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The Impact Of Pitch And Polish

‘Are you ready?’ 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 ‘Pitch & Polish!’

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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.

Related: How Radio DJs Can Help Improve Your Sales Pitch

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.

Related: It’s Sell Or Die Because Sales Are The Lifeblood Of Every Company

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.

Entrepreneur Magazine is South Africa's top read business publication with the highest readership per month according to AMPS. The title has won seven major publishing excellence awards since it's launch in 2006. Entrepreneur Magazine is the "how-to" handbook for growing companies. Find us on Google+ here.

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Fintech Hackathon To Support South Africa’s Entrepreneurs

Xero hosts South African developer technology challenge – and appoints a new General Country Manager.

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 Xero, the global leader in online accounting software has today launched a national competition, to put South Africa’s growing fintech industry firmly on the map. To mark the start of the developer technology challenge, Xero has also announced the appointment of Colin Timmis as Country Manager for South Africa, to take Xero forward.

Launched with Amazon Web Services, the virtual hackathon will enable the region’s technology entrepreneurs to compete with other forward thinking developers on a global scale. To take part, they need to develop an app that can sit within the Xero’s global ecosystem of over 600 apps.

As announced last night at an exclusive event in Johannesburg, the winner will receive R62,720 and the opportunity to attend and exhibit their app at Xerocon the world’s largest conference for over 3,000 accountants and bookkeepers, taking place in London in November.

Related: How The SA Government Can Help Small Businesses Thrive

Xero, which first launched in South Africa in May 2016, is now one of the fastest growing software companies globally, with 1.4 million subscribers around the world. In South Africa, the company is currently supporting tens of thousands of local small businesses, and a substantial support network of accountants. The competition marks the first in a series of Xero-led initiatives created for the South African tech community, as it continues to help more businesses and their advisors thrive.

“Since Xero first set foot in South Africa, I’ve been really impressed by the strong entrepreneurial spirit amongst the small business community. It’s really important that they are supported in the right way; and given space to pursue their best ideas and to grow. That’s why it’s time to open up our global developer competition to a South African audience. Those that have won it elsewhere have instantly been able to propel their business, and compete at a global scale,” said Gary Turner, Managing Director, Xero EMEA.

To support its continued growth in South Africa, Xero has promoted Colin Timmis, to Country Manager. Previously Head of Accounting at Xero SA, he brings a wealth of experience and skill to his new role. Before arriving at Xero, Colin founded South Africa’s first cloud accounting practice, Real Time Accounting, in 2011 – becoming Xero’s first Global Gold Partner in 2013, and its third fastest growing partner in the global territory by 2014.

“With over 12 years of experience in the accounting profession, promoting Colin to Country Manager will accelerate adoption of Xero in South Africa.” said Gary Turner: “His experience in cloud accounting, software implementation, development, integration and best practice is peerless. He’s already done great work for us during our market entry phase and I can’t wait to see how together we can help more and more South African small businesses realise the benefits of cloud-based accounting.”

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Breaking Down Borders – Top Considerations For SMEs Expanding Into Africa

In light of Africa Day on the 25th of May, more South African small and medium enterprise (SME) owners should be encouraged to look at how they could expand their operations into the rest of the continent.

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In light of Africa Day on the 25th of May, more South African small and medium enterprise (SME) owners should be encouraged to look at how they could expand their operations into the rest of the continent.

This is according to Mark Paper, Chief Operating Officer at Business Partners International (BUSINESS/PARTNERS), who says that Africa has for long been regarded as a region with untapped economic opportunity. “The African Development Bank1 reports that the economic growth in Africa is set to accelerate to 4.1% over the course of 2018 and 2019, which can potentially yield benefits for SMEs.”

Paper points out that entrepreneurs should however firstly consider that each of Africa’s 54 countries represents a unique market with differing challenges and intricacies for doing business.

“The various economies, laws, languages and cultures need to be thoroughly assessed as part of the entrepreneur’s expansion plan, which should be structured around the target region’s strengths, weaknesses, potential opportunities and threats.”

Related: Expansion Funding Options For Your Growing Business

He says that once the enterprise is ready to start operations in a specific region, the entrepreneur needs to ensure that the regulatory requirements of the region are adhered to.  “It is crucial to conduct due diligence and understand all relevant regulations. Most of the companies that make mistakes during this phase find themselves facing massive fines or potentially devastating legal action further down the line.”

According to Paper, the information that should be at the entrepreneur’s fingertips include the required permits, business and property registration processes, credit requirements, tax legislation, labour market regulations, and local content requirements.

He adds that the entrepreneur should also know which laws are in place to protect foreign investors. “Developing robust contracts and using local attorneys to ensure that contracts can be enforced under local laws is therefore imperative.”

Next, Paper says that it is essential to have a strong local presence, knowledge of the local market, and an understanding of customer expectations. “Employing workers from the region can potentially be one of the best ways to support the company’s operations. It will not only benefit the business and its reputation, but the local economy too.”

He notes that finding the right employees, creating cohesive teams and implementing skills training within the organisation relies heavily on understanding the culture of the region, and being able to effectively work around the potential language barriers. “It could help to consult local human resources firms and hiring agencies with strong track records in the region.”

Another point for entrepreneurs to consider, is whether the country has reliable electricity supply, says Paper.

“Electricity supply continues to be a challenge in various countries, and there are many regions that only receive electricity from their national power grids for a few hours per day. Where necessary, the entrepreneur will need to budget for the installation of generators, or even consider signing contracts with mobile fast-track power suppliers who can operate and maintain their own generators on the business’s property.”

Related: Thinking Of Cross-Border Expansion? Consider This First

While entrepreneurs need to consider a number of aspects when expanding across borders, he adds that the rewards for getting it correct are significant, and that the perceived challenges should not deter entrepreneurs from taking the leap, rather serving as a reminder of the amount of research that should be conducted beforehand.”

“Africa is open for business. All it takes is enough drive, passion and perseverance to tap into its growing markets,” Paper concludes.

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President Ramaphosa To Address SA’s Biggest Board Meeting, The Directors Event

President Cyril Ramaphosa will be delivering a keynote address at The Directors event on 8 June 2018, at the Sandton Convention Centre.

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President Cyril Ramaphosa will be delivering the keynote address at South Africa’s biggest board meeting, The Directors Event, which will take place at the Sandton Convention Centre on 8 June 2018.  Dr Jabu Mabuza, Chairman of Business Leadership South Africa will deliver this year’s Chairman’s Report.

Now in its fourth year, The Directors Event invites industry leaders to unpack three issues of national importance and discuss solutions in a public forum, moderated by highly-respected media personalities.

Youth employment & entrepreneurship, the use of technology to promote inclusive growth, and our political economy will be hot topics in this year’s highly focussed discussion programme which attracts participation from the country’s most prominent business and government leaders, and an audience of 300 ‘board member’ delegates.

“We are honoured to have President Ramaphosa address this important gathering of some of the top minds in South Africa. We invited him as a response to the call he made during his maiden State of the Nation Address earlier this year, calling on all South Africans, in their small corners, to help develop this country. We believe, strongly, that corporate South Africa has a massive role to play and we are very excited that everyone seems to have accepted the President Ramaphosa’s “Thuma Mina” call,” says Bongani Siqoko, editor of the Sunday Times.

Nontokozo Madonsela, Chief Marketing Officer of MMI, the JSE listed holding company for Momentum, Metropolitan and other financial services providers says, “We are incredibly honoured and excited that President Cyril Ramaphosa will be delivering the keynote address at this year’s Biggest Board Meeting. Over the past few months, we have experienced a wave of change in the country that has brought with it much needed confidence in what we can achieve. As a company with deep roots in South Africa serving a broad spectrum of citizens and businesses, we are heeding the President’s call to lend a hand in addressing our challenges. We are saying #CountUsIn, we want to be there. We believe this platform creates a space where we can have constructive dialogue and come up with concrete solutions that can positively contribute to improving the state our country”.

Related: President Ramaphosa’s Support Of Entrepreneurs And SMEs In SONA Had Us Cheering

President Ramaphosa will be the highest ranking government official to address The Directors Event with his keynote message.  Previous keynote speakers at The Directors Event have included Caroline Galvan (Lead Economist & Editor: Africa Competitiveness Report for the World Economic Forum), and Mcebisi Jonas (Former Deputy Minister of Finance).

Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, Minister of Science & Technology, and Enoch Godongwana, Chairperson of the ANC sub-committee on Economic Transformation will also be representing the perspectives of Government and the governing party during the round-table discussions at this year’s event.


The Directors Event programme is tailored for corporates, SMEs, educators, and non-profit organisations who are serious about turning South Africa’s socio-economic crisis around.

The Directors Event will take place at the Sandton Convention Centre on 8 June 2018.  To view the 2018 agenda, speaker profiles, or to book tickets: www.thedirectorsevent.co.za 

The Directors Event brought to you by the Sunday Times Top 100 Companies and MMI Holdings Limited, is supported by partners Mancosa (GSB), the Institute of Directors (IoD SA), and Greymatter & Finch.

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