Mokate says he never dreamed that someone would invest R1 million in him and his business.

A glamping entrepreneur won R1 million for the best pitch in a competition where entrepreneurs were mentored and taught how to pitch their businesses to investors and clients. Tshireletso Mokate, “The Camping Guy”, from Alberton, now plans to use his knowledge and prize money to take his small business to an industry player.

Mokate, who owns Camping RetrEats, was one of 16 finalists in the 2023 Engen Pitch & Polish competition, the 13th time the competition was held with co-sponsor Nedbank and organiser Raizcorp. It consisted of a blend of competition, one-on-one mentoring and entrepreneurial learning.

While the contestants engage in a gripping battle of business pitches to compete for the ultimate prize, the programme’s main aim is to teach the contestants and viewers of the podcast that records the stages of the competition entrepreneurial skills and knowledge.

This year three impressive finalists, Mokate, Mzingisi Tyelingane who owns M-Games and wildcard contestant Benedicta Durcan who owns Afrobodies were in the final. Mokate’s prize includes R650 000 in cash that will be paid out over two years as he achieves the business milestones he laid out in his pitch and a bursary worth R350 000 for a full two-year Raizcorp business-development programme.

In addition, he will also have the coveted bragging rights of being South Africa’s ultimate pitching champion.

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Pitching his business… and tents

His business, Camping RetrEats, takes all the hard work out of camping, like building fires, pitching tents and doing all the cooking so that guests can experience the joys of the outdoors and adventure activities without worrying about the chores.

Where did Mokate get the idea for his business? After struggling to convince his family to experience nature first hand by spending the night in the bush, Mokate thought of an innovative way of making his dream come true.

He teamed up with a friend who was a chef and asked him to cook for them for the weekend. The idea of having a private chef at a camp site appealed to his family and they agreed to join him on the camping experience.

Mokate, who is an information technology specialist by training, took to social media and uploaded videos and pictures of the fun activities of the weekend. The response was overwhelming and he decided to host another retreat.

He set up a basic website with all the information of what his company provides and the rest is, as they say: history. He now wants to grow his business to dominate the local camping scene, reach more international travellers and have a strong presence in neighbouring countries.

ALSO READ: Polishing your small business pitch using market feedback

How the entrepreneur impressed the judges

The judges were impressed with Tshireletso’s enthusiasm and how he polished his business pitch as the competition progressed and believe the business has great potential.  The judging panel consisted of Siphokazi Vabaza director of enterprise, risk and assurance at Engen, Monique Chinnah, senior manager for client offerings for small businesses at Nedbank and Allon Raiz, chief excitement officer at Raizcorp.

They said what made Mokate even more impressive is his remarkable ability to identify and address personal and customer pain points, thereby transforming these challenges into a profitable enterprise.

“Consistency was a hallmark of his approach, and his journey, which began as a simple effort to plan a family holiday, has now evolved into a thriving business. What is even more impressive is that this business has expanded beyond its initial offerings, now boasting a diverse range of products.

“It is a testament to the spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation and it underscores the incredible potential that lies within our nation’s business leaders,” they said.

“Entrepreneurship can be a lonely journey and often the ‘pat on the back’ that means the most is from someone who knows exactly what you are going through. I want to pat each of my fellow contestants on the back and tell them that as long as they work on their businesses, each of them is a winner too,” Mokate says.

As this year’s runner up, chemical engineer and CEO of Afrobodies biotech company, Benedicta Durcan, took home R100 000 in cash, while second runner-up, Mzingisi Tyelingane, of M-Games walks away with R50 000 in cash.

published 2023-11-06 10:58:00