The value of taking part in contests

Nadia Elena Comneci is a Romanian gymnast who, at the age of 14, became the first gymnast in Olympic history to be awarded the perfect score of 10.0 at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal.

She would eventually go on to receive six more “perfect 10s” in Montreal as well as three gold medals.

Nadia didn’t start out a 10 or by entering at Olympic level. She reached that level by starting at primary school level in her town and progressing to provincial and then eventually national level.

So how can an entrepreneur move towards achieving a 10, in spite of challenges and fears they encounter on a daily basis?

One way young people can start is to attend workshops, events and competitions. The Western Cape has a very active entrepreneurial eco-system with many events, workshops and competitions.

The big question is why should young aspiring entrepreneurs actively look at entering competitions?

Taking part in competitions offers many advantages over winning a prize.

Perhaps the most profound is that of networking and linkages.

Yandisa Langa, owner of Mountain Enterprises, has won a few competitions in his time. Yet one of his best business deals, came not from winning a prize, but rather from a company that attended the same event. They appreciated his expertise with tunnels and asked him to help them. He did this with his normal passion and super attitude and left behind a pleased client.

Taking part in competitions also provides a platform for honest, constructive and valuable feedback. Input from adjudicators, facilitators and fellow competitors, helped Kristal Kruzer and Keziah Hardenberg, of Limitless Tuition, to clarify and focus their offering to add serious value to others. They have been operating their business for 10 months now.

Many of the entrepreneurial competitions add substantial building blocks of learning.

Marshall Petersen of Mitchell’s Plain Online Store entered a City event. The concentrated learning he and his team received, helped identify tools and strategies to focus and grow their business.

Events like Pitch and Polish also provide a platform to quickly test the business concept and business model.

I first met up with Avukonke and Anathi Mncono at the 2017 Cape Town leg of Pitch and Polish. They showcased their idea of smart travel luggage at the event (Smartie). They have attended quite a few more competitions since then, with iterations of their idea and clarifying their target market. They see 2019 as the year they will launch this innovative product.

Events like the City of Cape Town’s #YouthStart CT and our own internal Poster and Pitch competitions, offer local young people a fair opportunity to win substantial prizes of cash, product and/or support in their often lonely and scary journey.

In June last year, Nkosiyapha Msezane, of Phaya Cycles, “rode off” with first prize for his business idea. He went on to launch this tourism-friendly business in November last year.

Budding entrepreneurs often struggle to connect with the marketplace, yet attending key events can open some weighty doors.

Andre Williams, owner of AW Engineering, entered the rigorous SAB Kickstart. His journey saw him reach the top 10, but also receive invaluable media and key market exposure.

All entrepreneurs, whether they sell a product or service, need to hone the skill of pitching. They are, after all, constantly selling the value of their product/service.

Attending some competitions, where a pitching component is added, can seriously encourage confidence, communication and clarity.

Marvin Hart, owner of Phoenix Irrigation, has used exposure from three different competitions to help hone a powerful and compelling business pitch.

Each competition, while similar, may also offer a different value add. For example, it may help young people to articulate their business idea; or it may be in a specific vertical, as within app development; it may also accelerate broad business learning.

Here are three competitions, happening in Cape Town that young people could consider participating in:

The YouthStartCT Challenge is an accelerator programme for start-up entrepreneurs, delivered in support of youth capacity building and job creation.

The main aim is to encourage entrepreneurship and contribute to skills development and innovation in Cape Town.

The competition is open to Capetonians aged between 18 and 35. Individuals are given the opportunity to focus on a specific challenge and develop innovative business ideas that will benefit their community.

Visit www.capetown.gov.za and search for YouthStart.

The Engen Pitch and Polish is a national workshop and competition programme where you get to spend the day in a fun-filled learning environment, receiving expert guidance on how to pitch your business or your business idea effectively.

Pitch and Polish its Cape Town event later this year. Visit www.pitchandpolish.com

The SME Toolkit SA Business plan competition is also aimed squarely at young, aspiring entrepreneurs. Visit www.smetoolkit.businesspartners.co.za for more information.

The Centre for Entrepreneurship’s (CFE) Rapid Incubator (RI)actively recruits young people either with a fantastic business idea, or where they may just have started. Visit www.falsebayincubate.co.za

Steve Reid is the manager of the CFE at False Bay College. Entrepreneurs with creative ideas in manufacturing can also contact the CFE at 021 201 1215.