“First I was afraid; I was petrified” … Gloria Gaynor certainly did not have entrepreneurs in mind when she sang these words, in her classic disco hit “I will survive”. But the opening words of the song could very well describe the feelings of most entrepreneurs when they first begin pitching their business to potential investors and clients.
Fear is certainly the order of the day. However, like Gaynor, survival is also the order of the day and entrepreneurs who are unable to master the art of the pitch are unlikely to master the art of survival.
In fact, having overcome the fear, and having moved past being petrified, successful entrepreneurs become addicted to pitching. How, one may ask, is it possible to become a pitch-addict?
Like any healthy addiction, such as to exercise, practice makes perfect. One cannot become a ‘pitch-addict’ until one has moved through the fear of pitching. Becoming a pitch addict requires you to actually pitch – often!
The mirror is a good place to start, followed by the 3 Fs, friends, family and fools (i.e. anyone who will listen!). And even if the 3Fs in your life do not actually invest, the experience you will have gained in pitching to them, over and over, is immeasurable.
Related: The Impact Of Pitch And Polish
It is the first step on the path to addiction. And then it’s time for the real world! Bankers, investors, venture capitalists and, of course, potential clients.
The way you become a pitch addict is simply to breathe deeply and to tell yourself that no matter what feedback you get, you will find a way to use it to your advantage. You tell yourself that you will handle the feedback, no matter how hard it may be to hear.
In this way, you build your resilience to handle feedback. It is a virtuous cycle: the more feedback you get, the better you get; the better you get, the more courage you gain to pitch.
The fear never truly goes away. Even the most seasoned pitchers feel fear before they pitch their business. The pitch addicts are simply not letting fear get in the way! The more you say ‘yes’ to every opportunity to pitch, the more likely you are to become a pitch addict.
Suddenly, you will feel your fear turning into excitement. There is a ‘rush’ that accompanies the pitch – it is this rush to which pitch addicts become addicted.
“Just before the final pitch I was so nervous, and once on the stage the immense preparation helped me deliver a polished pitch.” says Murendeni Mafumo, the winner of ENGEN Pitch & Polish 2016, receiving R60 000 on the night.
“And once I’m done, and I know that I have faced my fear and conquered it, I am open to whatever feedback comes my way!” he adds.
“After winning, I feel grateful for the validation of my dreams.” Murendeni, who lives in Fourways, Johannesburg, won the judges over with his pitch on his existing business, Kusini Water, which uses technology developed to treat water. Murendeni’s love for science was sparked when he received a science set, as a present, when he was very young.
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As his scientific knowledge grew, so too did his passion to make a positive difference in his community. Today, he ensures that people, specifically in rural areas, have clean drinking water.
“I thought I knew about business, but ENGEN Pitch & Polish has given me even more skills to grow my business beyond my wildest dreams!” says Murendeni.
It is important, however, to curb your addiction. A balance between working on your business, and talking about your business is essential. It is also crucial to be a discerning addict. Do your homework first. If there is something to be gained from the pitch, go for it!
The 2016 ENGEN Pitch & Polish programme, which was hosted by Engen Petroleum Ltd, Nedbank, Raizcorp and SAfm, culminated in an exclusive and prestigious event, held in Johannesburg. Alan Shannon, Head of Small Business and Professional Banking at Nedbank, expressed his enthusiasm by saying:
“Pitch & Polish is the perfect fit for Nedbank as we firmly believe that small business is the driver of the economy and employment. We believe in elevating and developing entrepreneurs, which is exactly what this programme does.”
In 2nd place overall in the national competition is Rishav Juglall, from the Durban event. He won R30 000 on the night. This young and dynamic entrepreneur, absorbed all the lessons of the ENGEN Pitch & Polish workshops, and it showed and paid off!
Rishav’s existing business, Rocky Brands, specialises in an array of high quality household cleaning products. As the youngest supplier to one of the largest retailers in South Africa, Rishav’s determination and ambition did not go unnoticed by the judges.
Rishav aspires to export his products all over Africa. His confidence gives him the ability to pitch extremely well, and with the added guidance from ENGEN Pitch & Polish, Rishav is sure to go very far with his business.
The Port Elizabeth contestant, and third-place winner in the finals, Billy Siziba, winning R15 000 on the night, grew up in a family of entrepreneurs. He is elated to be continuing the family tradition of self-employment and sustainability. His existing business, Bullyz Fitness, manufactures and sells gym clothing.
“Gym fees are high,” says Billy. “If you add the cost of gym clothes to that, gym becomes unaffordable for many people.” Bullyz Fitness aims to give people of all shapes and sizes, from all walks of life, access to professional gym clothes. Ever the entrepreneur, Billy is also working on an app that will help them to get, and stay, fit. No doubt the invaluable experience he has gained in ENGEN Pitch & Polish will serve him well as he expands his business to even greater heights.
Now in its seventh year, Engen Petroleum has been a sponsor since 2012. At the beginning of this year’s competition, Unathi Njokweni-Magida Engen’s Group Transformation Manager, said that she was expecting big things this year, “7 is a magic number,” she said. And she was right.
She continues, “This year’s competition has exceeded all my expectations, from the quality of the contestants to the aliveness of the audience, as well as the professionalism of the judges. As the headline sponsor, we could not have asked for more.”
Njokweni-Magida’s enthusiasm is backed up by the facts. This year, the competition hit record numbers with 2 300 entrepreneurs participating in the workshops.
The programme has been so successful that it caught the eye of Business Day TV which commissioned Pitch & Polish for a 10-week TV series which began in October 2016.
ENGEN Pitch & Polish’s power is truly in the pitch which produces a ripple-effect of success for entrepreneurs, and attracts opportunities for change and growth.
In the group photograph from left to right:
- Alan Shannon (Nedbank)
- Billy Siziba (3rd place, from Port Elizabeth)
- Murendeni Mafumo (Winner, from Johannesburg)
- Shirley Moroka-Mosia (Engen)
- Rishav Juglall (2nd place, from Durban)
- Allon Raiz (Raizcorp)
For more information, visit www.pitchandpolish.com
Global Guide For Entrepreneurs, Innovators Launches In Johannesburg
Startup Guide partners with SAP Next-Gen, Tshimologong Precinct to bring global guidebook to Johannesburg innovation ecosystem; calls for nominations.
Calling all entrepreneurs, accelerators, innovators, co-working spaces and experts in the City of Gold: Startup Guide, the leading global guide for start-ups in high-growth innovation hubs in Europe, the US and Middle East, is open to nominations in Johannesburg.
Founded in 2014, Startup Guide is a creative content and publishing company that produces guidebooks and tools to help entrepreneurs to connect to communities and resources in the leading start-up cities around the world. Its global footprint covers some of the most innovative and thriving start-up ecosystems in the US, Europe and the Middle East, including those of London, New York, Berlin, Tel Aviv, and Stockholm. After launching in Cape Town earlier in the year, Startup Guide now moves to Johannesburg.
According to Sissel Hansen, Founder and CEO of Startup Guide, South Africa’s largest city is emerging as a key innovation hub for start-ups.
“Johannesburg has recently emerged as a growing ecosystem for start-ups and entrepreneurs in Africa, particularly in the tech industry. We’re thrilled to have the opportunity to create a comprehensive guide of resources for aspiring founders wanting to do business in South Africa’s largest city.”
Startup Guide Johannesburg was launched at Wits University’s Tshimologong Precinct, one of Johannesburg’s newest high-tech addresses in the vibrant inner-city district of Braamfontein. Tshimologong, which means “new beginnings” in Setswana, focuses on the incubation of digital entrepreneurs, commercialisation of research and the development of high-level digital skills for students, working professionals and unemployed youth. Lesley Williams, CEO of Tshimologong Precinct, says: “South Africa is fast-becoming a go-to source for innovation, especially in the tech sector. We believe the introduction of a dedicated resource for the startup ecosystem in Johannesburg will unlock significant opportunities for innovation hubs such as ours to more easily connect with entrepreneurs, experts and other roleplayers, ultimately providing a more supportive environment for growth.”
Startup Guide has partnered with SAP Next-Gen, a purpose driven innovation university and community for the SAP ecosystem enabling companies, partners and universities to connect and innovate with purpose linked to the UN Sustainable Goals for Development. Ann Rosenberg, Senior Vice President and Head of Global SAP Next-Gen says:
“We strive to connect digital innovators in an open innovation community to drive the future success and growth of industries through the use of technology. As we have witnessed in other high-innovation cities around the world, the introduction of knowledge resources – supported by opportunities for collaboration and partnership in an open ecosystem – enhances the overall success of entire start-up communities. Johannesburg’s world-famous energy and business acumen will greatly benefit from the launch of Startup Guide Johannesburg and the support of industry partners, including SAP Next-Gen and the Tshimologong Precinct.”
Cathy Smith, Managing Director of SAP Africa, adds that the partnership with Startup Guide aligns well with the company’s commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. “As an organisation we are committed to achieving the high ambitions set out by the SDGs. However, it is virtually impossible to do so alone: the concept of partnership with likeminded purpose-driven organisations and initiatives is vital not only to realising the SDGs but to foster a greater and more inclusive innovation ecosystem in Johannesburg and across the African continent.”
Nominations for the Johannesburg edition of Startup Guide are now open. If you know a start-up, entrepreneur, programme, space, accelerator, or experts and would like to see them featured in the book, please visit https://startupguide.com/shop/startup-guide-johannesburg and submit your nomination.
Aspirations For SMMEs In South Africa
Research released earlier this year, revealed that there are only 250 000 formal SMMEs in South Africa.
Entrepreneurs who have started up a business over the past 10 years have done so in an environment that has been largely negative, with slow economic growth and an unstable political landscape. “So, all in all, a very difficult setting to launch, grow or even maintain a business,” says Bizmod MD, Anne-Marie Pretorius.
Pretorius says that many entrepreneurs who operate in South Africa can be forgiven for often wondering if the slog is worth it. Yet they continue – despite economic uncertainty, strikes, retrenchments and downscaling. “It is this tenacity that sets entrepreneurs apart, and I often wonder how much more successful they would be in an easier and more supportive environment.”
Below, Pretorius shares her ideal pro-entrepreneur outlook for the future:
- Greater policy certainty on all key government policies from land reform to regulations surrounding labour broking.
- Being able to do away with bad policy faster. An example of where this did not happen was in the changes of visa requirements; leading to an unnecessary dent in our tourism industry, an industry that should be targeted for growth.
- Lower compliance requirements for companies with a turnover under R50 million. The cost of compliance for smaller enterprises is significantly higher in comparison to their income and the cash they have available. Smaller companies need simpler frameworks where compliance is required. A portal similar to SARS e-filing, which makes compliance across various pieces of legislation clear and simple, would be ideal.
- The Labour Relations Act is a key piece of legislation that has done a lot to protect the rights of the employee. It has attempted to balance the power relationship between employee and employer. Some innovation is however required in labour practices, allowing for mutually beneficial flexible working relationships that keep pace with the changing work environment.
- Buy small, buy South African! A framework whereby large corporations and government would have to allocate a certain minimum percentage to buying from smaller local companies. There are encouraging signs that this is happening more, however this is still not an ingrained practice. In addition, consumers should be more informed on what items are South African produced, in order for them to be encouraged to purchase locally.
- Easier access to funds enabling entrepreneurs to grow their businesses. There are currently a few options available, but all of the options require significant governance and red tape. Whilst this is understandable from the lenders perspective, it does hamper the agility and growth of companies.
- Make good financial governance aspirational, attractive and easily accessible.
- The process for tenders to be corruption free and fair, enabling more companies to add value.
- Pay SMME’s on 30 days or less. Enormous pressure exists on smaller companies when not paid on time. They simply do not have the cash flow to carry a debtor’s book of 90 days and this inevitably hampers their growth.
- Tax SMME’s at a lower tax rate. Profit tax should be lowered in order to drive entrepreneurship.
- Creating a platform that makes it simpler to employ young individuals with potential and create support programmes for SMMEs to upskill them. There is a significant financial and time investment required to train a young person, which can make SMME’s sometimes wary to do so.
“If we are able to make only some of these ideals a reality, there is no doubt that we would see economic growth, entrepreneurial growth, and more employment opportunities,” concludes Pretorius.
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South African Students Win R50 000 In The Universities Business Challenge
Students from Mangosuthu University of Technology beat 500 students from 13 different universities across South Africa.
The Overlings from Mangosuthu University of Technology are the 2018 winners of Cognity Advisory’s Universities Business Challenge (UBC), sponsored by General Electric (GE). The winning team of four students are walking away with R50,000 to turn their business idea into reality.
Launched in July this year, the UBC has seen 500 students from 13 different universities across South Africa participate in a business simulation competition designed to develop entrepreneurship skills.
When the competition launched, all teams were challenged to form virtual companies and to virtually manufacture and sell bicycles.
The final 10 teams were from the University of Limpopo, Mangosuthu University of Technology, Vaal University of Technology, University of KwaZulu-Natal and North-West University.
During the two-day final, the teams played six rounds of simulations. Each simulation gave the teams a chance to re-evaluate their progress and better certain areas that needed improving. The winning team realised during one of their simulations that in order to maximise profits they would need to introduce two new products and market it differently from their initial product. They paid special attention to their customer’s needs.
The aim of the UBC was designed to tackle South Africa’s high level of youth unemployment. Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) that South Africa’s official unemployment rate increased by 0.3 of a percentage point to 27.5% in the third quarter of 2018.
Nkosinathi Sokhulu from the winning team said, “Even though we didn’t have a great presentation we made the most profit. This experience taught us a lot about ourselves and business. Most of the decisions that we made came from serious debates. We learnt that market research is crucial when starting a business. We learnt that marketing starts and ends with the customer.”
“Based on this market research information we realised that it was important for us to introduce two new products and this, in addition to the main product we were selling, helped us to maximise profits. We saw an opportunity to add more products and it paid off” said Mbali Tshozi.
Tope Toogun, development advisor and CEO of Cognity Advisory said, “All the teams showed tremendous promise and I was very impressed by their levels of engagement with one another and their tenacity.”
“We really want to ensure that students are equipped with the necessary skills to not only start a business but to run it effectively. While we have selected one winner, our hope is that each team has benefitted by having learned the skills needed in the workplace.”
“The competition is designed to develop the ‘soft skills’ that are important for those wanting to set up their own business or simply be successful at work. With rising unemployment and ongoing talent shortages, having these skills is crucial for those wanting to get a job.”
The UBC, now in its second year in South Africa, will continue into its third year in 2019 and will run as the Africa Enterprise Challenge (AEC).
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