Workshop 4: Developing Your Rocket Pitch

On March 2nd, from 5:30 – 7 p.m., DifferenceMaker held its’ fourth, and final Workshop Session; Delivering Your Rocket Pitch!

Holly Lalos, Entrepreneurship Initiatives Program Director, kicked-off the event. Then, she introduced the guest speakers for the evening: Professor Cathy Levy, College of Fine Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, and Professor Kevin Willett, Manning School of Business.

Next, Professor Levey spoke about the various components that makeup a rocket pitch. She also recapped the previous workshop sessions and thanked all previous guest speakers and attendees.

Full crowd of students, faculty, and mentors!

Then, Professor Willett presented and spoke about the important points regarding an idea and the development of a rocket pitch. He stated that most people don’t like change. Because of this, they may not purchase an innovative product/service since they may be content with what they already have and may be resistant to change. He provided an example about his favorite foods – pizza and Mountain Dew. If he is content with the foods that he enjoys, why would he need or want to try something new?

Professor Willett also emphasized the importance of an opportunity and conducting research. A product may be useful and reasonably priced, however, determining whether there is a customer base is imperative. In order to move forward with an idea, customer research is needed.

An interesting point Professor Willett brought up was in regards to “fads,” like fidget spinners – they were being purchased at one point, but the novelty has since worn off. It is a product that still sells, but at a much lower rate. Thinking about the value a solution has is important. For example, is your product/service unique enough to last through the ever-changing market? If not, what could be changed to make it relevant and needed over time?

Professor Kevin Willett showing examples of rocket pitch presentations that past DifferenceMaker student teams developed.

Then, resources were discussed – the costs, tools, and materials that are needed to create the product/service. If the product/service costs more than what it’s sold for, it will not be sustainable. Professor Willett also mentioned that judges are often impressed by prototypes/mock-ups/drawings of the solution – visuals are always helpful and it shows dedication.

Professor Willett went on to discuss the rocket pitch in more depth – The pitch is five minutes long, so ideas and information should be conveyed clearly and thoroughly during that time. On the slides themselves, succinct wording helps judges understand the presentation better. Statistics and graphics also help support a presentation. Appendix slides are useful during judge Q&A – It shows preparation and thinking ahead.

An example of a previous team that presented a well-developed presentation was BioBubbler, who won 1st Place in the Significant Social Impact category. This team showed confidence while presenting and portrayed their idea in a well thought out manner. During their pitch, they encountered technical difficulties and handled it professionally – they ignored the distractions and focused on their presentation.

BioBubbler’s presentation was shown as an example.

Then, the participants went into breakout rooms to discuss their ideas, develop their pitches, and practice them with one another. Faculty Fellows and a group of volunteer Mentors who are part of the “Friends with Kevin” networking group, were assigned to each room to provide students with informative feedback.

After the breakout rooms, students presented their rocket pitches to the crowd. Pitches ranged from regenerating stem cells, helping the blind connect to the world with AI cameras, and a sustainable indoor gardening system. Faculty Fellows and Mentors provided feedback and advice to each presentation, further preparing the teams.

A big thank you to the volunteer Mentors:

· Brad Counihan –Banker

· Lisa Couturier –Business coach

· Marta Doran – Putnam Investments

· Paul Falewicz –CFO

· Ryan Rourke –Employee Benefits Consultant

· Jack Wang – College Planner

· Elizabeth Wilds – Financial Planner

· Max Ward – Business Coach

To view a video of Workshop 4, visit the DifferenceMaker YouTube Channel.

Thank you to everyone who supported and joined the 2021 DifferenceMaker Workshop Series! Please mark your calendar and register for the April 15th $50,000 Idea Challenge: uml.edu/2021IdeaChallenge. At this event, you will hear 10 student teams pitch-off to a panel of UMass Lowell alumni judges for a chance to win a portion of $50,000 in funding!

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