One of the worlds celebrated scientists and Nobel Prize (Physics) laureate, Albert Einstein is credited for saying, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” In present day’s fiercely competitive and fast paced world, entrepreneurs are increasingly required to master the art of the elevator pitch to convey their business idea in a clear, succinct and compelling manner to potential investors, mentors or clients.
The elevator pitch denotes the rare opportunity entrepreneurs have to ignite interest in their business idea or product. It is a brief, persuasive speech that does not last longer than a short elevator ride of 15-to-30 seconds, hence the name. In an article written in the America business magazine, Forbes, Kristi Hedges states that, “There’s a well-told adage that you only get one chance to make a first impression. From personal relationships to business meetings, we’re taught that people form opinions of us in a few moments, and that we should be ready to show our best at all times.” On both sides of an exchange, and with every new encounter, one is evaluated and yet another person's impression of us is formed.
In business, making good first impression with potential investors, mentors or clients allows one to, “Maximise their connection in a minimal amount of time and start making valuable additions to their network from the get-go,” says author and coach in the leadership and life skills space, Todd Dewett. He goes on to say these first impressions can be nearly impossible to reverse or undo, making the first encounters extremely important, for they set the tone for all the relationships that follows.
Budding local entrepreneur Tumelo Mapila has adopted Einstein’s wisdom and the culture of making impressive first impressions as one of his personal and business life’s enduring lessons and guiding principles. Mapila lives by the ethos of author and motivational speaker, John Calvin Maxwell who asserts that, “Your network is your net worth.”
Building and nurturing strong business networks is important for supporting personal and enterprise advancement as it earns entrepreneur’s social capital, which compares to money in the bank. A strong network can help one build visibility, connect with influencers, and open up doors for new opportunities. “Networking is a valuable way of expanding one’s knowledge and learning from the success of others, gaining new perspective and fresh insights, as well as raising one’s profile, expanding one’s sphere of influence and meeting prospective business partners, suppliers, customers and staff,” says Mapila.
Growing up in Botswana’s thriving democracy and burgeoning economy, Mapila was acutely aware of the contradictions presented by the opportunities the prosperous country availed to its citizens and the hardships and sacrifices his doting civil servant mother endured to give him and his siblings a decent life. With a taste for the refined things in life, the young man was very clear, from a very tender age of the type of life he wanted to live. Having watched the rough and tumble experienced by his entrepreneur uncle and the amazing rewards he enjoyed for his patience and hard work, Mapila was convinced he was not cut out for the 8am to 5pm work regime. He concluded that, entrepreneurship was where he belonged.
The road to entrepreneurship is however, never easy and at one point Mapila joined the heart-wrenching ranks of the country’s youthful job seekers in the unemployment trenches. “This was one of the lowest points of my life from which I suffered bouts of depression,” he states. He goes on to say it was at this point that his uncle threw him a lifeline when he took him under his wings and helped him establish his own company. The mentorship provided invaluable guidance and lessons that helped him develop and grow his entrepreneurial skills.
Bitten by the entrepreneurial bug at an early age, Mapila went on to overcome the initial stumbling challenges and become the founding CEO of All Bosses (Pty) Ltd. The company offers research consultancy services that engage innovative data collection and analytic technologies. All Bosses flagship service offering is Focus Surveys, a dynamic and robust intelligent data collection and analysis reporting service.
Businesses – in general and startups in particular – face a myriad of challenges. The lack of business experience and the wherewithal to get the right exposure and make the essential business networks can stifle and may even kill off a budding enterprise. American policymaker, academic and director of the project on Technology, the Economy, and National Security (TENS) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, David Edelman says, “It’s a false economy to put your faith in customers discovering you unless you make a concerted effort to grow them with a proper structured plan to promote your startup.”
This is one lesson Tumelo learnt earlier on in his entrepreneurial journey of self-discovery. He learnt that in present days highly competitive business world, an international outlook and collaborative approach are some of the critical requirements that underpin a vibrant startup ecosystem. He testifies that, “Networking and brand awareness are two of the critical business development components that have promoted and grown this enterprise.”
He says the story of his company’s life began with the establishment of Focus Surveys in 2013. After a difficult and painful start, the company got a break when it was engaged to do data collection and analyses for the country’s premier business to business (B2B) exhibition and conference, The Global Expo in 2015. That being their first major job, they went all out to make a bold statement and prove to the client that they were more than capable to execute the task on time and within budget. Mapila boasts that their final submission to client was exceptional to the extent that they were later invited to present their report to The Global Expo executive committee which affirmed their credibility and assured them of future jobs.
Mapila’s first encounter with Botswana Innovation Hub was through the company’s technology entrepreneurship development programme, First Steps Venture Centre (FSVC) when in 2013 he participated in one of the programmes pitch sessions. The pitch sessions accord entrepreneurs the opportunity to present their business ideas to prospective investors, mentors and collaborators. “Participation in the FSVC pitch sessions gave us increased confidence and launched us further into the local and regional market,” he says.
Botswana Innovation Hub is an innovative and networked company that promotes technology, entrepreneurship and commercialisation on a purpose built Science and Technology Park. Around this, Botswana Innovation Hub is building opportunities in tenancy, membership, a globally-connected innovation ecosystem, and world-class client services. Emboldened by the roaring success of their maiden participation in the FSVC pitch session, Mapila enrolled Focus Surveys into the technology entrepreneurship development programme and went on to benefit from an array of the programmes service bouquet. These include, hot desking, business advisory, brand activation and publicity, technology entrepreneurs coaching and mentoring, and match making which connects start-ups with the right business partners.
In March 2017 Botswana Innovation Hub collaborated with DEMO Africa in an initiative that sought to provide local entrepreneurs with the opportunity to pitch at the DEMO Africa competition which was held in South Africa that year. DEMO Africa is a product of a partnership between The U.S. Department of State, Microsoft, DEMO, USAID and Startup Weekend called Liberalizing Innovation Opportunity Nations (LIONS@FRICA) Partnership. LIONS@FRICA seeks to connect African startups to the global ecosystem though its flagship programme, DEMO Africa.
Focus Surveys participated in the DEMO Africa grand finals in September 2017 and emerged victorious in the prestigious local pitching competition. The company went on to participate at the DEMO Africa competition in South Africa where although they did not emerge in the top five finalists of the of the fiercely contested regional competition, Mapila’s sterling performance at the DEMO Africa competition earned his company a slot on the LIONS@FRICA Innovation Tour which was held earlier this year in Silicon Valley, California from February 10th till 18th 2018. An Angel Investor was convinced by Mapila’s Elevator Pitch and saw the relevance and growth opportunity in Focus Surveys and pledged to sponsor the company to participate in the prestigious StartUp Grind competition.
The LIONS@FRICA Innovation Tour is focused on knowledge sharing with leading Silicon Valley stakeholders and networking opportunities that are intended to yield deeper engagement between the company and potential partners. While in the U.S., the company participated in a series of events including StartUp Grind, and other curated side events across the Silicon Valley ecosystem. This presented Mapila with multiple opportunities to pitch his company’s products, services and technologies to select groups of investors, industry leaders, diaspora groups and expert panels.
Prior to the Silicon Valley excursion, Mapila had participated in another pitching competition organized through the Botswana Innovation Hub partnership with the Southern Africa Innovation Support Programme (SAiS). In that competition known as SLUSH, Mapila put up an awesome performance as always and went on to win the local edition of the SLUSH 2017 pitching competition. He proceeded to represent the country at the finals of the global pitching competition in Helsinki, Finland. SLUSH is a startup and tech event that facilitates founder and investor annual meetings with the aim of building a world-wide startup community that helps the next generation of great, world-conquering companies move forward.
Mapila’s journey to success is testimony that a refined Elevator Pitch can open business opportunities and that indeed one’s network is their net worth. The exposure of an enterprise earns it social capital which is an essential resource in the knowledge-based economy and as DEMO Africa executive producer, Harry Hare affirms, “The entries this year certainly kept up with the DEMO Africa spirit to produce innovative and creative ideas that are bound to transform the technology landscape and we are excited by the growth of innovation and technological advancement in Africa as portrayed by our finalists.”
Focus Surveys latest feat confirms Mapila as master of his craft. The young man knows his story and he can break it down for you clearly and convincingly in less than a minute. He is the undisputed national champion of The Elevator Pitch. Having conquered the local and regional scene, Mapila has now joined the elite global league where he hobnobs with the world’s best at Silicon Valley. Thanks to FSVC for identifying, developing and nurturing this technology-oriented startup business to grow into international markets.
Mapila concludes, “I am grateful for the opportunities received through Botswana Innovation Hub’s technology entrepreneurship development programme. The many pitch sessions we have participated in, including The DEMO Africa and SLUSH competitions have helped us polish our pitching skills and provided invaluable experiences that exposed us to different networks and a globally connected innovation ecosystem.”
Newly established wholly indigenous citizen owned retail chain Payless Retail (PTY) Ltd is set to partake in the first session of Botswana Stock Exchange (BSE)’s Tshipidi Mentorship Program (TMP) on Monday June 29th.
The TMP aims to train and capacitate SMEs so they can operate as corporates and eventually list on the local bourse. According to local bourse, BSE, the program aims to provide practical training to potential issuers through a comprehensive and interactive program that covers the key themes necessary to position a company to list on the BSE.
Payless Retail is a newly established supermarket chain whose mission is to become a convenient one-stop shopping destination as it is one of the Botswana oldest retailing brands. It started off as Corner Supermarket in January 1976, and to date boasts of nine stores in, among others, Gaborone, Mochudi, Molepolole and Tlokweng. Payless was recently acquired by Ellis Retail Group, which is led by businessman Elliot Moshoke.
The takeover catapulted Ellis Retail to the envious position of being the first wholly indigenous owned major retail chain. “We jumped at this opportunity because it gave us a chance to prove to Batswana that the retail business is open and lucrative.”
The objective is to create a proudly Botswana retail chain that fully supports our national Vision, economic development and citizen economic empowerment ambitions,” Moshoke told BusinessPost.
He further emphasized that Batswana are capable and able to run large scale businesses hence they need to accept invite foreign investors who will come in to support us not take the business. “Our win as Payless in the Fast Moving Consumer goods (FMCG) industry is a win for Batswana. We need their support in this difficult and challenging journey.
As you are aware, Payless is the only retail chain in the hands of Batswana ba Sekei. We need to take advantage of this to generate employment and create small businesses in retail and Agri businesses,” he explained.
The retailer has also partnered with Botswana Investment & Trade Center (BITC) on their #PushaBW campaign with a view to initiating earnest engagement with local producers to iron out bottlenecks and ensure seamless trading.
“Local producers have to be part of the phenomenal growth of the Payless brand. This will in turn facilitate employment creation and economic growth. We did this because we have the utmost respect for local manufacturers and producers,” he mentioned.
Payless is currently restocking all of its stores; a development that Moshoke says is testament to the retailer’s commitment to growing the brand and ensuring continuity of business. He further revealed that renowned retail suppliers like PST and CA Sales have reignited their trust in Payless, opening their doors for Payless as they have faith in the retailer’s new owners.
The takeover has reportedly saved more than 200 jobs and gave a new lease of life to the previously fledging Payless brand. According to a press release from the management team, the Payless work forces are also extremely excited about what the future holds. The TMP is a comprehensive and interactive program that covers the key themes necessary to position a company to list on the BSE.
The program is administered by experts within the listing ecosystem and seeks to bring the potential issuers closer to the listings advisers, investors and leaders of already listed companies. “As a strategic initiative, the BSE decided to set up this mentorship program in a bid to assist SMEs to strategize, corporatize and acclimatize in order to list to access equity finance and expand operations,” said the BSE.
The TMP will avail to SMEs practical insights, knowledge and feedback from institutional investors, increased awareness of the BSE listing requirements as well as an intimate network of advisors and CEOs of listed companies. After training, Payless will graduate with improve governance structures and better knowledge of articulating its business strategy. The retailer will also gain increased visibility through BSE marketing platforms.
Despite Covid-19 interrupting trade worldwide, exporting companies in Botswana which benefited from the Botswana Investment and Trade Centre (BITC) services realised P2.96 billion in export earnings during the period from April 2020 to March 2021.
In the preceding financial year, the sale of locally manufactured products in foreign markets had registered export revenue of P2, 427 billion against a target of P3, 211 billion BITC, which celebrates 10 years since establishment, continues to carry out several initiatives targeted towards expanding the Botswana export base in line with Botswana’s desire to be an export led economy, underpinned by a robust export promotion programme in line with the National Export Strategy.
The main products exported were swamp cruiser boats, pvc tanks and pvc pipes, ignition wiring sets, semi-precious stones, veterinary medicines, hair braids, coal, textiles (towels and t-shirts) and automobile batteries. These goods were destined mainly for South Africa, Zimbabwe, Austria, Germany, and Namibia.
With Covid-19 still a problem, BITC continues to roll out targeted virtual trade promotion missions across the SADC region with a view to seeking long-lasting market opportunities for locally manufactured products.
Recently, the Centre facilitated participation for Botswana companies at the Eastern Cape Development Council (ECDC) Virtual Export Symposium, the Botswana-Zimbabwe Virtual Trade Mission, the Botswana-Zambia Virtual Trade Mission, Botswana-South Africa Virtual Buyer/Seller Mission as well as the Botswana-Namibia Virtual Trade Mission.
BITC has introduced an e-Exporting programme aimed at assisting Botswana exporters to conduct business on several recommended e-commerce platforms. Due to the advent of COVID-19, BITC is currently promoting e-trade among companies through the establishment of e-commerce platforms and is assisting local companies to embrace digitisation by adopting e-commerce platforms to reach export markets as well as assisting local e-commerce platform developers to scale up their online marketplaces.
During the 2019/2020 financial year, BITC embarked on several initiatives targeted at growing exports in the country; facilitation of participation of local companies in international trade platforms in order to enhance export sales of local products and services into external markets.
BITC also helped in capacity development of local companies to compete in global markets and the nurturing of export awareness and culture among local manufacturers in order to enhance their skills and knowledge of export processes; and in development and implementation of trade facilitation tools that look to improve the overall ease of doing business in Botswana.
As part of building export capacity in 2019/20, six (6) companies were selected to initiate a process to be Organic and Fair Trade Certified. These companies are; Blue Pride (Pty) Ltd, Motlopi Beverages, Moringa Technology Industries (Pty) Ltd, Sleek Foods, Maungo Craft and Divine Morula.
In 2019 seven companies which were enrolled in the Botswana Exporter Development Programme were capacitated with attaining BOBS ISO 9001: 2015 certification. Three (3) companies successfully attained BOBS ISO 9001:2015 certification. These were Lithoflex (Pty) Ltd, General Packaging Industries and Power Engineering.
BITC’s annual flagship exhibition, Global Expo Botswana (GEB) to create opportunities for trade and strategic synergies between local and international companies. The Global Expo Botswana) is a premier business to business exposition that attracts FDI, expansion of domestic investment, promotion of exports of locally produced goods and services and promotion of trade between Botswana and other countries.
The portal also provides information on; measures, legal documents, and forms and procedures needed by Botswana companies that intend on doing business abroad. BITC continues to assist both potential and existing local manufacturing and service entities to realise their export ambitions. This assistance is pursued through the ambit of the Botswana Exporter Development Programme (BEDP) and the Trade Promotion Programme.
BEDP was revised in 2020 in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) with a vision to developing a diversified export-based economy. The programme focuses mostly on capacitating companies to reach export readiness status.
Prices for goods and services in this country continue to increase, with the latest figures from Statistics Botswana showing that in May 2022, inflation rate rose to 11.9 percent from 9.6 percent recorded in April 2022.
According to Statistics Botswana update released this week, the largest upward contributions to the annual inflation rate in May 2022 came from increase in the cost of transport (7.2 percent), housing, water, electricity, gas & other Fuels (1.4 percent), food & non-alcoholic beverages (1.1 percent) and miscellaneous goods & services (0.8 percent).
With regard to regional inflation rates between April and May 2022, the Rural Villages inflation rate went up by 2.5 percentage points, from 9.6 percent in April to 12.1 percent in May 2022, according to the government owned statistics entity.
In the monthly update the entity stated that the Urban Villages inflation rate stood at 11.8 percent in May 2022, a rise of 2.4 percentage points from the April rate of 9.4 percent, whereas the Cities & Towns inflation rate recorded an increase of 1.9 percentage points, from 9.9 percent in April to 11.8 percent in May.
Commenting on the national Consumer Price Index, the entity stated that it went up by 2.6 percent, from 120.1 in April to 123.2 in May 2022. Statisticians from the entity noted that the transport group index registered an increase of 7.3 percent, from 134.5 in April to 144.2 in May, mainly due to the rise in retail pump prices for petrol and diesel by P1.54 and P2.74 per litre respectively, which effected on the 13th of May 2022.
The food & non-alcoholic beverages group index rose by 2.6 percent, from 118.6 in April 2022 to 121.6 in May 2022 and this came as a result of increase in prices of oils & fats, vegetables, bread & cereal, mineral waters, soft drinks, fruits & vegetables juices, fish (Fresh, Chilled & Frozen) and meat (Fresh, Chilled & Frozen), according to the Statisticians.
The Statisticians said the furnishing, household equipment & routine maintenance group index rose by 1.0 percent, from 111.6 in April 2022 to 112.7 in May 2022 and this was attributed to a general increase in prices of household appliances, glassware, tableware & household utensils and goods & services for household maintenance.
The prices for clothing & footwear group index moved from 109.4 to 110.4, registering a rise of 0.9 percent during the period under review. Bank of Botswana has projected higher inflation in the short term, associated with the likelihood of further increases in domestic fuel prices in response to persistent high international oil prices and added that the possible increase in public service salaries could add also upward pressure to inflation in this country.