much about their own parents’ wishes, so you can bring that in,” she said.

When talking to fellow SheStarts founders, she found that talking about Facebook had cut-through.

“I started to talk about what happens to your Facebook account after you die, and the SheStarts founders in the room were like ‘Now I understand what you’re doing’,” said Coldham.
“It’s about finding out what you can use.”

The insight about how different audiences react to her pitch and how to tailor her approach according has come from one thing: practice.

Practice breeds confidence

Pitching is a daunting experience.

Pitching is especially daunting when you’re talking about a personal and painful experience that can make people feel uncomfortable.

For Coldham, who admits she has issues with confidence, the SheStart program’s value lies in a forum to practice – to pitch, and pitch, and pitch.

“In each meeting or pitch you go to, if you can remember the questions you’re asked, you start to build a bank of answers,” she said.

“It’s great to have advisers as well, so that if you’re asked a really tough question you can ask them about the best way to answer it.”

By being asked questions repeatedly – and coming up with the answers – she now feels more in control when she pitches.

“If you’re pitching to a room of people, there’s an element of control when you’ve practiced. You can be a bit more polished and feel more confident in what you’re saying,” said Coldham.

“You may not know the questions that will come, but you’re a bit more in control of the situation.”

“Even if you want it to be a casual conversation, it’s about being prepared for all scenarios…that practice has been key for me,” said Coldham.

If you want to find out more about Sally and her fellow SheStarts founders, head to the SheStarts website for more insights.