By Shelley DuBois, writer-reporter
FORTUNE -- It can be difficult to tell people you need why you need them. In business, for example, almost every company must raise capital from investors, and investors are eager to fund profitable business ideas. But no matter how great their business plan is, entrepreneurs stumble all too often when trying to communicate.
The only way to nail that tricky "we-need-you, you-need-us" message is practice. That's why the nonprofit Initiative for a Competitive Inner City teamed up with Bank of America (BAC) and the U.S. Small Business Administration to provide a platform for small business owners to test out their presenting skills at an event hosted by Fortune last Thursday. Five small business leaders braved the tough love of a panel of investor judges. The exercise was just a practice run; participating panel members didn't actually plan on investing.
Each person pitching received plenty of feedback. "They're obviously a really, really talented group of humans to do what they've done," says panelist Frank Baker, co-founder of Siris Capital Group. Every person pitching had already started a business from scratch, and that's impressive. But that next step -- securing a round of funding to grow a small business -- can be brutal. More
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