3 lessons we learned from the 2024 Odlum Brown Forum Pitch finalists

As three entrepreneurs took the stage at the Odlum Brown Forum Pitch event, we took notes on how to deliver a good pitch

All three finalists of this year’s Odlum Brown Forum Pitch Finale are first-time entrepreneurs trying to change the way people think about problems in their respective industries. 

Take Bronwyn Bridges, for example. The co-founder and CEO of PragmaClin Inc. is working to track the progression of Parkinson’s disease using a tool called Prims. The data collected by the Newfoundland company can optimize treatment strategies and help improve the quality of care that people receive. 

And then there’s Toronto-based Apricotton, which makes the kind of teen bras that every millennial girl wishes she had. “Girls feeling self-conscious about wearing a bra leads to 80 percent of them suffering from deceased self-esteem,” say founders Chloe Beaudoin and Jessica Miao. So Gen Zs get what we didn’t: softer, stretchier bras with adjustable straps.

And last but certainly not the least, Sara Jónsdóttir launched Revol Cares in Vancouver to disrupt the period underwear industry. “Our customers are finally sleeping through the night without changing their pads, they’re working their first responder jobs without worrying about access to facilities and they have a confidence that they have never had before,” says Jónsdóttir. And it’s not just for people who menstruate: elderly folks can use the leak-proof undies, too. 

READ MORE: Vancouver’s Pocketed takes home $25,000 cash prize at Odlum Brown Forum Pitch Finale 

Over 350 women applied for Canadian charity The Forum’s pitch program this year. Only 10 applicants were paired with mentors and given the opportunity to promote their companies at an earlier event in February. It all came to a head on a pitch night sponsored by Odlum Brown and Wheaton Precious Metals on April 25: the annual event doubles as a fundraiser for The Forum, and last Thursday three finalists took the stage to compete for the grand prize of $61,500.

Every pitch was moving. Every founder had a strong mission and vision. And we took notes on what strategies helped the finalists leave a lasting impression.

1. Candid communication

Jónsdóttir was making such solid points that the audience couldn’t help but erupt into applause every few sentences. “Y’all are tripping me up,” she said. “You can hold the claps ‘til the end, ‘kay?”

The entrepreneur deviated from her rehearsed speech several times, allowing the audience to laugh and connect with the person behind the brand. And we think this contributed to the massive support she received afterwards: when the time came to cast votes, Jónsdóttir was neck-in-neck with PragmaClin’s Bridges, with only a one-percent difference in the number of votes between them.

2. Storytelling

Bridges talked about her co-founder Gord Genge’s difficult journey with Parkison’s, Apricotton’s Beaudoin talked about how her co-founder Miao’s younger sister burst into tears in a lingerie store and Jónsdóttir talked about having heavy period flow. Each story painted a picture of the problem these women are working to solve, and the empathy was palpable in a room full of people who all have friends and family members facing similar challenges.

3. Quantitative data

The wait time to see a neuro specialist in Newfoundland is four years, said Bridges. She hit the audience with research and trends related to Parkinson’s disease, mentioned raising $2.5 million in funding, and argued that her patient assessment tool is better than other wearable devices on the market because comprehensive data collected by wearables tends to overwhelm clinicians and delay treatment.

Revol Cares, on the other hand, went from zero to 2,000 stores in under a year. Once the company received medical-grade recognition from the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada, Jónsdóttir targeted pharmacies for retail partnerships. The recognition also offered the young brand a competitive edge against established companies like Knix and helped it break into the U.S. market. We saw incredible 300 percent growth last year and as we continue to scale, we’re on track to hit $6 million in 2024,” said Jónsdóttir.

In the end, PragmaClin’s Bridges was crowned the Odlum Brown Forum Pitch winner for her work with Parkinson’s disease. Each finalist was awarded $46,500, with Bridges earning an extra $15,000 for her compelling pitch. The prizes will help each founder fast-track their business goals and growth.

Meanwhile, the fundraising portion of the event raised over $1 million to support The Forums programming for women entrepreneurs. “We applaud the recipients and all participants of this year’s The Odlum Brown Forum Pitch program,” said Forum CEO Kirsten Koppang Telford in a release. “The program’s distinct format underscores our mission to empower women entrepreneurs by providing them with the financial, social, and wisdom capitals essential for growth and success, alongside real-world pitching experience and a supportive community.”