The charismatic Durban University of Technology (DUT) alumnus winner, Luvo Gugwana was declared the winner of the prestigious 2022 Engen Pitch & Polish Competition, cosponsored by Nedbank and powered by Raizcorp.
The Pitch & Polish is a lateral-thinking business competition and workshop programme, exposing would-be entrepreneurs to enterprise development training and thinking, helping you turn their business idea into a business success.
Gugwana, (27) from Tabankulu in the Eastern Cape was extremely excited and over the moon with his win of R650 000 in cash which will be paid out over two years as he achieves the business milestones he laid out in his pitch, as well as a bursary worth R350 000 for a full two-year Raizcorp incubation programme.
“It was an unbelievable moment. After such a difficult journey and rigorous rounds of the competition, I was elated to hear that I was the overall winner, all the effort and hard work was being rewarded,” he said euphorically.
The former DUT graduate completed his National Diploma in Medical Orthotics and Prosthetics from 2016 to 2019, graduating with Cum laude. Apart from his academic studies, he also filled the portfolio of Enactus DUT President from 2017 to 2018; and was a Redbull Amaphiko Academy entrepreneur from 2018 to 2019. Also, adding to his accolades, Gugwana was the De Wet leadership potential award winner in 2018.
Gugwana explained that the competition called for all South African entrepreneurs, of all demographics and from across all industries.
He made mention that 32 Businesses were selected from a pull of thousand applicants, which the number was filtered down to the final two. He indicated that the judging criterion was centred around, profitability, sustainably and scalability of the business and which business clearly articulated growth potential, financial viability and the return on investment.
Gugwana relayed that competitions such as Engen Pitch and Polish were very vital, especially for young entrepreneurs, as the nature of such competitions provided a framework and a platform for entrepreneurs to enhance their entrepreneurial skills and business acumen.
“You are presented an opportunity to access to industry experts and network with other great entrepreneurs. You get into one of the best incubation programmes in country, such as Raizcorp. Overall such competitions present funding and mentorship opportunities which are key pillars that drive the success of entrepreneurs, he added.
Speaking on his winning pitch and his company, Gugwana said that throughout the competition the finalists had received guiding on how to refine their pitch and how to get to winning pitch, and as result his final pitch reflected those learnings.
“I was able to integrate all the learning into my pitch. My company Green Arch Innovations Pty Ltd, is a social enterprise that invested in aquaponics innovation, training, and capacity building. We design and construct aquaponics and other agricultural systems, tunnels, hydroponics, to name but a few,” he said.
He also explained his reason for starting such a company pertaining to introducing sustainable ways of farming.
“We are leaving in a country in which food insecurity is a threat to sustainable livelihoods. Furthermore, threats posed by external factors such as drought and climate, call for adoption climatic adaptive food production systems. Addressing this problem became our core business. The inception of the business was to introduce environmentally sustainable farming practices that will accelerate economic growth and change the narrative of how food is grown,” he stressed.
He commented that what makes his business more unique to other sustainable businesses is that it has a unique business model which is centred around investing in the aquaponics systems they had set-up.
“This approach does not only ensure long term income generation for our business but ensures robust scaling of our low-cost aquaponics technology across KwaZulu-Natal (KZN). Furthermore, Green Arch innovation has a multiple revenue streams model,” he replied.
For Gugwana, he relayed that he can attribute his business acumen to Enactus DUT, which he was president of in 2018.
“The programme really encouraged an entrepreneurial mindset. Enactus afforded an opportunity to work on real time problems that call for innovative solutions. DUT’s approach to student-centredness and student development has significantly afforded me many opportunities to practically enhance my entrepreneurial skills,” he added.
Furthermore, he indicated that the learning platforms, and exchange programmes availed through the support from the DVC’s office (Research, Innovation, and Community Engagement office), the entrepreneurship desk and his former Department of Orthotics and Prosthetics for their continued support, allowing him to participate in programmes that are completely out of the scope of his academic curriculum.
Gugwana also attributed his success to Lana-Ann Brady, his former HOD, Mr Bruce Nothling, Mr Neil Van der Merwe (former Lecturer), Nosipho Thabethe (secretary), from Medical Orthotics and Prosthetics, for rendering great support in my journey, by creating an allowance for me, in my then busy academic schedule. He also extended his gratitude to his friends and colleagues and his brothers Myolisi Gugwana and Lonwabo Sontsewu for their continued support in his journey.
According to the Enactus DUT Programme Manager, Mrs Lana-Ann Brady, the overarching theme of job creation, economic empowerment, recycling and environmental sustainability are the key focus areas for Ford College Community Challenge (Ford C3), the philanthropic arm of the global automaker); is “Building Sustainable Communities” by empowering students to make a difference in the world, bringing their unique perspective on what it takes to be a sustainable community.
“This is the basis on which Enactus DUT received funding from Ford for their innovative aquaponics project in Bamshela, located in the district of uMgungundlovu, KwaZulu-Natal (KZN). The winnings from this competition were channelled to the realisation of the first aquaponics blueprint,” she said.
She further commented that in June 2018, The Zululand Observer featured an article on the thriving DUT aquaponics project which was initiated in 2016, “Aquaponic farming project ticks all the boxes”. The article caught the attention of the Richard’s Bay Municipality who approached Enactus DUT to duplicate the project within their community. Mr Gugwana, the then Enactus DUT President and an active member of the aquaponic farming project, took advantage of the opportunity and registered his business Green Arch Innovations Pty which was in turn appointed by Richard Bay Minerals, through their SCI initiative, to establish a commercial scale aquaponics Project, for Gubethuka community, Esikhawini. This is the first project of its kind, in this area and in KwaZulu-Natal.
Mrs Brady also introduced Mr Gugwana to the Red Bull Challenge. He was successfully chosen as one of 14 social entrepreneurs chosen to be part of the 2019 Red Bull Amaphiko Academy where he was afforded the opportunity to develop both his business and his business acumen. Ms Brady goes on to say that he is a disruptor, a restless entrepreneur on the prowl for making a significant impact in the aquaponics industry and food security for our rural communities.
“I am proud of Luvo and am continuously in awe of his passion and curiosity to make a better world for us all,” she said. Mrs Brady relayed that Enactus DUT continues to partner with and support Mr Gugwana in his various enterprising ventures
In a recent radio interview, Bulela Mkandawire, who is Engen’s Head of Brand and Sponsorship, commented that Engen are humbled to play a small part – through Engen Pitch & Polish – on the entrepreneur’s respective journeys to change the world.
Pictured: Luvo Gugwana