Nelson Mandela Bay entrepreneurs once again demonstrated their appetite for business knowledge and learning at the recent ENGEN Pitch & Polish event sponsored by Engen, Nedbank and Raizcorp. Celebrating its tenth anniversary this year, the programme has worked with almost 15 000 entrepreneurs since its inception. Workshop delegates and pre-selected contestants are taken through a dynamic pitching workshop by international speaker and world-leading business pitching expert, Justin Cohen. Held in eight cities and towns across South Africa, the winners compete in further rounds with the finals taking place in Johannesburg later this year.

Justin opened the event with an inspirational talk during which he said that no matter what the economic environment, there are problems to solve and wealth to be created. In fact, during tough economic times, there are even more opportunities as there are more problems to solve. He also touched on the need for entrepreneurs to be optimistic. On average, entrepreneurs fail 3.8 times before they succeed. By cultivating a sense of optimism, entrepreneurs can more easily view failures and setbacks as an opportunity to learn and then move on.

The workshop followed during which delegates and five pre-selected competitors were taken through eight important aspects of pitching for investment in two parts. The first half of the workshop ended with the first round of practice pitches by the five contestants. Each was asked to deliver a 30-second pitch as a basepoint to measure against their final competition pitches later in the day.

The five contestants were: Unathi Kolanisi who presented her mobile food business; Gcina Manzini who has a property improvement business; Zwelethu Mlonzi who sells homemade fruit juices; Casper Nice who has an innovative washable incontinence wear range; and Evans Zemba who is in the fashion business.

The second half of the workshop was followed by another practice round for the contestants but this time they had a full minute. The key was to incorporate the eight aspects of pitching covered during the first and second rounds of the workshop.