Mary Cervantes

Mary Cervantes is a columnist for the Napa Valley Register.

On Friday, Sept. 16, the 8th annual North Bay Innovation Summit was held in Rohnert Park, where start-up and early stage businesses competed for recognition and cash prizes.

Four industry categories were represented with three to four businesses per category: Ag & Food, Social Media/Web/IT/Cloud/SaaS, Healthcare & Medical Tech and Clean Tech & Sustainable Products.

Each category had a winner chosen by the judges to receive a cash award of $1,000. Out of the four winners, the audience voted on the Top Innovator awarded a cash prize of $7,000.

As rock music played to pump up the audience, each business presenter bounced on stage to audience applause and delivered their three-minute pitch to a panel of four high-level judges. Each judge is a founding member and CEO of a business from each category.

The first category was Ag & Food, and the first start-up business was Napa’s own Sarita Lopez.

Sarita’s innovative food product, Green-Go, is cactus water made from the paddle of the Nopal Cactus, not the usual prickly pear fruit typically used in commercially produced cactus water.

The paddle of the Nopal Cactus is rich in dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants that make the juice beneficial to your health.

Green-Go uses the cactus paddle to create a hydrating alternative beverage, boasting a great taste with zero sugar.

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Her pitch was clear, concise and compelling.

After each pitch, presenters are subject to five minutes of questions from the judges. Sarita handled each question without hesitation and provided thorough answers. She was well-prepared.

“To prepare for my North Bay Innovation Summit 2016 pitch, I met with (two) advisers from the SBDC, and had a group call with SoCo Nexus. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous before I went on stage, but the positive energy from the audience and other pitchers were fantastic—those (three) minutes flew by! I received great feedback from the judges that confirmed I am on the right path with my business model.”

The result – Sarita was awarded $1,000, winning in the Ag & Food category. The Top Innovator was chosen out of the Clean Tech & Sustainable Products category, but I believe Sarita was a close second.

Constructing a professional presentation to attract investors requires a great deal of preparation and practice. To help you develop a clear, compelling and credible presentation for investors, the Napa-Sonoma Small Business Development Center is offering a workshop on crafting a winning pitch.

Gerry Barañano, director of the Tech Futures Group, will be presenting ‘Prepare Your Pitch’ on Thursday, Oct. 27 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Finley Community Center in Santa Rosa. The cost of the workshop is $45.

Gerry has extensive experience in operations, multiple start-up experiences and broad technology industry experience. He holds a Yale undergraduate degree and a MBA from Stanford University.

If you’re interested in registering for ‘Prepare Your Pitch’ or attending other Napa-Sonoma SBDC workshops go to napasonomasbdc.org or call (707) 256-7250. We offer free one-on-one business advising too.

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Mary Cervantes is the business services director for Napa Valley College Napa-Sonoma Small Business Development Center. Reach her at 256-7253 or mcervantes@napavalley.edu.