Africa · Ghana · Musings

Senior Year Chronicles: Pitching

I had a plan at the beginning of senior year: take up a number of extra-curricular projects in order to make effective use of the little time I’ve got left in school. Participating in an entrepreneurship challenge however was the farthest thought from my mind.  The Students Representative Council of my school was organizing an entrepreneurial challenge and I briefly considered entering the challenge along with a friend with whom I was developing a business idea with but we both independently came to the conclusion that our idea needed far more work and research than the challenge would allow so I all but forgot about the challenge. That was, until two friends of mine invited me to join the team they were setting up to take up the challenge. I can’t remember saying yes but that’s probably because I wasn’t given time to think of a decision. I’m glad they didn’t. I tend to overthink every decision I make and the longer I think, the more negative the decision or idea becomes. Spurring me into making a split-second decision was probably the best thing they could have done.

The idea itself is a brilliant one and the more I heard and read about it, the more enthused I became. After observing his surroundings during a 6-week field trip to some rural areas in Ghana, Manuel (the team leader) came up with the idea of growing pineapples on a larger scale than the basic subsistence farm level that was practiced in those areas. He wanted to do it in a different way to others though; he wanted to do it organically. Production of pineapples is mainly done inorganically in Ghana in order to reduce maturation periods and try to get larger amounts of produce. We were determined however to stick to organic production despite the cost because of our belief in its long term health, market and financial benefits. Manuel’s enthusiasm for the idea was infectious and soon, Ken – the other team member – and I were talking to others about the idea with much the same idea – never mind the fact we both hadn’t had some of the first hand experiences that Manuel had.

In hindsight, it seems that we realized early on that we couldn’t compete with some of the teams on the same terms. A number of them had big social media presences, were better resourced or had actually taken the huge first step into running the business. We therefore set our minds on delivering the best pitches we could make and ensuring we made the most impression on the most important group of people in the competition: the judges.

It seems incredible now, hours after the competition’s finale, analyzing how far that strategy brought us. With just an idea, bundles of enthusiasm and three sometimes raspy voices, we galvanized our colleagues into believing in our idea, survived the three different evictions that trimmed the initial 70 teams to 45 and then 26 teams and made it into the final 10 teams. Finding out we made it to the final 10 teams was a massive confidence booster for us especially since we were beginning to feel the effects of constant use of one strategy.

We didn’t get the ultimate prize – we came 4th – but we came out of it galvanized by our achievements and with a bigger belief in our abilities and our idea and if we can channel half the passion we had during the entrepreneurial challenge into any venture we partake in going forward, excellence will not be far behind.

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