Pinkie Mareka and Thabo Phakoe are both local entrepreneurs who entered the Engen Pitch and Polish competition and have made Bloemfontein proud as they reached the semi-finals.
The competition, which has been running for seven years, is designed to give local entrepreneurs the opportunity to have their ideas brainstormed, tested and challenged. The format includes a workshop and competition element and is considered to be a lateral-thinking national business competition, exposing would-be entrepreneurs to entrepreneurial training and thinking while helping entrepreneurs turn their business or business idea into a success.
Thabo Phakoe was born in Kroonstad and came to Bloemfontein to further his studies. He has a degree in Geology and is currently doing his honours in Spatial Planning at the University of the Free State. Phakoe has made it through to the semi-final through the SAfm Wild Card radio competition. His business is called Bathong Beverages and aims to supply bottled water so that his community will get through the current drought without resorting back to the bucket system.
He says his business model started off with him wanting to launch a bottled water brand with a peculiar pink bottle design. But as things progressed, he found that no one would manufacture the bottle for him, and that’s when he changed his business model to pet blow manufacturing. Phakoe says: “It’s much more feasible and you have a bigger economic right to exist if you have a speciality in the chain, and not just a distributor and a branding company. Anyone can do that, it doesn’t make you different.”
Phakoe says entering the competition has helped him get exposure for his business proposal, and he is now working on finding potential investors. He needs R3,8 million to start his business. “Finding investors is always a learning curve and a hard journey, but we’ve got a lot of interest, even after the Pitch and Polish semi-finals and I’ve made new contacts of potential investors.” He says the exposure and workshops from the competition have provided him with vast knowledge in entrepreneurship and solidifying a business model.
Pinkie Mareka has also made it to the semi-finals with her existing recycling business, Pink Hope Designs. Her business involves the recycling of waste products to convert into fuel and waste paper as well as combustible briquettes. Mareka hopes that her business will not only generate an income for her community, but also inspire a greener environment. She says that she intends to use the lessons she has learned through the competition to improve her business going forward. – Seithati Semenokane