Lilongwe Pitch Night celebrated its one year anniversary on November 24th, 2016.....

Lilongwe Pitch Night – An Anniversary of Sorts

Lilongwe Pitch Night is one!  Malawi, our warm heart of Africa, has windows of opportunity waiting to be flung open and the intention of this monthly event is that windows are flung open with a pitch. Innovators are amongst the audience, guest speakers and ultimately, entrepreneurial pitchers.

The one-year anniversary night took place with a more distinct agenda as it held an aim to track the progress of previous 2016 pitchers and their businesses. Where are they now? Are they budding into the realms of success? And ultimately, where is their business taking Malawi? Taking from its origin, the word ‘entrepreneur’ means one that moves with their ideas. This is what this Pitch Night was focused on. Where were they moving? Where are we moving?

The audience gathered was greeted by the master of ceremony, Washington Chimuzu and the evening began with a reunion of sorts as four previous pitchers took the stage. First was Tadala Chinkwezulu – owner of an events management business called Estac Events. Tadala presented the growth of her business in an industry that is young and emerging since her pitch in August.Tadala requested more clientele for her events management business and partnerships with other businesses. She was beyond grateful to find that her business had grown in the three month period and evident of this was her planning of successful events such as the Tipeze Flea Market which will fall again this December. Furthermore, Tadala confirmed that her business has since the pitch been in high demand, bringing her to even fall responsible for four weddings which she had to organize in one Saturday.

Like Tadala, Emma Nyangulu, owner of Cateriner, a catering business, spoke on how her business had progressed since her pitch. Ultimately, the stage offered Emma the exposure she needed and boosted her clientele. She bakes good, tasty cakes and looks forward to expanding even further in pursuit of her vision of high quality catering in Malawi.

Mwirha Kapondamgaga also spoke on her business, C&N Investments, which is based in Area 10 and promotes locally made interior and garden decor. Her business serves a social responsibility in protecting workers from exploitation and earning them fair profits for their work. Amongst the audience, a few had already been to the physical location of her business. Mwirha said that the LLP platform gave her the boost she needed.

Stephen Chiunjira, founder of One World International, delivered what was a motivational testimony of his business. Stephen is involved in recycling waste into compost manure and selling the end product. He is driven by an enduring vision and works with communities to achieve this sensitizing mission. Stephen Chiunjira’s business is also growing ever widely and his thanks he extends to the platform in which he could prop up his ideas to both clientele and investors. Stephen certainly is a man on the move and the pitch night is only but honored to be of help to him.

Apart from our pitchers, a panel of educated and influential speakers also joined at our pitch evening. Amongst them was Joshua Nthakomwa (MITC), Wiskes Nkombezi (Minister of Industry and Trade), Robert Kapyepye (NBS Bank), Lombola Lombola Gama (Entrepreneur) and Emma Katengeza (Lilongwe Pitch Night manager). Moderation was conducted by the funny Wisdom Chimgwede.

They brought light to two major reasons that serve as the ultimatum for success or failure in business. The first discussed was the idea of capacity. “When it comes down to capacity, many Malawians tend to think within the box,” our panel observed. Fear castrates their creativity. Capacity is defined as the maximum amount that something can contain. Businesses thrive according to their capacity. It was shared that businesses tend to wither or not even take ground because of the misconceptions Malawians hold in terms of accessing financing or capital to begin their business endeavours. The belief that financing is limited to bank loans tends to unnecessarily curb the possibility for entrepreneurship. Financing is widely thought to be a rigid component of business when in truth it is perhaps one of the most creative aspects of business. Entrepreneurs can seek counsel in brainstorming ways to access capacity and need not be limited to the misconceptions that large amounts of money is needed to start a business and furthermore, that capital is only money. Capital is but a tree with many branches – knowledge, finance, friends, employees – that can contribute to business success.

The second aspect that was discussed by our panelists was the idea of teamwork and perhaps the most engaging topic of the two when it came to a crowd response. Teamwork, ultimately, was a topic that was not only related to business but to government, too. As was emphasized particularly by, Joshua Ntakhomwa, partnership is a pivotal component in business success or failure. In nature, nothing can stand or work on its own. Interdependence is also necessary in business. Effective teamwork is not only crucial for better service but for efficient business operation, too. Entrepreneurs need to accept where their shortcomings lie and seek other entrepreneurs who can help them in these particular fields. As a result, this creates a community that upholds the principles of team effort and will inevitably, lead to good quality.

Malawians also need to start considering continual professional development. Factors such as environment, background and strengths are inseparable from success and need be analyzed in depth. In regard to the above, it can be said that Malawians should take a more intimate approach to their business.

Pitch night would not be pitch night if there was no audience engagement. The microphone was passed amongst the attendees. One could evaluate that the world and how it is moving to have been present in our auditorium in Lilongwe. In light of what will be the post-2016 world, ideas of protectionism seemed to bubble up and were shared. Malawians voiced concerns as to whether their government protects them enough when it comes to both business and land policy. They were concerned as to whether their country was working with them or against them. In an analysis, one would say these were not arguments of protectionism but rather of reclamation. Malawians are coming to the consciousness that they must reclaim what was created to work for them – opportunity, governmental protection and ultimately, prosperous business.

At what was a reunion of all sorts – ideas, people, values, concerns and pitchers, one could say Malawians were reunited with matters held close to their hearts and the sheer desire as well as curiosity on how to solve these matters. The Lilongwe Pitch Night, in its one year anniversary, proved itself to be not only a valuable event but also one crucial for democracy and good business.

In quote of, and very much in theme of the intention of the night, panel speaker and co-planner of the Lilongwe Pitch Night, Emma Katengeza, closed off saying: “Malawi needs change. It takes each one of us to do something. Let’s be proactive.”

A warm thank you is extended to those who form part of the Lilongwe Pitch Night team of organizers as well as to our sponsors from RVK Fashion Show, Qoncept Creative who sponsored Joss Stone Concert tickets, Tay Grin, Daniel Dunga who sponsored 30 of his Grit books and Nthando who sponsored Mr. Pompi concert tickets. The night would not have been possible without our Lilongwe Pitch Night team either and all those who continue to attend in pursuit of a pitch. We look forward to next year. On display outside, Feed the Future, Lilongwe City Council stood as well as NyikaMW. Drinks were served at the end of the event, in accompaniment of networking.