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In March this year, it was announced that Firstwatch was running an entrepreneur challenge where they were looking for an individual with an entrepreneurial spirit, someone with drive and ambition, an inspiration to others! Someone who finds the solution before anyone else knows there’s a problem. Entrants had to complete an online application form, telling the selection panel exactly why they felt that they deserved a place amongst the top 120 people to be selected to take part in business training workshops.

The Firstwatch Entrepreneurs Challenge closed with an amazing 200 applications. From these 200, 120 eager entrepreneurs were chosen to take part in workshops that took place on the 27th and the 28th April in Maboneng, to learn more about being an entrepreneur and running a business. Following this leg of the competition, a final round will be held on the 19th May to select an overall winner.
At the workshop, facilitators spoke to the entrepreneurs on different topics that are related to being a successful entrepreneur, including: The Passion Test, Marketing & Branding, Sales, Finance, Leadership and Pitching Your Business. The entrepreneurs will then have to take everything that they have learnt from the facilitators and put that into a presentation which they will pitch to a panel of judges. From this, the top ten entrepreneurs will be chosen to take part in the finals on the 19th May to select an overall winner! What the judges are looking for in the entrants is a solid business plan that addresses a real problem as well as a creative solution to the problem.

“Going through the applications was interesting because the applicants ranged from being quite young to being a bit older. It was interesting because you would assume that a competition of this nature would appeal more to younger entrepreneurs. In terms of the business ideas that we received, many of the entrepreneurs had an interest in recycling and waste management. We also saw entrepreneurs wanting to tackle the technology space where they wanted to develop apps or support services that already exist online and of course some showed interest in the retail space. We covered a range of entries but those are the ones that stood out for me,” says Nwabisa Mayema (Executive Director at Nnfinity) as well as first-round judge of the Firstwatch Entrepreneurs Challenge.
The Firstwatch Entrepreneurs Challenge serves as a platform to move business ideas and concepts to the next stage of growth as it is a programme that is chock-full with robust, hands-on experiential learning with some of the country’s leading business experts. The overall winner will walk away with R50 000 support for their existing or start-up business.

“Initiatives like this are important for society as entrepreneurs can change the way in which we work and live. By encouraging these young entrepreneurs to channel their talents into a business they believe in and are committed to could mean that they get the respect for sustaining a business, make money doing what they love and inspire those in their communities.” says Sandy van Dijk (Head of Operations at Over the Rainbow) as well as facilitator of the Firstwatch Entrepreneurs Challenge.

Siphamandla Dlamini, one of the entrepreneurs that have been chosen to be part of the Firstwatch Entrepreneurs Challenge says that he mainly entered the challenge because he wanted to be in a space where he is with other entrepreneurs that have different ideas which will inspire him to create strategic and meaningful partnerships. “What I found appealing about the challenge is learning the importance of pushing sales as a business owner, something that I need to focus on. If I won the prize money, I would invest it in expanding my business and buying the latest equipment for efficiency as well as to operate my company faster and easier. I don’t feel like there is enough help out there for entrepreneurs as entrepreneurship is not seen as a priority in South Africa. Firstwatch has created a platform where entrepreneurs can get out of their comfort zones, learn and grow their brands. Winning for me would make things easier in terms of running my business. I am a very practical person so I would implement everything that I learned from the business training offered by this initiative,” he adds.

“The calibre of entrepreneurs for the Firstwatch Entrepreneurs Challenge is people who are ambitious and determined not just to start/run good businesses, but to run businesses that have good corporate governance, good structure and will also ultimately make a huge contribution to the economy. This initiative is important for entrepreneurs as it offers continuous development and improvement which is critical for any entrepreneur. Initiatives such as this create a platform firstly to be exposed to experienced people, listen to key insights and also learn the current narrative of business,” says Alex Granger (Co-Founder & Chief Purpose Officer at Twice Blue) as well as facilitator of the Firstwatch Entrepreneurs Challenge

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