Our first stop on the Youth Connekt Start-Up Tour Bus was the energetic city of Bindura in Mashonaland Central. Mash Central represents about 8.5% of the Zimbabwean population and is divided into the following eight districts:
We were excited to tour the province well known for its rich soils, rural & commercial farming & mining. In the middle of a cold, dark winter morning our bus partners eagerly hopped on the bus that would launch the journey of over 1000 start-ups. We arrived in the bustling city of Bindura at 8:00am in the morning and the excitement was palpable. One of the participants urged youth to take advantage of such opportunities stating, “guys ka, musasare”. At the farmer’s market we witnessed some incredible value addition products made from drying and adding spices to food items.
Tracy Mapfumo, one of the participants who would go on to pitch on Day 2, said growing up in Mashonaland Central, “was a cocktail of experiences.” She goes on to explain that, “the rural part of Mashonaland Central is quite refreshing and embraces adventure, if you are an adventurous person like me. Fishing, strolls in the forest and being human scarecrows in maize fields,’ she noted with a smile. “The other side of the province which is more peri-urban is usually surrounded by farm areas.” She mentioned that “those parts of the province were quite hectic and it was necessary to get a bit of exposure otherwise one would never know what existed beyond the borders of the province.”
Bindura State University was very accommodating and with over 100 participants in attendance, we commenced the Day 1 business trainings as follows:
- Micah Foundation: Entrepreneurship 101 (Business models, digital productivity, innovation)
- Elevate: Niche Marketing (Anything can make you money)
- Steward Bank: Financial Inclusion (Attitude is everything)
- Impact Hub Harare: Pitching & Marketing (Capture your audience)
It wasn’t all books and no play. The youth in Bindura were very vibrant and energetic they even came up with a Youth Connekt Zim jingle. To this day, we can’t stop chanting Smart Connekt, We Connekt, Youth Connekt. After a hearty lunch and one more business training from the Ministry of Women Affairs, Community, Small & Medium Enterprise Development: Record keeping & financial management (If it’s not written down, it doesn’t exist), the 20 selected entrepreneurs were ready to pitch their ideas. We were amazed at the multitude of innovations Mash Central had to offer including agri-tech start-ups, energy efficient projects and food chain disrupters. After the elevator pitches, the 10 chosen to pitch on day 2 could barely contain their excitement, all we could manage was a feeble “try to get some rest.”
Day 2 was just as active as Day 1. The pitching entrepreneurs went through some mentoring sessions with Impact Hub Harare to finalize their pitch decks and presentations. Thereafter, we had two more sessions from:
- Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC): Mentorship and Business Association Networks (It’s okay to lean on others) &
- VSO/UNV/Higher Life Foundation: Volunteering as a tool for community development, employability and enterprise development
The pitches on the second day were three minutes long because the entrepreneurs had to clearly identify the problem their solution solves, their business model, competitor analysis, traction, team and financial projections. As the day was winding down, the judges had the tough decision of selecting the winners.
The second runner up was Josphat Nyika of Maggot Farms. His company uses the soldier fly to produce animal stock feed. Nyika, “feels that the big companies in farming and mining can help to rescue youth-led initiatives in Mash Central.” The first runner up was Tracy Mapfumo of Enys Treats who proudly stated that “growing up in Mash Central motivated me to work hard and make the best out of what l have.”
When the winner, Kudzaishe Mamanikwi, inventor of a battery/solar-powered generator, broke down in tears after the announcement, we knew that the goals we outlined at the beginning of the tour were both achievable and life-changing! After Bindura, we were pumped for the remaining nine provinces and were ready to connect youth to opportunities, each other, policy makers and the rest of the continent.
To review the FB album and relive all the fun we experienced in Bindura click here.