Check out what food cart entrepreneur Chris Warner will say if he finds himself in an elevator with a wealthy financier.
“Picture yourself in the city,” he’ll start, before reeling off a fundraising pitch for his food cart idea: Pancake Power.
Warner, who hopes to open a food cart to sell pancakes to morning commuters, won $400 delivering his business spiel at a recent “Elevator Pitch” contest for entrepreneurship students at Gateway Community College.
The premise: Contestants imagine they are in an elevator with a venture capitalist, going from the 25th floor to the lobby. They have only a minute to sell their business idea with a convincing pitch.
On a recent afternoon, Warner recreated his winning pitch in an elevator at the Omni Hotel, where a trip up to the top floor—the 19th—had to suffice. Click on the play arrow above to watch it.
In his pitch, 23-year-old Warner asked his hypothetical venture capitalist to consider the potential of a food cart that sells hot fluffy pancakes and coffee to hungry students and workers in downtown New Haven.
The venture could bring in more than $72,000 in sales each year, he said. All he needs is $20,000 to buy a cart and pay for some marketing.
Warner said he got the idea for Pancake Power from his Saturday morning routine of making pancakes for his 90-year-old grandfather. Warner took over the job after his grandmother passed away five years ago.
He now lives with his grandpa in North Haven and takes care of him when he’s not delivering pizzas or attending class at Gateway.
Warner said he normally cooks pancakes from an Aunt Jemima box mix, but lately he’s begun experimenting with his own recipe. Pancake Power would offer a variety of toppings, from fruit and syrup to chocolate chips and whipped cream, he said. He still has to solve the problem of how to make pancakes easy to eat while on the go.
In the coming semester, Warner will be taking the “Start A Business” course at Gateway. He said he hopes to launch Pancake Power. He’ll need to find some kind of grant or loan, he said. The $400 prize money isn’t going to cover his start-up costs. He plans to spend half of the $400 on Christmas presents, the other half on the business.
Warner said his mom is “ecstatic” that he won the pitch prize. It’s a turnaround for Warner, who said he earned Fs through high school before dropping out and enrolling in a job corps training program.
Warner now has big plans for his future: a successful business career, then politics. He’s hoping to ride the coming boom in 3-D printers with a website offering designs for common objects that people can print out at home.
The first step, however, is powering up Pancake Power, maybe with the help of an unsuspecting venture capitalist and one lucky elevator ride.