Each year, SubSummit hosts its annual Pitch Competition to support subscription startups. Hundreds of applications are submitted, 20 semifinalists are selected, and only four get to pitch live at the conference itself for a chance to win a life-changing prize package. This blog takes you on the journey of the 2021 winner, Susan Black of Wowzitude.
It’s day two here at SubSummit 2021 in Dallas, Texas.
Susan Black, Founder of Wowzitude — a digital subscription that helps the elderly tour the world virtually — is anxiously awaiting to hear if the judges have made a decision after her performance the night before during the final round of the SubSummit Pitch Competition.
Each minute feels longer than the next. Was her pitch convincing enough? Did she answer the judges’ questions as well as she could have?
SubSummit Co-Founder Chris George hands a sealed letter to a representative from the competition’s sponsor, Pitney Bowes.
“And the winner for the 2021 Pitch Competition is… Susan Black, Wowzitude!”
The adrenaline rushes through her veins. She gets up, high fiving and shaking hands with anyone on her path to the stage. The smile on her face continues to grow, extending beyond her ears, while all she can utter is “Wow.”
“This is what we call a ‘Wow’ moment!” Black tells the crowd.
She realizes then that her promising startup’s future just got a whole lot brighter.
Outgrowing the Startup Phase Through Enhanced Credibility
Six months have gone by since Black stepped off the SubSummit stage. She has back-to-back-to-back virtual tours scheduled for the day, yet her smile is still as wide as it was on that unforgettable night.
“The year that’s gone by in terms of our own growth here at Wowzitude has been unbelievable,” she says. “We started this to solve a problem that really happened during Covid-19 but then, of course, continues on, which is providing both older adults and others an access to live-streamed virtual tours, and it has exploded.”
Winning the SubSummit 2021 Pitch Competition undeniably helped Black and the Wowzitude team financially — $20,000 in cash and prizes will do that. It also helped Wowzitude add another huge, less tangible, asset: Credibility.
Everyone wants to work with a winner, especially the winner of the world’s largest DTC subscription pitch competition. In the last six months, Wowzitude has been approached for several partnership opportunities, Black tells SUBTA, including museums, libraries, and the corporate world.
“We are literally working with just about any group that has an audience that really loves to go all around the world via live streams,” Black explains. “The publicity and exposure [of the Pitch Competition] was just amazing.”
Wowzitude’s fast-paced growth has enabled the team to adjust the size of its virtual tours. At first, Black says, tours used to fit up to 50 participants. Now, they can fit up to 300. Every week, Wowzitude takes thousands of individuals around the world. While this kind of demand requires a lot of hard work from Black and her team, she says that the responses she gets from participants make it all worth it.
“I never thought I would get to the Vatican,” one person said.
“I never thought that I would see Jerusalem again,” another told Black.
“I never thought I’d get back to Dublin where I was born,” one mentioned.
“That’s what keeps us going,” Black says.
The coronavirus pandemic enabled the Wowzitude team to identify a huge gap in the travel industry. What started as a solution to a modern problem quickly evolved into a successful subscription business that is committed to making its members’ lives easier through a unique and personalized experience.
Outgrowing the Startup Phase Through More Funding
What would you do if you won $20,000 in cash and in-kind services? Where would you want to immediately invest that kind of money?
The Wowzitude team decided to focus on brand exposure, designs, and marketing efforts.
“We accelerated our growth exponentially by having that incredible traction that was really needed at that time because we’re bootstrapped,” Black says. “For the in-kind services, we really took advantage of the consulting services of SUBTA. We still do. How to improve our landing pages, how to improve our conversions, how to minimize churn… All these things that we’re really working on strategically would have cost thousands of dollars in consulting.”
Black understands that running a subscription startup efficiently goes beyond financial assistance. It’s about learning and implementing strategies that will empower her business to grow at an exponential rate.
The prize package enabled Wowzitude to expand its reach and create new, mutually beneficial partnerships with industry leaders that Black plans to announce in the near future.
The company continues to invest in training the 72 guides that it works with. Black wants to focus on the content that’s being put out, and ultimately, accomplish the initial mission Wowzitude was created for 14 months ago: “We are passionate about delivering facilitated, live, community-based experiences for older adults; inspired by our research-backed content development and captivating presentation style, designed to entertain, enrich and engage.”Attend the final round the 2022 Pitch Competition Presented by Pitney Bowes and Praella LIVE at SubSummit on June 1!
Never Forget Where It All Began
Black is holding the giant check worth $10,000 on the SubSummit stage. She can’t stop looking up from time to time.
Her eyes are looking past the ceiling of SubSummit. Past the clouds. She’s looking at Wowzitude’s very first customer. The woman she has known her whole life. The company’s unofficial co-founder.
“My mother was the inspiration [for Wowzitude],” Black tells SUBTA, holding back tears. “At 96, she was in lockdown in assisted living. Sharp as a tack, funny as could be, and a global traveler all her life. When we were able to bring these virtual tours, she was our first traveler. Sadly, she passed as a result of Covid-19.”
Black looks back at the crowd and approaches the microphone.
She’s attempting to contain the tears of joy begging to come out. She points her finger up to the sky, and says, “Mom, this one’s for you.”