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As the founder of the high performance women's underwear startup, Knix Wear, I have had my fair share of experience pitching potential investors. The first time I pitched Knix Wear was in 2012 at INSEAD's annual business venture competition, while I was completing my MBA. The competition involved multiple rounds of timed presentations in front of a panel of seven venture capitalist judges. Pitching an all-male panel on the importance of functional, leak-resistant women's underwear was not an easy task. However, after hundreds of hours of preparation, Knix Wear won the coveted first prize and $20,000 in much-needed capital to bring our first prototypes to life.

This spring, I found myself preparing for a similar situation, only this time it was in advance of my CBC Television Dragons' Den taping (the show airs in October). I wanted to share five things I have learned throughout my journey on how to effectively pitch investors.

1. Elevate your elevator pitch. Every entrepreneur needs an elevator pitch; a captivating, 30-second opening where you concisely articulate what your company has to offer. In the beginning, I spent too much time talking about my initial product line – leak-resistant women's underwear – when what investors really wanted to hear about was my long-term vision for the company and how we planned to transform the intimate apparel market. I like the example of how Uber's Travis Kalanick described his business not just as as an app that links available drivers with riders, but also as a next-generation global transportation company that is "evolving the way the world moves." Find a way to seamlessly transition between what you are doing today and the long-term vision you have for your company.

2. Nail your numbers. If you don't know your numbers, you might as well not show up – and I'm not just referring to revenue. One of the catchphrases that will forever be ingrained in me from business school is, "if you don't understand the costs, you don't understand the business." Different business models involve different metrics, so be sure to know the ones that pertain to you. For product-driven businesses, make sure you know your gross margin, cost of goods sold, cost of customer acquisition, monthly burn rate (monthly spend), as well as any economies of scale that you may enjoy at a later date.

3. Know your market (and your competitors). Understanding your market also means understanding your competition, and saying you do not have any is not an option. Even if no one is doing exactly the same thing that you are, you are still competing for your end customer's share of wallet and share of time. On that note, startups and small companies typically have limited resources, both financially and when it comes to personnel. You need to have a clear picture of who your end consumer is and a cost-effective, realistic explanation of how you are going to reach them.

4. Do your homework. I like to think of investor pitches like a first date, only where the ideal outcome is a proposal. Taking on investors is a major, long-term commitment and picking the right partner who will be there in sickness and in health is essential. Figure out who you're pitching to. What does their typical investment look like – in terms of size, stage of the business and industry? Who's in their current portfolio? What is their professional background and area of expertise? This research will give you a good indication as to whether there is a fit, as well as prepare for you for questions that they might ask.

5. Be yourself. Almost every angel investor and venture capitalist that I've met says that they invest in people first and ideas second. With that in mind, be yourself. Granted, a polished, articulate and great version of yourself – but yourself nonetheless. Let your personality and your passion for your business shine through.

No matter what you are selling, make the other party feel at ease. If I can get an all-male panel of potential investors passionate about the prospect of functional, leak-proof women's underwear, then anything is possible. To be successful, you will need to eat, sleep and breathe your idea, and be able to convince potential investors that you're the best person to bring that vision to life.

Joanna is chief Knixpert aka founder and CEO of Knix Wear, a high performance women's underwear company based in Toronto.

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