Pitch ideas that get funded

Tuesday January 28 2020
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A woman sells her merchandise in a women business market at Uganda National Museum last year. Photo by Eronie Kamukama

It is now a matter of flipping pages before one reads a notice of a skilling and financing programme for young entrepreneurs implemented by either government or private sector.
Many have got businesses off the ground owing to those programmes.
But to ‘swim’ their way to the top, they have had to convince judges that their projects are worth the investment.
This is usually done through a pitching session.
Last week, 21 women sweated through their palms to convince a panel of four judges that their idea topples other contenders’.
It was during the women in agribusiness marketing accelerator programme funded by the United States Department of State and incepted by Ms Milly Namwanje, the project lead.
When Namwanje and two other colleagues who are alumni of the Mandela Washington fellowship returned to the country from the United States, their plan was to assist women to market their produce.
The programme that commenced in November last year has seen 21 women from Wakiso district take part.
Stretched between peanut entrepreneurs, bakers to packed passion fruit juice sellers; the women had an array of agricultural value addition products exhibited.
Through the programme, five products will be certified by Uganda National Bureau of Standards.
Competing to get a share of the $10,000 (Shs36.8m) grant that is meant to be divided amongst three women, the hassle commenced.
From the shy, to the shaky voices, the confident and overly confident, different presentations went by.
But according to Namwanje, who trained the women for three months, there are some keynotes one needs to know ahead of pitching a business idea, or product.

Solve problem
First, ensure that it is addressing a challenge in society. Never market a product or service, but market a solution to a challenge.
“You must have a product that is solving a need for the community or customers, because it is that need that will call attention to your idea. Focus all your marketing energy on finding out what people need such that you create a product that benefits them just as much as you will also gain from it,” she says emphasizing that research in what you are dealing in is very important.
Do your homework! Often, entrepreneurs are stuck in their own bubble, without caring about what others are doing.
It is critical that you understand your competitors.
For instance, if you are marketing a product, understand what has been done such that you can stand out.

Be different
Uniqueness is a virtue in these situations.
“You must know what sets you apart from the rest such that as you market or pitch your idea or product, you highlight your competitive advantage over other people in the same field,” Namwanje advises.
When it comes to presenting, confidence, which should be a no brainer is not as obvious as you would think.

Be audible
Collect yourself and ensure you are audible.
While commenting on the pitches put forth by the 21 women, the judges advised them to ensure they are professional in the way they speak and to stand up straight to ensure they are audible enough for the listener to hear and remain awake throughout the presentation.
It is hard for someone to doze while listening to a strong voice.
“We have confidence issues. We know our businesses but we cannot stand up straight and pitch or talk about them. But you were very audible and clear in what you were saying, it shows progress in the journey towards perfecting your pitching,” one of the judges lauded the women.
It is also critical to understand your pitch like the back of your hand.
“You must clearly bring out the product or service that you are offering. Ensure people understand what it is you are selling,” Namwanje adds urging business entrepreneurs to highlight the benefits the pitch will have to society

Maintain eye contact
Do not be taken up by the powerpoint presentation, maintain eye contact with the people you are pitching to.
Be as engaging as possible. Try your best to ensure the judges are actively participating in the conversation such that you do not lose their attention.

Prepare
Lastly, prepare well enough to ensure you are able to answer any question raised by the judges without portraying a scintilla of doubt about what you are pitching.
Ms Grace Okwanga, from Dedicated Women’s Enterprises who was one of the participants appreciated the programme noting that she now feels empowered to talk more about her business openly and look for more opportunities.

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Show do not tell if possible.
“It is usually difficult to convince somebody that your daddies are sweet, show them, give them some or eat some. Make sure you are showing and not just talking about something you are presenting,” one of the judges advises adding; “When you are pitching, hold your product, put it in our faces, do not be worried about what they will think about you.”
If you do not have the product, at least have a presentation, they added.

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