Industry Updates

Pitch & Polish nurtures innovative entrepreneurs

22 May 2013

Thursday 15 May 2013, Westcliff Hotel, South Africa applauded and awarded innovator and entrepreneur, Innocent Sibeko, as the Regional Pitch & Polish winner from workshops held in April in Secunda and Sasolburg.

Pitch & Polish is a workshop-come-competition which tests the contestants’ ability to pitch their idea convincingly to investors. Contestants are coached on the art of pitching while the audience role-play as investors and bank managers.

The free, day-long business training programme gives each entrepreneur valuable knowledge and insights into business which has a ripple effect in the communities where it’s held, encouraging more people to explore their ‘inner entrepreneur’ and ultimately helping uplift the economic potential  in these areas

Sasol partnered with globally renowned business incubator, Raizcorp, to bring Pitch & Polish to the communities in which they operate. Sasol ChemCity, Sasol’s enterprise development vehicle, facilitated the competition, using the opportunity to both share essential entrepreneurial skills, as well as identify viable entrepreneurial opportunities that they could potentially incubate in these communities.

South Africans appear to be born innovators - a “make a plan” society – galvanized by the need to solve problems, improve lives, survive and grow, but not according to the recent low rankings in the latest GEM report.

However, there are large numbers of highly innovative and energetic entrepreneurs that simply don't have the opportunity or platform to expose their ideas and businesses. This is the main objective of Pitch & Polish – to go to smaller towns and cities and provide the stage and training for these overlooked individuals.

Consider Sasol’s journey which began in 1927 when a White Paper was tabled in Parliament to investigate the establishment of an oil-from-coal industry. Following almost 25 years of research and negotiations, Sasol was formed in 1950. Today it is one of the world’s largest – synthetic fuels producers, providing about 30% of South Africa’s fuel.

The winner tonight, chosen from the workshops held in Secunda and Sasolburg, is a clear innovator and after guidance and polishing was able to deliver a clearly defined and structured pitch which demonstrated the depth of knowledge and insight he has in his business and the industry.

His company helps solve the problem of unnecessary waste filling landfills by extracting the recyclable materials and selling it on. His business creates employment, has capacity to grow and assists the country with its waste burden.

The common thread between Sasol, Raizcorp, Pitch & Polish and Innocent is that they are all innovators who intuitively use effectual reasoning or logic to forge ahead.

In a study completed by Saras D. Sarasvathy1, professor of business administration at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, on “What makes entrepreneurs entrepreneurial?”, she discovered that they share a pattern of thinking: effectual reasoning. Effectual reasoning does not necessarily begin with a specific goal, but rather begins with a given set of means and allows goals to emerge over time.

To explain the difference between effectual and causal logic, she uses the analogy of effectual thinkers as explorers who set out on a voyage and discover new worlds, whereas, causal thinkers set out to conquer a specific land. Parallel to this, Pitch & Polish is the explorer who sets out to seek, discover and separate the rough diamond from coal.

Sarasvathy explains that entrepreneurs use the “bird in the hand” principle, which means, when entrepreneurs set out to create a new venture, they begin by looking at their means: who I am, what I know and who I know.2

Using these tools the innovator can begin to imagine and implement possible effects that can be created with them.

Entrepreneurs believe that they control the future and are therefore able to circumvent the unpredictable and unexpected that arises. And often change course if required. They are also are able to switch between the types of thinking.

Having a goal and solving a problem – it’s the navigational of logical that builds their success. Incubators like Sasol ChemCity and Raizcorp cultivate these entrepreneurs and provide them with an environment for them to flourish and become going concerns which contribute to the growth of the economy.

Inherent in SA culture is to “make a plan” and with this as the thinking that sets the wheel in motion, innovation is the effect.

“Sasol is committed to the success of South Africa, including its economic transformation,” says Herman Berry, Senior Business Manager at Sasol ChemCity. “Contributing over 90 percent of all jobs in SA, SMEs propel economic growth.

Since 2005, Sasol ChemCity has supported over 700 SMEs within the chemical, energy and related industry, contributing over 10 000 jobs into the market. Nurturing entrepreneurs is therefore something that we are really passionate about. We are excited by this opportunity to partner with Raizcorp to transfer crucial skills to our local community entrepreneurs. In so doing, we are helping ensure the sustainability of these businesses in the market,” he concludes.

  1. Associate Professor, The Darden Graduate School of Business Administration, University of Virginia. Research paper “What makes entrepreneurs entrepreneurial?”, Member of the Strategy, Entrepreneurship and Ethics area and teaches courses in entrepreneurship and ethics in Darden’s MBA program. In addition, she teaches in doctoral programs not only at Darden, but also in Denmark, India, Croatia and South Africa. In 2007, Sarasvathy was named one of the top 18 entrepreneurship professors by Fortune Small Business magazine.
  2. Who I am (traits, tastes, abilities), What I know (education, training, expertise, experience), Who I know (social and professional networks)
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