From the historical province of Masvingo, we made our way towards Chinhoyi, the quiet and pleasant capital of Mashonaland West. Our team arrived at the Chinhoyi University of Technology Hotel at 8:00am and quickly set up for the two day event. We were excited to be in the town famous for its mystical caves located at its periphery. 

Our team was made up of individuals from different stakeholders partnering together to make young entrepreneurs dreams come true. Partners included Impact Hub Harare, Zimbabwe Youth Council and Higher Life Foundation. The Startup Tour Bus is a program launched by Youth Connekt Zimbabwe, an initiative established and led by the United Nations Development Program in Zimbabwe (UNDP Zimbabwe) and the Ministry of Youth, Sports, Arts and Recreation.  

Participants from all corners of the province congregated at the Chinhoyi University of Technology Hotel for the business training and the pitching. One of the entrepreneurs noted how a friend had sent him a link to our Facebook page, with information about the Startup Tour Bus, and had been following us ever since, from our first stop. The enthusiastic founders had been preparing for us to arrive. Mashonaland West has creative and multi-talented youth eager to show what they are capable of inventing. 

Day 1 started with an address from the Youth Connekt Project Manager, welcoming participants and guests. After this, we got down to business with training sessions from Steward-Millennial Bank; Impact Hub Harare; the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, 

Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development; and the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce. It wasn’t all about books and business all day. Hip-hop gospel super-star Mudiwa Hood was part of the Startup Tour Bus team and enthralled the crowd with his fantastic rhymes. 

There was an impressive array of inventions including briquettes from agricultural waste, alternative tropical ointments and roofing tiles from plastic waste. Mashonaland West had the highest number of female entrepreneurs pitching among the 10 provinces. The judges had a tough time choosing the 10 finalists who would pitch on the following day. Surprisingly, half of the finalists were female, a new feat for the tour bus, given the low numbers of female entrepreneurs who applied to pitch in the competition overall.

Day 2 started very early for the finalists, with Impact Hub Harare leading the one on one mentoring, business coaching and pitch finalisation. This was a confident bunch, each of the finalists, except for the participant who later went on to win, were confident and knew they stood a good chance to win the top prize. This was to prepare them to face the judges for 8 minutes, three for the pitch and the other five for the question and answer session. 

The first 5 pitch sessions started mid-morning, giving enough time to entrepreneurs with large or cumbersome products to prepare for the showcase during the second 5 pitch sessions after the break. The founders spoke with enthusiasm and energy. They knew their products and were well prepared for the questions from the judges.

After deliberation from the judges, which felt too long for the finalists, the top 3 were announced. The second runner up was Takura Samanga who manufactured shoes from old tyres. Upcycling old tyres into new pairs of shoes is a great way to show his creativity and play his part to save the environment. The first runner up was Jessica Dvore who had a range of alternative tropical ointments, all made from natural ingredients.

The winner was Chipo Chihunda, who wowed the judges and other participants with her pitch and her amazing innovation: roofing tiles recycled from plastic waste. Chipo was the first female entrepreneur to win a provincial pitch final since we started the tour. Chipo was overwhelmed and could not contain her tears when her name was announced. When asked about the whole experience, she said, “I learnt that it is good to try new things and to be confident in what you do, always.” 

We had crowned our champion in Mashonaland West and changed Chipo’s life forever. It was time to pack up and head for the next stop, Mutare in the province of Manicaland to see what the youth there had in store for us.  

To relive the experience click here  to visit the album.