Business ideas pitched and polished at Durban event

At the event were Justin Cohen, Alta Keyter, Mohammed Jossab, Bathabile Mpofu, Nhlakanipho Shange, Lavashnee Naidoo, Zamokuhle Thwala, Melanie Reddy and Ncedo Shoba.

UNDETERRED by the aftermath of the historic storm that hit Durban recently, 350 hard-core entrepreneurs arrived at the Olive Convention Centre for the ENGEN Pitch and Polish event on 14 October.

The workshop and competition, now in its eighth year, is designed to teach entrepreneurs the vital art of pitching their business, or business idea, to investors. This programme is made possible thanks to the collaboration between Engen Petroleum, Nedbank, Raizcorp, local partner the Durban Chamber of Commerce, and supported by media partner, Caxton Local Media.

ENGEN Pitch and Polish elevated this year’s national tour with facilitator Justin Cohen, a leading expert on the topic of pitching for business, as well as a best-selling author and TV talk-show host. Justin opened the programme with an energising talk encouraging the delegates to focus on pitching to win in their field. He asked the audience to take on the roles of bankers and investors for the day. This enhanced the learning for all delegates, as each audience member examined business from a different perspective.

Justin’s charm, combined with his expert knowledge of the art of pitching, created an atmosphere in which contestants felt safe to pitch, receive honest and constructive feedback, learn from it, and give it another go! After much practising and polishing, delegates were randomly selected to experience pitching to the audience for themselves. Judging by the enthusiastic response of the delegates, it was a day of learning for all.

Alta Keyter from Cornerstone Business Strategists said: “The energy and enthusiasm at the Durban leg of ENGEN Pitch and Polish 2017 was infectious. It must be why Durban has such a high number of entrepreneurs compared to other cities in South Africa. Our message to entrepreneurs is ‘Distance yourself from what is stopping you from realising your purpose. Find your superpower and go make magic!’”

More than 130 compelling applications were received to compete in the 2017 ENGEN Pitch and Polish event in Durban. Four contestants were pre-selected and the fifth contestant, the ‘Wild Card’, was chosen on the day, by the audience, based on their on-the-spot pitch. Durban contestants were Mohammed Jossab, Bathabile Mpofu, Lavashnee Naidoo, Ncedo Shoba and Zamokuhle Thwala.

Thanks to clear guidance from Justin, combined with intelligent questions from the delegates, pitches were sharpened and polished throughout the day. The design of ENGEN Pitch and Polish creates a platform whereby everyone is learning all the time. While the audience members are watching the contestants being pushed to improve, learn, define the problem, and present the solution, they cannot help but to apply the principles to their own businesses and ideas.

The programme culminated in the competition segment, where the five contestants pitched their business or business idea to the judges. The judging panel was composed of Melanie Reddy from Nedbank, Alta Keyter from Cornerstone Business Strategists and Nhlakanipho Shange from Ad.It Solutions, who was also a contestant in 2013.

The judging panel selected Shoba with his Zipp sanitiser product as the winner of the ENGEN Pitch and Polish Durban event. Ncedo proceeds to Round 2 of the competition, which will be held in Johannesburg. Jossab with his plastic packaging manufacturing came second and Mpofu’s mini science kit was awarded third place.


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