In the group photograph from left to right; Alan Shannon (Nedbank), Billy Siziba (3rd place, from Port Elizabeth), Murendeni Mafumo (Winner, from Johannesburg), Shirley Moroka-Mosia (Engen), Rishav Juglall (2nd place, from Durban) and Allon Raiz (Raizcorp)
“First I was afraid; I was petrified” … Gloria Gaynor certainly did not have entrepreneurs in mind when she sang these words, in her classic disco hit “I will survive”. But the opening words of the song could very well describe the feelings of most entrepreneurs when they first begin pitching their business to potential investors and clients. Fear is certainly the order of the day. However, like Gaynor, survival is also the order of the day and entrepreneurs who are unable to master the art of the pitch are unlikely to master the art of survival. In fact, having overcome the fear, and having moved past being petrified, successful entrepreneurs become addicted to pitching. How, one may ask, is it possible to become a pitch-addict?
Like any healthy addiction, such as to exercise, practice makes perfect. One cannot become a ‘pitch-addict’ until one has moved through the fear of pitching. Becoming a pitch addict requires you to actually pitch – often! The mirror is a good place to start, followed by the 3 Fs, friends, family and fools (i.e. anyone who will listen!). And even if the 3Fs in your life do not actually invest, the experience you will have gained in pitching to them, over and over, is immeasurable. It is the first step on the path to addiction. And then it’s time for the real world! Bankers, investors, venture capitalists and, of course, potential clients.
The way you become a pitch addict is simply to breathe deeply and to tell yourself that no matter what feedback you get, you will find a way to use it to your advantage. You tell yourself that you will handle the feedback, no matter how hard it may be to hear. In this way, you build your resilience to handle feedback. It is a virtuous cycle: the more feedback you get, the better you get; the better you get, the more courage you gain to pitch.
The fear never truly goes away. Even the most seasoned pitchers feel fear before they pitch their business. The pitch addicts are simply not letting fear get in the way! The more you say ‘yes’ to every opportunity to pitch, the more likely you are to become a pitch addict.
Suddenly, you will feel your fear turning into excitement. There is a ‘rush’ that accompanies the pitch – it is this rush to which pitch addicts become addicted.
“Just before the final pitch I was so nervous, and once on the stage the immense preparation helped me deliver a polished pitch.” says Murendeni Mafumo, the winner of ENGEN Pitch Polish 2016, receiving R60 000 on the night. “And once I’m done, and I know that I have faced my fear and conquered it, I am open to whatever feedback comes my way!” he adds. “After winning, I feel grateful for the validation of my dreams.” Murendeni, who lives in Fourways, Johannesburg, won the judges over with his pitch on his existing business, Kusini Water, which uses technology developed to treat water. Murendeni’s love for science was sparked when he received a science set, as a present, when he was very young. As his scientific knowledge grew, so too did his passion to make a positive difference in his community. Today, he ensures that people, specifically in rural areas, have clean drinking water. “I thought I knew about business, but ENGEN Pitch Polish has given me even more skills to grow my business beyond my wildest dreams!” says Murendeni.
It is important, however, to curb your addiction. A balance between working on your business, and talking about your business is essential. It is also crucial to be a discerning addict. Do your homework first. If there is something to be gained from the pitch, go for it!
The 2016 ENGEN Pitch Polish programme, which was hosted by Engen Petroleum Ltd, Nedbank, Raizcorp and SAfm, culminated in an exclusive and prestigious event, held in Johannesburg. Alan Shannon, Head of Small Business and Professional Banking at Nedbank, expressed his enthusiasm by saying, “Pitch Polish is the perfect fit for Nedbank as we firmly believe that small business is the driver of the economy and employment. We believe in elevating and developing entrepreneurs, which is exactly what this programme does.”
In 2nd place overall in the national competition is Rishav Juglall, from the Durban event. He won R30 000 on the night. This young and dynamic entrepreneur, absorbed all the lessons of the ENGEN Pitch Polish workshops, and it showed and paid off! Rishav’s existing business, Rocky Brands, specialises in an array of high quality household cleaning products. As the youngest supplier to one of the largest retailers in South Africa, Rishav’s determination and ambition did not go unnoticed by the judges. Rishav aspires to export his products all over Africa. His confidence gives him the ability to pitch extremely well, and with the added guidance from ENGEN Pitch Polish, Rishav is sure to go very far with his business.
The Port Elizabeth contestant, and third-place winner in the finals, Billy Siziba, winning R15 000 on the night, grew up in a family of entrepreneurs. He is elated to be continuing the family tradition of self-employment and sustainability. His existing business, Bullyz Fitness, manufactures and sells gym clothing. “Gym fees are high,” says Billy. “If you add the cost of gym clothes to that, gym becomes unaffordable for many people.” Bullyz Fitness aims to give people of all shapes and sizes, from all walks of life, access to professional gym clothes. Ever the entrepreneur, Billy is also walking on an app that will help them to get, and stay, fit. No doubt the invaluable experience he has gained in ENGEN Pitch Polish will serve him well as he expands his business to even greater heights.
Now in its seventh year, Engen Petroleum has been a sponsor since 2012. At the beginning of this year’s competition, Unathi Njokweni-Magida Engen’s Group Transformation Manager, said that she was expecting big things this year, “7 is a magic number,” she said. And she was right. She continues, “This year’s competition has exceeded all my expectations, from the quality of the contestants to the aliveness of the audience, as well as the professionalism of the judges. As the headline sponsor, we could not have asked for more.” Njokweni-Magida’s enthusiasm is backed up by the facts. This year, the competition hit record numbers with 2 300 entrepreneurs participating in the workshops. The programme has been so successful that it caught the eye of Business Day TV which commissioned Pitch Polish for a 10-week TV series which began in October 2016.
ENGEN Pitch Polish’s power is truly in the pitch which produces a ripple-effect of success for entrepreneurs, and attracts opportunities for change and growth.