The Durban leg of the ninth annual ENGEN Pitch & Polish programme was held on Saturday, 8 September with excellent attendance by enthusiastic entrepreneurs from the area. Since inception, this national entrepreneurial workshop and competition – hosted in partnership with Engen Petroleum Ltd, Nedbank, Raizcorp and Caxton Local Media – has helped over 11 000 entrepreneurs improve the way they pitch their businesses to potential investors.

“Engen Petroleum believes there is great value in raising the concept of polishing ideas and partners with businesses, such as Raizcorp, to create entrepreneurs that will generate jobs and subsequently curb unemployment to alleviate poverty,” states Unathi Njokweni-Magida, the Head of Transformation & Stakeholder Engagement at Engen Petroleum Ltd. “Entrepreneurs are the future for change. The essence of ENGEN Pitch & Polish is to bring beautiful ideas and business to life by teaching what and how to communicate succinctly, effectively and with confidence,” she continues.

The day’s winning formula saw Justin Cohen (best-selling author and international speaker) motivating the crowd about the value of delivering a polished pitch. The workshop aims to teach participants how to develop a well-rounded and investor-ready pitch. The interactive nature of the event ensures that everyone participates while learning at the same time. At each event, five contestants pitch their businesses while the facilitator and attendees offer guidance, advice and direction to help shape the pitches.

Justin teaches that, at times, optimism and enthusiasm can be more important than academics and says, “Confusion is the death of a pitch; keep it simple.”

For example, through the example of Shiroma Bennimahadeo, who came in third place, and her biomedical engineering consultancy idea, the delegates saw the impact of a strong opening and how to weave in how investors will benefit, through the use of branding as well as financial information. Her quiet confidence was effective, and she delivered an excellent three-minute pitch to the “investors” in a centred and authentic manner.

The feedback that Ayanda Magubane received for his mobile cleaning services was to keep his offering simple by focusing on the core business, then bringing in expansion plans only if there is time. A business model that is easy to grasp will lead to a quicker understanding. Knowing his target market and vision is a great strength.

Phumzile Manana, who came in second place with her existing food-manufacturing business, was clear on what she wanted the money for and her business acumen came through well. Her feedback included the importance of securing many clients instead of pinning one’s hopes on one large contract.

Placing more focus on the product instead of on the business model was a key learning of the pitch delivered by Jacqueline Mccarroll, whose company distributes water and energy saving products. Participants learned to weave in credible successes early in the pitch as this builds trust. They also learned that rehearsing one’s pitch is highly beneficial and that comparing their products or services with something already in the market that is relatable helps to paint a picture more quickly. From here, you can move on to the financial side more smoothly.

The winning pitch was delivered by the wild card entry of the day (someone who is chosen by the audience). Mongezi Dlamini has a hydroponic farming business and worked hard to polish his pitch throughout the day. The audience saw how impactful a powerful opening can be, with Mongezi delivering a concise introduction followed by outlining the problem and then presenting his solution. His compelling proposition was refined and showed how imperative it is to be specific about numbers.

Insider tip: 50% of your pitch is not what you say, it is rather how you say it. Imbue confidence and clarity into your pitch combined with depth of knowledge.

As the 2018 winner of the Durban leg of ENGEN Pitch & Polish, Mongezi Dlamini won R6 000 and a week of training at Raizcorp in Johannesburg worth R150 000. He also has the opportunity to progress to the semi-final and become the ultimate 2018 ENGEN Pitch & Polish winner and receive further cash injections and other prizes.

Congratulations to everyone for attending, for taking action and for being the light that shines on the local entrepreneurial environment.

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