Disabled Diving NZ stand out winner at 2015 Start-up Pitch Night

Disabled Diving NZ’s Hielke Oppers inspired the 100 plus crowd and the judges to win both Best Social Enterprise Pitch and the People’s Choice Award at Rotorua X’s Start-up Pitch night.  Julia Charity’s Look After Me won Best Commercial Pitch.  Both took a share of the $8,000 prize pool of business support services, mentoring and training.

Mr Oppers impressive pitch tugged at the heart strings of the audience with a mission to empower people with disabilities through scuba diving and with a vision to have Disabled Diving NZ instructors in every diving centre in New Zealand by 2020.

His passionate pitch centred on the importance of helping both mentally and physically disabled people focus on their abilities rather than their disabilities.  He took the audience through the benefits and his five year plan to achieve his vision.

This was the second Start-up Pitch night, with the inaugural Pitch night in 2014 won by Paul Charteris’s NZ Trail Runs, owner of the highly successful Tarawera Ultramarathon.  The Pitch Night was developed to provide an opportunity for local commercial and not-for-profit organisations to practice their pitch and receive constructive feedback.

Mr Oppers took part in the event as he thought it would gain exposure for Disabled Diving NZ and also to gauge what the public’s response would be to the organisation’s purpose and goals. He also saw it as an opportunity to receive feedback from established business leaders and learn where he can improve.

“It was encouraging to see people’s positive response from Pitch Night. This makes me even more determined to grow Disabled Diving NZ into a successful nationwide programme,” he said.

“Having an opportunity to listen to the other participant’s pitches and share what we do is great. It helps people to be innovative, take a risk and receive feedback from the judges and audience. Walking away with the awards, obviously was the cherry on the cake.”

“I encourage people to like Disabled Diving NZ on Facebook and help spread the word about our organisation so we can help more people.”

Julia Charity from NZ’s home stay network Look After Me was the judge’s Commerical Pitch winner.  Driving her decision to pitch was the launch of a new tourism product and seeking $100,000 investment funds to leverage off the Tourism Growth Partnership programme.

“I was stunned and humbled to win. It has re-energised me to keep striving to deliver value to New Zealand.”

“The prize package is considerable and the mentoring will really push new boundaries for my business. I also came away with the names of some enthusiastic new investors, so it was worth entering, just for that,” she said.

“The best things about Pitch Night were seeing the pride in my investors and hosts faces when I won and the opportunity to stand in front of judges of such credibility and calibre. They represented investors from Tauranga, Taupo, Waikato and Auckland.  I could never have achieved that without this competition,” Ms Charity said.

The judges included Soda Inc CEO Dr Claire McGowan, beany.biz CEO Sue de Bievre, Snowball Effect Head of Company Pipeline Shaun Edlin, Enterprise Angel Executive Director Bill Murphy and head judge Mayor Steve Chadwick.

More information

  • Rotorua X is a charitable trust with the purpose to connect, educate and inspire Rotorua businesses and social enterprises.
  • The Start-up Pitch Night was developed to help foster an entrepreneurial community in Rotorua to support businesses to launch and grow
  • The evening was only possible through the principal sponsor EMA Bay of Plenty and all the organisation that donated goods and services for prizes
  • 7 organisations pitched on the night:
    • Holly Gray Flight Centre Travel Broker – Holly Gray
    • Look After Me – Julia Charity
    • Ihu Kohatu Dreams Team – Victoria Wikitoria Hunter
    • Virtual Retirement Village – Vijo Madappilly Jose
    • Disabled Diving NZ – Heilke Oppers
    • The Rogue Stage – Karin Vincent
    • Colleen Mullin – Counselling

Prizes were:

Best Commercial Pitch:

  • $2,000 RX Incubate Programme
  • $675 Firestation – Business Coaching (90 mns), Marketing (90 mns)
  • $450 Copeland Law Voucher (90 mns)
  • $375 BDO Rotorua Voucher (90 mns)
  • $375 EMA BoP Voucher (90 mns)
  • $300 Firestation Boardroom Voucher (8 hours)
  • $200 Woods Design Brand Audit

Best Social Enterprise Pitch:

  • $2,000 RX Incubate Programme
  • $295 biz ‘Starting A New Business Package’
  • $180 dubzz Digital Marketing Half Day Course
  • $150 Red Spot Graphic Design Voucher (90 mns)
  • $300 Firestation Boardroom Voucher (8 Hours)
  • $40 Unfair Fight by Sam Hazledine

People’s Choice Award:

  • Priceless beany.biz ‘Mentoring Session’ (60 mns)
  • $210 River Rats Vouchers
  • $200 Firestation Boardroom Voucher (4 Hours)
  • $180 2016 Mastery x 4 – People’s Choice
  • $100 Flight Centre Travel Voucher
  • $40 Design to Grow: How Coca-Cola Learned to Combine Scale and Agility


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