A pitch competition can be a thrilling and terrifying experience for even the most brazen entrepreneur. Read below to find out how Shayba Muhammad, founder and designer of Mahnal jewelry, prepared and persevered to take home a big win.
Mahnal was about 2 years old when I was awarded first place in Brazen St. Louis’ Be Seen Brunch pitch competition. It was in the startup stage and really at a pivot point for growth. As a business woman I was in the process of figuring out what exactly the next steps for Mahnal were. As I starting to clarify what Mahnal needed, finding the funding and resources to support those steps was the next challenge. This pitch competition offered me a chance to win an awards package and get much-needed visibility with prospective investors.
When I first went in to learn more about the pitch competition, I realized two things right away: First, that we would be pitching our businesses and finalists would be chosen that night. And second, that I sat in a room full of brilliant, qualified, driven, women. There were no easy wins to be had!
As the hosts spoke and explained the evening’s activities they had planned for us, I realized I didn’t have a pitch. Not only that, my only exposure to a pitch was watching Shark Tank! I quickly read ahead in the packet they passed out and started scribbling notes in the margins. This became the skeleton of my pitch and how I still talk about Mahnal today. I was the last to pitch to the judges both the night I was chosen as a finalist and the big day when I was ultimately selected as the pitch competition winner. I really believe those few extra moments of preparation – and any extra bit of preparation on any account — makes a difference.
The other women pitching had great ideas and would be just as studious and driven as me. Looking back, the entire competition process kept me on the edge with just the right amount of stress (the healthy kind that kicks you into action) and humbleness. The scary part was that I could mess-up or forget something and potentially not win. The exciting part was that I could give it my best and potentially win.
“Looking back, the entire competition process kept me on the edge with just the right amount of stress (the healthy kind that kicks you into action) and humbleness.”
Whether it’s a competition or a stressful situation, my advice is never give up on yourself and certainly don’t sell yourself short. Realize that what you have to offer can be however unique, unheard of, or different — but you determine the value. It’s up to you to stand up and uphold for everyone to see what great value you’ve created.
Mahnal is a brand of contemporary brass jewelry designed to complement women without being costly. Each piece is designed exclusively of durable, solid brass and plays on how the material beautifies with age. Mahnal takes inspiration from the places we find most meditative, exploring themes like silhouettes in nature, the repetition of lines in architecture, or how light plays against texture.
Shayba Muhammad is a metalsmith & the owner and designer of Mahnal Jewelry. Shayba began design while studying fashion at the Institute of Art in Chicago. She worked as a visual merchandiser focusing in jewelry for 3 years, before relocating back to St. Louis to study metalsmithing and jewelry full time. After launching Mahnal in 2016, Shayba now focuses her efforts on scaling and how she can add to the local small business economy. Learn more at Mahnal.com.