The show, which tapes in New York, features three entrepreneurs per episode who each give a two-minute pitch and answer questions for six minutes. While the show’s content isn’t limited to tech startups, the Gearharts want New Jersey tech entrepreneurs to know that they are welcome to try out for it. Both Gearharts are steeped in the New Jersey tech community, and Elizabeth has been an organizer of the Morris Tech Meetup for several years.
The husband-and-wife team credit networking with giving them the opportunity to host the show. “Richard met someone at a Vistage group in New York who had a radio show on CBS Radio. We attended a live taping and met the media person at CBS,” who later moved to iHeartRadio, Elizabeth said. “She had seen Richard moderate one of our international events in New York,” and so “she asked us to host the show.”
Each “Passage to Profit” episode features a 18-minute interview of a successful entrepreneur and then the three pitches. “One of the things iHeartRadio wanted us to do is tape in advance of the airing date,” to give them a buffer in case something goes wrong. And things have gone wrong. At one taping session, two entrepreneurs didn’t show up. The hosts had to scramble, but they came up with alternatives.
Startups are cast through the New York-based Passage to Profit Meetup group, where the Gearharts hold auditions once a month. People join the meetup if they want to get on the show. At the meetup, Elizabeth, Richard and a producer listen to the pitches and decide who will fit the show best. The instructions on the meetup page tell entrepreneurs to “bring your best 2 minute pitch and lots of business cards for networking.”
Elizabeth notes that members of the Morris Tech Meetup needn’t audition, but they will have to talk to Elizabeth or Richard at a Morris Tech Meetup and make sure they show up at the tapings, which happen on Wednesday afternoons in New York.
Richard noted that this is a tremendous opportunity for the entrepreneurs. “iHeartRadio is a powerful brand and its app has been downloaded by more than 100 million users. The show is broadcast through the app. It is also broadcast through the radio in the tri-state area at 8 p.m. Sunday evenings, WOR and iHeartRadio. It is also available as a podcast that can be downloaded from iHeartRadio or the Gearhart Law website.” A Shark Tank scout was a guest on an episode that will air in the near future, and three lucky entrepreneurs got to pitch in front of him.
“It’s a lot of good exposure for entrepreneurs that want to get the word out. The entrepreneurs get listed on the website, and listeners vote for the projects they like the best. The entrepreneurs can go out on social media, promote the show and ask their fans to vote for them,” Richard said.
The people who come to pitch are pretty smart entrepreneurs, Elizabeth told us. “We don’t charge anything for this. We are sponsoring it ourselves.” And they are also looking for other sponsors. “When we started out, if we had been given eight minutes on a New York radio station, we would have jumped at the chance,” she added.
The show has been good for Gearhart Law. Some of the firm’s clients have appeared on the show. Also, Richard said that Gearhart Law gets a lot of brand recognition, and “we get to meet a lot of great people. It’s also a lot of fun! We enjoy the process of supporting entrepreneurs, and this is one thing we can do.”
Elizabeth and Richard have great synergy as co-hosts. “iHeart wanted Richard because of the gravitas,” but Kenya Gipson, brand integration manager at iHeart media thought that the married couple could “play off of each other. … We joke around a lot. We treat our presenters with respect, but we have a lot of fun.”