A confluence of networking entrepreneurs, ideas, & investors
What is PitchFork?
The PitchFork platform provides a confluence of networking entrepreneurs, ideas, and investors, all driven by a passion to sustain a strong community. It offers a uniquely local solution by providing fun, low-key networking events for the community to learn about promising ideas and businesses that will help pave the way for a more idea-friendly and vibrant local economy.
PitchFork was established in 2016 when it became abundantly clear that rural areas were not recovering in the same way as their urban counterparts and startup rates were abysmally low. These low rates were tied to low rates of investment for rural businesses and PitchFork has grown and changed over the years to meet the need for diverse types of funding for startup and growth.
What's on Deck for 2024:
The 7th annual PitchFork Challenge will run from August-September. Learn more below.
How to Launch Your Own PitchFork Challenge
Read our updated “how-to” guide and lessons learned putting together our pitch competition. This is a valuable reference tool to guide any small community interested in supporting their entrepreneurial community with a fun pitch competition.
What is PitchFork?
WELCOME TO PITCHFORK!
Access to capital has long been recognized as a major challenge for startups and growing small businesses. In rural America, a lack of capital has been identified as one of the main reasons for the decline in startup rates over the past several years.
Numerous pitch programs exist, but nearly all are urban-based, technology-focused, and concentrate on startups expected to generate big ROIs by going public or selling to another company with deep pockets. Many also have a win-lose, “Shark Tank” mindset, with little support, guidance, or coaching for pitch participants.
The Hannah Grimes Center launched PitchFork in 2016. We have developed a detailed guide on how to run the program and offer it here for FREE to any community interested in using this framework to create their own local event.
The program has evolved into two offerings:
The PitchFork EventTM strengthens pitch skills in entrepreneurs and uses a friendly pitch event to build connections with various “investors” in the community — banks, venture angels, regional economic development corporations, private lenders, potential customers, community influencers and champions, mentors, and other resources in the community.
The PitchFork ChallengeTM seeks to do much the same, but is structured as a “competition” with multiple rounds and judges who award a cash prize to the winning business pitch at a high energy pitch finale.
PitchFork is intentionally encouraging and supportive. With access to capital and access to pitch guidance, practice, and coaching for participants, everyone who participates in a PitchFork should feel that they have gained invaluable insights about their business, learned how to talk about their business publicly, and understand what they need to do to make their business a success.
PitchFork provides important opportunities for exposure, visibility, and networking — opportunities often lacking in rural areas. Over the years, we have come to recognize that the program’s social element is one of the aspects of PitchFork valued most by our entrepreneurs.
Critically, PitchFork is intended to be fun, energizing, and festive! It’s a way to bring the community together to support, encourage, and applaud our small town businesses — not just bankers or economic development professionals, but friends, family, and neighbors.
We hope that the guide will inspire and support you in running a Pitch program in YOUR community! Hannah Grimes staff can answer quick questions for you, but if you’d like more in-depth guidance on running the program, we also offer consulting by the hour. Please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org if you have a quick question or need a deeper dive.
PitchFork Growth is a networking and pitch event that connects local entrepreneurs with local dollars. Entrepreneurs hone critical pitch skills, build investment readiness and gain visibility. Local community members get to view multiple opportunities to invest locally and network with community-minded investors and entrepreneurs.
Learn how to succinctly talk about your business and connect with potential customers, mentors and investors in the community. This is a great opportunity to connect your business and its growth opportunities to potential lenders and investors with an interest in supporting local economic growth and whose resources extend beyond just financial to include valuable networks, experience, resources and skills.
If you are selected, this program coaches you to create an effective 6-minute presentation and culminates in a live pitch event. As the entrepreneur, you will work with a panel of professional business advisers and consultants to hone your pitch. You will also be coached to be ready for a due diligence process to take on outside capital. Please see the important dates below and the application link.
As dictated by SEC rules, the event itself does not allow a direct ask of funding, but it does allow investors to learn about your business opportunity and can allow for connections after the event. If you’re looking for funding for your business or organization, please contact us directly to for more information about PitchFork. If this program isn’t a fit for you, we can also make suggestions about other good funding sources for your startup or growing business.
Criteria for applying:
The PitchFork Growth event is open to any registered business that is located in the counties below with a population of 30,000 or less.
NH: Cheshire, Sullivan, and Hillsborough
VT: Windham, Bennington, Windsor
* Business must be for-profit
* Business is poised for growth and needs $10,000 to $100,000 to grow*
* Business is kicking off a Crowdfunding Campaign
Please contact the Program Director, email@example.com if you are interested in applying!
Watch: April 14th, 2022, PitchFork Growth – livestream pitch event
The PitchFork Challenge
What is The PitchFork Challenge?
A national rural pitch competition comprised of the following:
- 3 pitch clinics with Hannah Grimes Staff & previous PF participants
- 2 rounds of friendly pitch competition leading up to
- 1 final pitch at the Radically Rural summit where you could win $10,000
*The PitchFork Challenge runs from August to September*
What will I win?
- National print and digital media coverage
- Valuable pitching and business skills
- Networking opportunities with potential funders, customers, and peers
- The support of your cohort and Program Director
- A free ticket to Radically Rural 2023
Broken Boat Farm – 2023 PitchFork Challenge Winner. Used the $10,000 prize money towards a new livestock trailer.
Bending Branch Farm – 2022 PitchFork Challenge Winner. Used the $10,000 prize money towards new goat milking equipment.
Jack’s Crackers – 2021 PitchFork Challenge winner. Used the $10,000 prize money towards a purchase of a new commercial oven to make More CRACKERS!
Frisky Cow Gelato – 2020 PitchFork Challenge winner. Used the $10,000 prize money towards a purchase of a new milk pasteurizer. And we all see Frisky Cow Gelato everywhere!
“The PitchFork process got me to rely on some of my business coaches and other people that have been supporting me along the way to really start to flush out that scale up plan.” – Linda Rubin
TotumVos Collagen Chews – 2019 PitchFork Challenge winner. Used the $10,000 prize money towards patenting the recipe for the chews.
The PitchFork Challenge is open to any resident and business that meets the following requirements:
- Business must be located in one of the following counties:
- NH: any county
- VT: Windham, Bennington, Windsor
- MA: Franklin
- Business must be located in a town with a population of 30,000 or less
- Business must be for-profit and currently earning revenue
- May not have won the PitchFork Challenge in previous years
- May not have raised more than $250,000 in funding
- May not have earned more than $250,000 in past year revenue
How to Apply:
- Fill out our New Client Form
- Meet with the Program Director to discuss fit for the Pitchfork Challenge
- Complete an application shared by the Program Director
- If a NH resident, complete a business form for three years after the award is received
- Document the first year with photos of the use of the award and the impact of the award if applicable
- Be available for social media, blog, website marketing, and promotion
What do the different rounds of pitching look like?
Round 1: Virtual closed round of pitching.
- Up to two people may be eliminated
- Semi-finalists will be notified of their status before the semi-finals live PitchFork Challenge Event
Round 2: Semi-Finals event – semi-finalists will prepare and present their 6-minute pitch to the judges and audience.
- Up to two people may be eliminated
- Semi-finalists will receive feedback from the judges
Round 3: The PitchFork Challenge final event during the Radically Rural Summit.
- Live pitch to the judging panel and live audience
How will I be judged?
You will be judged on the following criteria:
- Community benefit
- Pitch – pitch performance
The PitchFork Challenge provides money and momentum for rural entrepreneurs in the form of a friendly business pitch competition. Rural entrepreneurs are coached to create a compelling pitch describing their business opportunity in pursuit of a cash award. Ultimately, one business owner is chosen to receive a $10,000 cash prize every year. For the inaugural Radically Rural Summit in 2018, the success of the Hannah Grimes PitchFork Program was leveraged into the PitchFork Challenge, which provided local entrepreneurs in eligible counties with the opportunity to meet like-minded entrepreneurs, develop relationships with investors, and build up the skill of talking about their business in a clear and succinct way. In 2022, PitchFork Challenge welcomed rural entrepreneurs from across the country to apply.
Watch the PitchFork Challenge INFO Session with Sara Powell
Watch the PitchFork Challenge 2022
Watch the PitchFork Challenge 2021
Our next Idea Jam will be announced soon!
Sometimes the first step towards turning an idea into reality is saying it out loud. Giving voice to an idea can help it grow into something fully formed and ready to bear fruit. The Idea Jam is a place for civic entrepreneurs, local instigators, grassroots leaders, and everyday citizens to share ideas about how to help their communities thrive.
The event will feature an open mic where you can pitch your idea to a welcoming and supportive peer group. No idea is too small or too big to bring to the table. It could be something brand new or an existing project. The important thing is that the idea would in some way make your community more vibrant, prosperous, strong, sustainable…a generally more awesome place to be.
Not sure whether the Idea Jam is the right place to share your idea? First of all, yes it is! Here are a few examples, though, to open your imagination:
- A festival in your community’s downtown.
- A grassroots initiative that facilitates neighbors helping neighbors.
- Local efforts to make a community more welcoming and supportive of small business.
- A business or organizational start-up.
- Creative ways to expand childcare access.
- An initiative to improve transportation options.
- A novel approach to creating more housing options.
- Any project or program with a connection to an important community issue.
You won’t need to bring anything to the Jam other than yourself and your idea—distilled to a 90-second pitch. Here are some points you may want to touch upon in your pitch (you probably won’t be able to address them all):
- Quick description of idea
- Who’s working on this?
- What stage is the idea in?
- How does this idea help your community thrive? What is the opportunity?
- What resources and support is needed to move this idea forward.
- What is one small step you can take?
- What is one question you want to ask this group?