For the past six years, these sounds have reverberated in community halls across South Africa, as entrepreneurs have presented their business ideas to audiences and expert judges.
What began, in Nelspruit in 2010 with an audience of forty people – as a small idea to assist entrepreneurs to hone their business pitches – has grown into a national programme which, in 2015, saw 1680 audience members attend eight workshops and competitions from Cape Town to Klerskdorp.
Now in its seventh year, the ENGEN Pitch & Polish programme has become so successful that Engen Petroleum Ltd. is sponsoring it for a fifth year, with Nedbank coming on board as a major sponsor for 2016.
“Seven is a magic number,” says Unathi Njokweni-Magida Engen’s Group Transformation Manager, “and so we are expecting big things from the ENGEN Pitch & Polish programme this year.”
Related: Develop The Perfect Sales Pitch
For Njokweni-Magida, Engen’s motto ‘with us you are number one’ dovetails beautifully with Pitch & Polish’s purpose. “The programme aims to find the number one unsung entrepreneur in South Africa. This is the person who, in Stage 1 of the competition, has a business idea that we think will succeed. The question is whether the entrepreneur has what it takes to learn the lessons offered by the workshops, and polish their pitch to such a point that success is inevitable,” says Njokweni-Magida.
Nhlakanipho Shange was one such entrepreneur. Armed with a dream, he entered ENGEN Pitch & Polish in Wentworth, in KwaZulu-Natal, in 2013. Although Shange did not win the competition, he attributes his success to the experience he gained as he proceeded from the first to the semi-final round of the competition.
“At ENGEN Pitch & Polish I learned that preparation is the key to success,” says Shange.
“As an entrepreneur, you never know when someone will ask you: ‘What does your business do?’ If you are unable to answer this question clearly, in less than 3 minutes, you will not be able to access the resources to grow your business,” he states with the self-assurance of an entrepreneur who has integrated the lessons he learned at the workshop.
The competition gave Shange the confidence to transform his idea into a fully-fledged business. AD.IT Solutions is fast becoming a pioneer in disruptive digital media technology in South Africa. And it all began when Shange dared to enter a competition! This year, AD.IT Solution will be providing advertising services for Pitch & Polish. The competition, which started as his teacher, has now become his client.
“I understand now that entrepreneurship is a journey, not a destination,’” says Shange.
From ‘Dragon’s Den’ to ‘The Apprentice’, we have become accustomed to watching entrepreneurs pitching their ideas. Pitch & Polish is different in that it uniquely combines training, audience participation and a competition to ensure as wide a reach as possible. Because it is not possible for everyone to participate in the actual competition, every Pitch & Polish Day begins with a workshop in which the entire audience is provided with knowledge and skills to equip them to translate their ideas into businesses, or to take their existing businesses to greater heights.
The workshop, based on the best-selling book, ‘Lose the Business Plan’ by Allon Raiz, CEO of Raizcorp, teaches entrepreneurs that starting a business is not about funding. Rather, it is about having a product or service for which people are willing to pay.
“Without a paying customer,” says Raiz, “you don’t have a business. Yet, from workshop to workshop, when asked who their target market is, the standard answer given by entrepreneurs is: ‘Everyone’. Pitch & Polish forces entrepreneurs to question deeply and to find answers to the key questions: ‘What do you sell?’ and ‘Who’s buying?’ If you cannot answer these two questions, you do not have a business,” says Raiz.
Raiz continues, “Pitch & Polish provides a safe environment for entrepreneurs to learn the lessons – before they have to face the dragons!”
Nedbank, one of the sponsors of Pitch & Polish, continues to support SMEs as well as aspirant entrepreneurs through practical solutions. ‘Through our ongoing engagement with small and medium enterprises, we understand the enormous responsibility business owners face in starting up and running their businesses. The Pitch & Polish workshops are a perfect platform to empower businesses with simple tools aimed at refining their ideas and building their confidence for the journey ahead. This is another way we continue to make the things that really matter for businesses happen,’ says Tracy Afonso: Head of Strategy, Small Business and Professional Banking at Nedbank.
Every one of the 1680 people who attended ENGEN Pitch & Polish workshops last year learned something, both about themselves and about business.
“If each participant implements one of the lessons in their business, or passes on the lesson to another, the ripple effect of Pitch & Polish on the economy is enormous,” says Raiz.
For a list of this year’s workshops, and to experience the magic of Pitch & Polish for yourself, visit www.pitchandpolish.com.
A Conversation With Yourself Could Change Your Life
Thami Buti is a 24-year-old South African actor. He is amongst the 46% of South Africans between 20 and 50 years, who have no savings at all. He’s probably one of 90% of people who will retire with less than 50% of their income.
Except none of this is true for Thami, because he’s had a conversation with himself – at six different ages – in Sanlam’s new educational campaign.
In Sanlam’s Conversations with Yourself campaign, Thami gets transformed into a 20, 30, 50, 65 and 80-year-old (actor Hlumelo Mzimkulu plays the 10-year-old) called YOU. And over a series of conversations, these characters in their different age brackets sit and share wisdom on life’s ‘what ifs.’ Disrupting the traditional approach to ‘finance talk’, the central idea is this: what if you could learn everything you need to know about life, from yourself? What if 65 year-old you could tell you – at age 20 – to stop buying so many cappuccinos and to invest more into an RA? And 30-year-old you could ask you at 80 how many kids you have – and how you afford to give them the lifestyle and opportunities you want for them?
Sonja Sanders, Head of Marketing and Client Experience at Sanlam Personal Finance, says each of the seven Conversations with Yourself films uses humour and insight to broach a different topic – and presents the accompanying product solve. “For example, the Conversation on Life and Retirement tackles retirement in a completely new way. Planning for retirement is often not a priority when you’re young. But what if you knew only 6% of South Africans are able to cover their monthly expenses once they retire? And what if you could ask your 65-year-old self whether you are one of the 6%? Would 20-year-old you still take that year off? Would you at age 30 still buy that flashy car?”
Using banter to bring home the fact that today’s decisions will define life when you’re older, the script takes a notoriously low-interest topic and makes it relatable.
The same goes for the highly sensitive topic of death, which no one wants to talk about — undoubtedly a problem in a country with an average age of death that stands at 64 years, and where 40% of the workforce is more likely to have cell phone insurance than life insurance.
Sanders says, “Conversations with Yourself takes an idea we’ve all had to the next level: The wish to fast-track into the future to see if our lives worked out the way we expected. Ultimately, you are your own partner in life. Everything you do now either benefits your future or jeopardises it. It’s often too daunting to imagine one’s future-self. But Conversations with Yourself connects the future to the present, and makes the experience real and impactful.”
Related: How To Start Saving Money Today
South Africa’s problematic savings culture has been well documented. In the retirement space, Sanlam’s Benchmark research has identified millennials as the generation most at risk of having insufficient savings, mainly due to their DIY approach to money matters, their mistrust of financial service institutions and the fact that they don’t identify with retirement as a goal. It’s a generation known for overconfidence despite their poor financial literacy. Millennials prefer self-directed advice – so what better way to deliver it than through a ‘conversation with yourself’?
“As WealthsmithsTM, Sanlam wants to empower people with the knowledge and tools to enable them to make positive financial decisions today. This should set them up for success both now and into the future. Conversations with Yourself helps people to appreciate that the planning they do today has significant implications for their future self. Ultimately, the campaign uses progressive storytelling to share a story to which any generation can relate. The story of you,” concludes Sanders.
Visit Conversationswithyourself to watch the films and start your own conversation.
10X-e Partners With Alphacode To Accelerate Five Top Companies In South Africa
South African Scale Up specialists, 10X-e, will partner with SA’s premier fintech incubator subsidiary of RMI, Alphacode to support SA’s top Fintech’s on their path to scale.
This collaboration will initially see five of SA’s highest-profile fintech companies investing two years scaling up using 10X-e’s much lauded 10X program. 10X-e’s founder, Jason Goldberg, says that this accelerator program helps scale-up teams learn and apply the 12 disciplines for rapid and sustainable growth.
“We are delighted to be working with AlphaCode – SA’s premier fintech support brand – to help some of SA’s top Fintech entrepreneurs scale-up” says Jason.
The first five elite fintech businesses selected to join the program are Entersekt, Livestock Wealth, Click2Sure, Invoice Worx and Isazi Consulting.
“Globally leading mobile authentication and security specialists, Entersekt are set to be South Africa’s next ‘unicorn’ while Livestock Wealth is changing the investment landscape by offering the ability to own and manage your livestock via an app from Sandton (or anywhere), outsourcing all the dirty work to their specialist operators. Click2Sure was founded by Dan Guasco – the original founder of what became Groupon SA, and Isazi Consulting (who started already in late 2017)is led by one of SA’s leading teams of data scientists and artificial intelligence experts” Jason continues.
“Another accolade for this cohort is that three of the five businesses are majority black-owned tech ventures, and most certainly earned their place on the program on pure merit terms. We’re really proud to be supporting these globally competitive entrepreneurs.”
Jason notes that, even for elite entrepreneurs and ventures like these, specialist scale-up accelerators like the 10X Program can be the difference between scaling and failing.
“There’s no doubt that accelerators specialising in how to scale a business are invaluable for most entrepreneurs at this delicate stage in a business journey. Growth often kills when businesses cross a threshold of complexity not experienced before. Most great entrepreneurs are scaling a company for the first time. Fortunately, there is a defined ‘physics’ of rapid growth; rightly applying the 12 Disciplines of 10X Entrepreneurs – the heart of the 10X Program – you can dramatically increase the rate and sustainability of growth,” he says.
“We are dealing with the ‘crème de la crème’ of South Africa’s entrepreneurs dealing with the most extreme growing pains, so the need for guidance from seasoned Scale Up leaders who’ve ‘been there’ is key to both the success of the business and to its contribution to our economy. We look forward to helping these Founders navigate the Bermuda Triangle of growth successfully” Jason concludes.
The partnership with Alphacode will see game-changing support provided to these businesses worth around R1million over a period of 2 years as they are hand-held by industry experts on the treacherous path to scale.
Scaling – the Bermuda triangle of growth – is hard, and fraught with failure. Very few of even the top 1% of ventures succeed at scaling, mostly due to poor execution, due to lack of experience scaling businesses. The 10X Program brings the ‘Science of Scale’ and seasoned Scale Up Leaders to help founders navigate the Bermuda Triangle of growth
Our team has helped some of the Continent’s most exciting high growth businesses scale up through the most treacherous parts of the journey. We tailor make multiple workshops to the specific needs of you, your team, and your business. Our workshops serve to address the most pressing challenges that your business faces, helping remove the hurdles towards 10X growth.
For more information on the 10X Accelerator Program, visit: www.10x-e.com
Chairman Of Futureproof, S’onqoba Maseko On Instilling New Ways To Accelerate Our Youths
In the near future, traditional employment opportunities will no longer exist. SA needs to prepare our children for the fourth industrial revolution, now.
Futureproof is proud to introduce the chairman of our board, S’onqoba Maseko. S’onqoba received her Honours Degree from Wits University and is just three exams away from being a fully-qualified Actuary. The 31-year-old S’onqoba, originally from the banking industry, has previously filled several key roles at The First Rand Group, including; executive assistant to the Group CEO, Sizwe Nxasana and the head of the FNB Innovators Programme.
She is the founding COO of the Sifiso Education Group – a disruptor in the education space which also is the owner of Future Nation Schools. S’onqoba is also the Managing Director of an advisory and implementation consultancy for SMME’s called Perpetu8.
Naturally, combining her skills and experience with a passion for education and entrepreneurship has made her the perfect fit for Futureproof! S’onqoba believes that education is crucial. “It’s a game changer for the nation, the continent and the globe. It requires us to prepare children for an uncertain future in the best way we know how,”
“In a country such as ours, Futureproof instils the entrepreneurial qualities needed to not only run a business but to navigate through life,” S’onqoba continues.
The current education system does not cater to the needs of our local and global economy. In the time of innovation, our teachers are not equipped to deal with this change and soon enough, traditional employment opportunities will no longer exist. Speaking to this topic, S’onqoba says: “It’s not about only content – you can Google anything. It’s about skills such as critical and analytical thinking, creativity, communication, collaboration and technology”.
With the lack of skills available to prepare our country for the fourth industrial revolution, S’onqoba says that we need to find ways to unearth existing skills and to impart new skills that are more aligned to what industry and the country needs. “We need to reframe our thinking: we need entrepreneurs, technical specialists, technology whizz kids. We need creatives, thinkers and solution-orientated problem solvers”.
“We need to make school content and theory relevant to the current and future world. We need a curriculum, approach and a pool of skills that align to the world and the future predicted. Grade 1 learners this year will finish school in 2030. Are we teaching them what they will need to succeed?”
She believes that the high unemployment rate of our youth is largely due to a lack of skills. “We have so many job vacancies yet so much unemployment. We still have companies wich only recruit based on formal qualifications and see this as the only way to have the required skills. This is outdated, and the world is moving beyond it”.
With South Africa now in technical recession, S’onqoba stresses the need for the country to pull up its boot straps and get on with the hard work that needs to be done. “Our entrepreneurial ecosystem is not working as well as it should. It’s broken. We’re spending billions as a country whilst seeing very little impact and return of that investment”.
Caring for the needs of all stakeholders, S’onqoba believes that one of the reasons for Futureproof’s success and phenomenal growth is because the business simply ‘gets on with it’. “No excuses, no time wasting” she explains.
As a flourishing entrepreneur in a tough economy, S’onqoba shares some of her key learnings and says that an entrepreneur cannot survive without grit, curiosity and EQ: “Set up a business for scale from day one – think of your end state and build your business with that in mind. Recruit people who ‘get it’ and then develop them to be the best version of themselves so that they can add great value to your business,”
“Fill your board with passionate, skilled specialists who don’t only look to monetary income but are driven by passion, community and purpose. Manage your time like its money; in fact, it’s more precious”.
We need to build sustainable businesses that employ more people and grow in revenue and turnover. “We need businesses that embrace the future and technology to solve the problems we face in an efficient and customer centered way without legacy and an inability to innovate standing in the way.” she concludes.
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