By Ashia Gallo, Editorial Intern
Miller Lite Tap the Future is a business plan competition that sets out to find the next up-and-coming business team with innovative ideas.
The contestants can win a $250K development grant for their small business if their pitches can rise to the challenge of a panel of business experts, including Daymond John from ABC’s “Shark Tank”. The competition application process opened on June 13 and will remain open until August 1.
Ben Lamson, Co-Founder of WeDidIt and recipient of last year’s award for winning the competition with partner Su Sanni, will be a judge at this year’s competition.
Lamson gave Atlanta Tribune: The Magazine an exclusive interview about his tech company as well as what’s he is looking for as a judge in the next Miller Lite Tap the Future winner:
AT: WeDidIt is a tech company dedicated to helping non-profit organizations raise funds. Could you tell us a little more about your business and what inspired you to create it?
BL: WeDidIt is a web platform and mobile app. We started our business because we wanted to help non-profits fundraise and have successful online campaigns. Myself and Su Sanni saw a void in the market after working for a global software company and seeing that non-profits didn’t know how to access human capital, especially after the 2008 recession. There was a need to help these organizations get funds.
AT: What is it like working with a partner as opposed to running a business solo?
BL: I definitely could not have done this alone. [Sanni] and I started as friends first. We talked about launching our own venture over beers after work. We knew that we could work well together because we already spent our days together anyway. It has been fantastic to work together with someone instead of going at it alone.
AT: What challenge did WeDidIt face during its start-up? How did you all overcome these challenges?
BL: The biggest challenge was that neither of us are “tech guys”. We had to understand how to acquire technical talent by hiring a third partner who knew about that stuff. We were not seasoned in the technology part of it at all. We overcame by constantly learning and having to understand all that would have to go into a start-up.
AT: Why did you decide to participate as a judge for Miller Lite Tap the Future?
BL: Miller Lite is close to our hearts because we were the recipients of the grant last year and they helped us get WeDidIt started as a business. We were flattered and more than willing when they asked us to participate as judges. We now get a chance to usher in the next generation of entrepreneurs.
AT: What is the first thing you will look for when a prospective entrepreneur pitches a business idea?
BL: The team. I will look to see if they are truly ready to turn great friendships into great partnerships. After that, I will look to see how big the market is, then the product itself.
AT: Personally, what do you think a business pitch should include?
BL: The value potential for the customer or user. If that is not clear, it will be very though to sell.
AT: How important is it for small businesses to network and have mentors?
BL: It is extremely important to cultivate relationships through a network and mentorship. This will help your company grow and make educated decisions. If an entrepreneur walks in a room cocky and thinking they’re better than others, they will never make it. You must have a mindset of wanting to learn from who’s already been there, done that.
AT: What advice can you give to a rising small business or someone who wants to start one?
BL: Business plans are BS. Have it as a guide, but not a Bible. Talk to as many people as possible and let the customer drive your business plan. Testing, testing, testing. That will reveal what direction you need to go in.
AT: How will you know you’ve found the right business team for the competition?
It will be apparent when the teams give their pitches in the hot spot. Being on the spot in that way brings out key characteristics. Sometimes they won’t know the answers to our questions, but what matters is how they answer those questions in particular. If you crack, you’re not ready.