Curtains came down this month on the national Engen Pitch and Polish entrepreneurial workshop and competition with one a female entrepreneur standing head above shoulders over three of her male competitors.
Lebo Selloane from Welkom in the Free State was announced the overall winner. Selloane is the brains behind an on-site mobile X-ray business. She walked away a cash prize, as well as the invaluable business lessons she learnt along her way to success.
CEO of Raizcorp, and one of the judges, Allon Raiz said: “When an entrepreneur paints the story behind the journey, it immediately gets my attention, as the story tells me what his or her connection is to the product or service. It paints a picture and reveals authenticity and vulnerability. Supported with deep research, sound financial knowledge and potential return on investment – the pitch will be convincing.”
As a Key Accounts Manager of MRI scans and X-rays at TechMed, Selloane horned her skills and identified a gap in the market for a mobile X-ray service.
She is also the founder and CEO of Dream Girls Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation that seeks to empower young women to be confident, independent and skilled.
Selloane rose from the proverbial ashes like a phoenix to overtake three other contestants at the Pitch and Polish competition after she had been eliminated in the semi-finals, only to be brought back as a Wild Card in the grand finale.
She was competing with an agripreneur with a fruit-picking business, Themba Sehawu from Nelspruit; a techpreneur with an online tendering platform, Asa Mazomba from Port Elizabeth; and an accountant-turned-agripreneur with a mushroom farm, Ayanda Ntsho from Soweto.
About Pitch and Polish
The Pitch and Polish platform is designed to give local entrepreneurs the opportunity to have their ideas brainstormed, tested and challenged. Through the course of the workshop day, they receive valuable feedback and insights, and also win cash prizes.
To date, the workshop and competition has helped polish over 6000 hopeful entrepreneurs’ pitches. The workshops and competition are held across the country in Port Elizabeth, Soweto, Nelspruit, Welkom, Cape Town, Richards Bay, Rustenburg and Durban.
To reach the final round, contestants have to successfully compete through three rounds. Winners from Round 1, Round 2 and the Wild Card go through to the semi-final, and if successful, they progress to the final which is held in Johannesburg.
The Wild Card round allows entrepreneurs who haven’t made it through the successive rounds to apply online to pitch their idea on air with SAfm radio. Studio judges as well as listeners are able to give feedback.
The Engen Petroleum Ltd Group Transformation Manager, Unathi Njokweni-Magida said he was impressed with the high level of commitment from the contestants.
“We are witnessing a flourishing entrepreneurial culture in South Africa which is inclusive and collaborative in nature. The entrepreneur’s story is the platform that beckons interest – from peers and investors alike,” she said.
5 Tips from Allon Raiz on how to tell your entrepreneurial story and get the edge
1. Identify the root of your idea
The big idea is your reason for being in business. It is not the ‘what’ or ‘how’, it is the ‘why’ you are doing what you do. Chances are most companies can easily tell you what they do and how they do it, but would find it difficult to express why they do it.
2. Keep it simple, keep it real
Keep your narrative simple and limited to few memorable reasons for your customers to choose you. The most powerful stories are often the most simple. They are also rooted in authenticity and told consistently. Don’t chop and change your story.
3. Emotions are critical
The saying that people will not remember what you said, but how you made them feel is never more true or important than when you are building your story. Your narrative must include an emotional experience in order for your customers to remember it. The emotion is what people connect and relate to.
4. Know your numbers
Know the true cost of your product or service and its selling price. When speaking to investors, get to the numbers quickly and illustrate through your story, how much you need, what you need it for, how you will pay it back and by when.
5. Practice makes perfect
Finally, practice, practice and repeat your story to polished perfection, with enthusiasm and energy. Authenticity cannot be faked and if you are telling a story you don’t believe in, neither will your audience. Take them with you on your journey by posing questions and engaging with their thoughts and feelings as you share your narrative.