We are thrilled to announce our 24th Startup Runway Showcase in Atlanta on March 21! If you’re a startup founder in the Southeast, you don’t want to miss this opportunity to pitch your innovation and secure funding that will take your startup to the next level.
What is Startup Runway?
Startup Runway is a pitch competition that aims to support and empower underrepresented founders in the Southeastern United States. The event is in collaboration with Partnership for Inclusive Innovation, and we will be awarding $30,000 in non-dilutive capital to the winning startups!
Inspiring Success Stories: Meet Sade Shofidiya, Founder and CEO of BEEnevolent
To inspire founders, we are excited to feature a Q&A with a former winner of Startup Runway, Sade Shofidiya. She is the visionary founder behind BEEnevolent, a Savannah-based startup making waves in beekeeping and sustainable practices.
How did your company get started?
BEEnevolent was founded in November 2021 with a vision rooted in my personal journey and passion for beekeeping. Growing up in a food-insecure environment and spending a significant part of my life in foster care, I developed a deep appreciation for the importance of access to nutritious food.
My inspiration to start BEEnevolent stemmed from the impactful work I was already doing in the realm of charitable honey bee initiatives. Witnessing the vital role honey bees play in our ecosystem and the critical need to support beekeepers, I realized there was an opportunity to leverage technology and innovation to further enhance their efforts.
By developing cutting-edge technical solutions, BEEnevolent aims to empower beekeepers and optimize their practices. We strive to address the challenges faced by both beekeepers and honey bees, ultimately working towards a future where food security is ensured for all.
Through our technological advancements, we are not only improving the efficiency and productivity of beekeeping, but also fostering sustainable practices that contribute to the well-being of our planet. BEEnevolent’s mission is driven by a deep sense of responsibility to make a positive impact on both the beekeeping community and the global food system.
How did winning the funding at the Startup Runway showcase contribute to your company’s success?
Winning the funding at the Startup Runway showcase played a vital role in shaping our company’s success in several ways. Firstly, it provided us with the financial resources necessary to test and iterate on various business models. Through this process, we gained valuable insights into what works and what doesn’t, enabling us to refine our approach and optimize our strategies.
The funding also allowed us to conduct extensive discovery and validation processes for the products and services we have developed. We were able to gather user feedback, analyze market trends, and make data-driven decisions to improve our offerings. This iterative approach helped us create solutions that truly address the needs and preferences of our target audience.
Additionally, winning the funding at the Startup Runway showcase opened doors to key partnerships with industry leaders and researchers. Collaborating with established organizations and experts in our field provided us with invaluable guidance, mentorship, and access to their networks. These partnerships not only enhanced our credibility but also accelerated our learning and growth.
Furthermore, the funding served as a stamp of validation for our company. It provided external recognition of our potential and helped build trust and confidence among potential investors and customers. This validation was instrumental in attracting further investment and establishing strategic alliances with like-minded organizations.
Overall, winning the funding at the Startup Runway showcase played a significant role in our company’s success. It allowed us to test and refine our business models, validate our assumptions, and develop crucial partnerships. I’m grateful for the opportunities it has brought us and confident that they have positioned us for continued growth and impact in the market.
What impact did participating in the Startup Runway Showcase have on your business?
Participating in the Startup Runway Showcase had a profound impact on our business, providing us with valuable insights and takeaways that significantly influenced our entrepreneurial journey. Here are the key aspects that made a difference:
First and foremost, the showcase served as a platform for us to connect with potential technical collaborators. By presenting our business and demonstrating our innovative solutions, we attracted the attention of talented individuals and organizations who shared our vision. This led to fruitful collaborations and partnerships, enabling us to leverage their expertise and strengthen our technical capabilities.
Moreover, the opportunity to fellowship with other founders was invaluable. Engaging with like-minded entrepreneurs allowed us to share experiences, exchange ideas, and learn from one another’s successes and challenges. The sense of community and support fostered through this interaction was instrumental in our growth and provided us with a valuable network of peers who understood the unique journey of building a startup.
Additionally, engaging with venture capitalists (VCs) during the Startup Runway Showcase provided us with insights into investor readiness. Interacting with VCs helped us understand their expectations, learn about the key factors they consider when evaluating startups, and refine our pitch and business strategies accordingly. These learnings were pivotal in our ability to effectively communicate our value proposition and attract potential investors in the future.
Since winning the Startup Runway competition, how has your company grown?
Firstly, we established a fruitful partnership with a renowned university to establish the BEEnevolent research laboratory. This collaboration has allowed us to leverage the expertise and resources of academic researchers, further enhancing our technical capabilities and driving innovation in our field. In line with our growth, we have expanded our technical team, bringing on board talented individuals who share our passion for beekeeping and our mission. This growth has strengthened our expertise, enabling us to develop cutting-edge solutions and stay at the forefront of the industry.
Additionally, we successfully established partnerships with landowners to establish apiaries. These strategic collaborations have provided us with access to prime locations for our honey bee colonies, ensuring optimal conditions for their well-being and honey production. To protect our intellectual property, we renegotiated our federal research contracts, ensuring full IP protection for BEEnevolent. This step has safeguarded our innovations, enabling us to retain exclusive rights to our technology and maintain a competitive advantage in the market.
Furthermore, we have made significant progress in our management program, completing studies and establishing intellectual property. These accomplishments have solidified our position as leaders in beekeeping management solutions, and we continue to refine and enhance our offerings based on these findings.
In addition to our growth and achievements, we have participated in and won other pitch competitions, further validating our business model and technology. These successes have boosted our visibility, attracted attention from investors and partners, and opened doors to new opportunities for collaboration and growth.
Lastly, we are thrilled to share that we have established a dedicated office space for our hive. This milestone represents a tangible symbol of our company’s growth and provides us with a central hub for our operations and team collaboration.
Words of Advice from a Successful Founder
As a successful founder who has gone through the pitching process, Sade has valuable advice for founders preparing for their first pitch:
- Practice, Practice, Practice: The importance of practicing your pitch cannot be emphasized enough. Practice in front of a mirror, with friends, or even record yourself to evaluate your delivery and fine-tune your message.
- Seek Diverse Feedback Cautiously: While feedback is essential, choose trusted individuals who have experience in the industry or have been through similar pitching processes. Consider their insights but remember to stay true to your vision and core message.
- Know Your Audience: Tailor your pitch to address the specific needs, challenges, and interests of the audience you will be pitching to. This demonstrates that you understand their perspective and shows how your solution can benefit them directly.
- Focus on Storytelling: Weave a compelling narrative throughout your pitch. Share your personal journey, highlight the problem you are solving, and paint a vivid picture of the impact your solution can have.
- Keep It Concise and Clear: Time is limited during a pitch, so ensure your message is concise, clear, and easy to understand. Avoid jargon and complex technical terms that may confuse or alienate your audience.
- Demonstrate Traction and Market Potential: Investors are interested in evidence of traction and market potential. Showcase milestones, partnerships, customer validation, or early traction you have achieved to build credibility.
- Be Confident and Passionate: Show enthusiasm for what you’re building and convey your passion for solving the problem at hand. Confidence and passion are contagious and leave a lasting impression.
The Startup Runway Showcase was made possible thanks to the generous support of the Partnership for Inclusive Innovation (PIN).
Our next Startup Runway Showcase in September is a great opportunity for startup founders in the Southeast to secure funding to propel their startups to new heights. We are excited to see founders follow in Sade’s footsteps and apply to pitch at the upcoming event.