The 9th stop on the Start-up Tour Bus was the semi-arid area of Lupane in Matabeleland North Province which cultivates cotton and corn. Lupane is a small developing town which has amazingly gifted individuals. The tour targeted young innovators and entrepreneurs who pitched their businesses in a competition, gunning for the $5,000 (USD) start-up capital prize. The runner ups would receive one-year virtual membership at Impact Hub Harare which included business support, mentorship and networking and the first runner up would receive full membership and $50 worth of airtime from Econet Zimbabwe..

To make this tour a reality we came together as different organizations with the United Nations Development Program in Zimbabwe (UNDP Zimbabwe) and the Ministry of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation as the Youth Connekt Zimbabwe project leads. Other partners included Elevate, Higher Life Foundation, Steward-Millennial Banking, Impact Hub Harare, Micah Foundation, UN Volunteers, Innovators’ Hub Clubs, Zimbabwe Youth Council, Zimbabwe National Chambers of Commerce (ZNCC), Tag Team Productions and the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprise Development.

We set up at Lupane State University and our registration desk, located outside, saw attendants lining up fast, filling up the lecture hall in no time. The tour was also open to individuals who wanted to take advantage of the business trainings. The very first session began with the basics, –“Getting started.”  This session from Micah Foundation dug into the basics of entrepreneurship, business models, digital productivity and innovation. Next up, Steward-Millenial Bank’s facilitator proved that “Attitude is Everything” illustrating the role mindset plays in planning for your future and business.

 UN Volunteers, Higher Life Foundation and VSO teamed up to focus on volunteerism as a tool for community development, employment and enterprise development, emphasizing its importance. Impact Hub Harare gave the participants great insight into how they can get ahead in and outside the competition through pitching their businesses exceptionally. In an interview, Vimbai from the Zimbabwe Youth Council (ZYC) noted how she had gained tremendously from the trainings which inspired her to start her own business. 

Elevate, during its session, “Anything can make you money: What’s in your hand”, encouraged the youth to build a niche business based on their competitive advantage. Finally, the last session began, led by ZNCC. As the saying goes; if you want to go fast, go alone but if you want to go far, go together. “It is okay to lean on others”– an important lesson learnt during this session. Entrepreneurs must learn to collaborate towards a common goal to achieve desired results, creating and tapping into business association networks. 

At the end of the business trainings, it was finally time for the selected 20 participants to present their elevator pitches. Alan Nare pitched the idea of a cost-effective way of producing tilapia fish, using locally available feed, an advantage that adds to sustainability. Mobitech Technologies’ Zibusiso Ndlovu presented a wheelchair controlled through a joystick and head motion. It was obvious that Lupane had diversely talented youth who are doing their part in contributing to the economy’s development. After the elevator pitch session, judges convened and chose ten finalists to pitch on the following day. The finalists celebrated by dancing to the sweet rhythm of Majaivana song Ntuthu ziyathunqa and their excitement was palpable. 

By 7 am on the following day we were already on our way back to Lupane State University. A volunteer showcase session allowed us to witness the talent of the attendees of the day. Penny the Poetess gave an amazing poem on love and heartbreak in her native language. Her execution was very believable and relatable so much so that she received a standing ovation and ululations for her masterpiece. 

The finalists confidently took to the stage for their final pitch presentations and did an impressive job of marketing their innovations as they made use of the information on best business practices they had gained throughout the event. Allan Twalumba Sibanda’s innovation on brick moulding using coal waste earned him first runner up. Unsurprisingly, this announcement was met with uproar. Allan was a crowd favourite, with his charisma, relatable experience and story of hard work he had weaved into his pitch. However, popularity with the crowd was not on the judging criteria, and the most innovative idea placed first.

Zibusiso Ndlovu’s wheelchair took the prize. The potential magnitude of impact his innovation would have on the health sector, and especially on people with spinal injuries or conditions cannot be exaggerated. Zibusiso and his team had built the wheelchair with scrap material they could find and produced a stunning prototype. Zibusiso became the 3rd participant to win for an invention after Kudzai Mumanikwi and his generator in Mash Central, and Donbosco Masendeke with his poultry feeder in Masvingo.