ENGEN Pitch & Polish 2014: The Finale


The national Pitch & Polish entrepreneurial competition reached a gripping finale with an exclusive event, where four entrepreneurs gave their final polished pitch to the judges and esteemed audience of investors and journalists.

In collaboration with Engen Petroleum Ltd and Raizcorp, along with national media partner, SAfm, Pitch & Polish celebrates its 5th successful year of discovering the nations’ most promising local entrepreneurs.

The idea began in 2009 during a GIBS (Gordon Institute of Business Science) thought-leadership weekend, before the global financial crisis hit South Africa. Allon Raiz, CEO of Raizcorp, a company deeply involved in supporting entrepreneurs, recognised the great need to develop entrepreneurs and believes that entrepreneurs struggle to raise finance, not because their ideas are flawed, but because they don’t know how to pitch their business or ideas effectively.

Pitch & Polish was created to address this crucial element in the entrepreneurs’ journey. After pitching the idea and securing partners, Allon and his team, held the first set of workshops in June 2010. Pitch & Polish has since grown year on year and is determined to continue expanding its reach. To date, the workshop and competition has helped polish over 6000 hopeful entrepreneurs pitches.

The 2014 finalists hail from Soweto, Welkom, Nelspruit and Port Elizabeth. They successfully competed through three rounds and are beacons to their communities. In true ENGEN Pitch & Polish style, there was an unexpected twist on the night – a contestant from one of the previous rounds was brought back in as a Wild Card finalist. The 2014 winner, Lebo Selloane, from Welkom, won the judges vote and hearts with her compelling story and pitch with her story, credentials and mobile x-ray truck business idea.

In second place was Asa Mazomba from Port Elizabeth; in third place, Themba Sehawu from Nelspruit and in fourth place, Ayanda Ntsho from Soweto.

Allon Raiz shares his insights from the evening, “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.”

The fact is, we live in a hyper connected world in which we are able to access new information 24 hours a day and at ever increasing speeds. So how do you cut through the noise that your customers are exposed to on the high speed information highway that we are all on; and make them take notice of your product or service?

As seen tonight, you have to tell a compelling story. Not a fabulous fantasy story, a story that is grounded in facts, is emotional and resonates with potential investors and your customers. It has to grab their attention and motivate them to invest in or buy your product or service, by forming an emotional connection between them and your offering.

As an entrepreneur you might think this is an impossible task and have no idea where to start to tell your story; below are some guidelines compiled by ENGEN Pitch & Polish:

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. For example, the root of ENGEN Pitch & Polish is to provide a platform for local entrepreneurs to have their ideas brainstormed, tested and challenged.

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 – this only serves to confuse and alienate your customers. The best reason for them to believe, is the reason you believe.

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. For ENGEN Pitch & Polish, the journey of entrepreneurs during and after the workshop is where the emotional connection lies, as its nurtures hope.

4. Know your numbers

A riveting emotive story must be equally strong and succinctly conveyed through the numbers. Share the story in numbers too. 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. By drawing the audience into your story and making them active participants, you will be more likely to create a connection.

“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. The ENGEN Pitch & Polish programme is an opportunity for entrepreneurs and forms part of their journey, learning curve and story,” comments Unathi Njokweni-Magida, Engen Petroleum Ltd Group Transformation Manager, Engen.

Congratulations to all that participated.

Photo caption: THE WINNING PITCH... The 2014 winner, Lebo Selloane, from Welkom, won the judges vote and hearts with her compelling story and pitch with her story, credentials and mobile x-ray truck business idea.