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Nedbank Pitch & Polish 2024 competition reflect growing entrepreneurial spirit in SA

Nedbank Pitch & Polish 2024 competition reflect growing entrepreneurial spirit in SA
06-06-24 / Shelly Nxumalo

Nedbank Pitch & Polish 2024 competition reflect growing entrepreneurial spirit in SA

Johannesburg - The 2024 edition of the Nedbank Pitch & Polish competition has seen a significant surge in entries with more than 1 430 aspiring entrepreneurs vying for a chance to refine their business ideas and secure invaluable financial and non-financial support. This is almost double the 800 entries received in 2023 and is a trend that highlights the increasing appeal of the initiative and the expanding entrepreneurial ambition across diverse sectors of South Africa's economy.

Nedbank Pitch & Polish offers entrepreneurs a platform to refine and present their business ideas, gain invaluable insights, guidance and mentorship, and even secure investment - in the form of prize money and marketing funds - to propel their ventures to new heights. The prize for the winning enterprise is worth R1 million which consists of a R650 cash injection to grow their business and a R350 000 bursary for a 2-year business development programme with Africa’s leading incubator, Raizcorp.

Mixed bag of entry profiles

Notably, the 2024 entrants represent a broad spectrum of sectors, from cutting-edge technology start-ups to dynamic fashion brands and ground-breaking healthcare solutions. Interestingly, the average age of the entrants is around 36 years, with the youngest being 18 and the oldest 74! Notably, 57 entrants in the 2024 edition are over 55 years old, which Shannon says reflects the growing trend of entrepreneurship in retirement. The competition also saw a diverse gender representation, with more than 600 female entrants, which points to a pleasing increase in the proportion of SMEs being started and run by women.

Allan Shannon, Executive for Sales Strategy and Enablement at Nedbank, believes that the record number of entries and the diversity of the participants reflect the growing importance of SMEs in driving South Africa's economic growth. "The statistics from this year's competition paint a picture of a vibrant and resilient entrepreneurial landscape," he says. "From the wide age range of entrants to the variety of industries represented, it's clear that the spirit of innovation and the drive to create thriving businesses is alive and well in South Africa."

SME sector showing remarkable resilience

Many of the participating businesses have also demonstrated remarkable resilience. Despite the SME sector being known for its high rate of early business failures, the average operational duration of business that entered the competition is almost 5.5 years. A significant 801 businesses have been operational for more than three years, while 82 have been running for less than a year. “Many of the businesses were started around 2020,” Shannon says, “which is possibly linked to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on employment in the country.”

The SMEs participating in Nedbank Pitch & Polish 2024 also contribute significantly to job creation. The majority employ between one and four permanent staff, with the largest employer having 125 full-time employees. Impressively, around 700 businesses have five or more staff members, highlighting the robust employment potential of small and medium enterprises.

Shannon says that Pitch & Polish, now in its 14th year, has played an important role in building this resilience of SMEs in the country over the years. “By providing entrepreneurs with knowledge, mentorship, financial backing, and market access, the programme has helped transform fledgling start-ups into thriving enterprises that contribute meaningfully to South Africa's economy,” he explains.

The success of the 2023 winner, Tshireletso Mokate, and his innovative glamping business, "The Glamping Guy," exemplifies the transformative impact of Pitch & Polish. Mokate's victory earned him a R1 million investment, but he cites the rigorous refinement of his business plan as the real value of his participation.

Shannon emphasises that Pitch & Polish is more than just a competition; it is a launchpad for entrepreneurs to turn innovative ideas into profitable, sustainable businesses. "The triumph of last year's winner from the glamping industry illustrates the exceptional potential of entrepreneurs in South Africa and the responsibility that established businesses and corporates have to provide them with the right tools and support," he says.

As Pitch & Polish looks to the future, it remains dedicated to cultivating a generation of entrepreneurs equipped to succeed and contribute significantly to South Africa's economic development. While entries for the 2024 competition have closed, entrepreneurs still have a chance to earn a Wildcard Entry. Visit www.pitchandpolish.com after 13 May for more information.

Shannon encourages all South Africans to support the nation's SMEs, stating, "SMEs are essential for innovation and socio-economic development, and their growth, resilience and sustainability leads to more robust economic health and a brighter future for all of us."

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