By: Thandiwe Kubere

In a dedicated effort to champion Basotho entrepreneurs and catalyze business growth, Standard Lesotho Bank yesterday held the Scaled-Up Pitching Den, a pivotal event aimed at fortifying support and fostering regional integration for Basotho entrepreneurs across the African continent. The event, which took place at Avani Maseru, gave platform to eight deserving Basotho entrepreneurs to present their businesses, affording them the opportunity to get funding for growth.

 The Scaled-Up Pitching Den initiative continues to prove the bank’s unwavering commitment to empowering local businesses, especially the youth. The event’s grand objective was to identify an outstanding young entrepreneur who will represent Lesotho at the prestigious Africa Business Banking Awards, scheduled for April 2024 in Kenya.

The entrepreneurs were each allotted a 10 minutes presention of their business pitches, followed by an engaging 5-minute Question & Answer session involving both the audience and a panel of esteemed judges. The pitch guide and the selection criteria for the best presentation looked into; Ownership and motivation of venturing into the kind of business; Marketability of the business; profitability; element of innovation and creativity; scalability (growth potential and ability to expand); contribution to the economy (if the business would help in job creation and its potential to contribute in tax).

The competitors were advised to have made intense research in order to convince potential investors and clients.  In his welcoming remarks, Head of Enterprise Banking Malatola Phothane declared Standard Lesotho Bank , through Business and Commercial Banking strives to turn possibilities into opportunities and drive growth.

“To you, todays contenders: i read a post from one of your peers, a pioneering entrepreneur. He was on the notion that the biggest risk of being born in Lesotho, is the celebration of mediocrity, No one dreams of astronomical achievements and I agree with him in toto:  We are afraid to dream, we are comfortable punching below our weight, to you I say: Dare to dream with dreamers and visionaries at the helm like yourselves, the country is in safe hands”, he said.

Noteworthy adjudicators included Ms. Rethabile Shale, Director and shareholder at an entrepreneurship Network, Mr. Paseka Mokoatsi, founder of PDollar Entrepreneurship Centre, and Mr. Libako Mohapi, a Senior Entrepreneurship Officer in the Ministry of Gender, Youth, Sports and Recreation, among others. Their expertise ensured fair and insightful evaluations, promising a stimulating showcase of Basotho entrepreneurship excellence.

Having won an all-expense-paid trip to Kenya and a fund of M40 000, the founder of Mamello School of Special Needs Centre, Kefuoe Nkuatsana was assured to further be assisted by bankers with her business proposal such that it becomes selleable before heading to Kenya.  Nkuatsana declared she was not expecting the win after observing all the enterprises she was competing against, which was quite strong. She further aknowlegded that all her hard work and sleepless nights are beginning to pay off. “For us this means growth, commitment and the beginning of opportunities. She further noted that this was the school’s third award since its  establishment three years ago.

This reward was stated to not only celebrate the individual achievement but also aligns with Standard Lesotho Bank’s commitment to showcasing Basotho talent on a global stage, giving them exposure and life-changing networking platforms. In addition to the grand prize, the bank also awarded the 2nd  runner up M5000- Masia Investments which is in Agri-Business and the 1st runner up with M10,000- STKNT Solutions respectively, which works with preparing, packaging and exporting Mosea grass raw material to trade internationally.

“Standard Lesotho Bank, as the proud pilot of the event, remains at the forefront of transforming dreams, ideas, and visions of Basotho entrepreneurs into reality. Our pioneering spirit is evident in our status as the first bank in Lesotho to offer digital loans specifically tailored for small and medium enterprises (SMEs)”, said Mr. Manyathela Kheleli,  Brand and Marketing Manager – Communication and Sponsorships. He asserted the Bank also invested millions in many activities that promote Basotho in the business arena, such as the Bacha Entrepreneurship Project, the Construction and Infrastructure Lekhotla and now the Scaled Up Pitching Den that is going to expose an aspiring entrepreneur to the African Continent. This strategic move provides Basotho with unprecedented opportunities to turn their aspirations into tangible successes, create jobs, and contribute significantly to the nation’s economic growth.

Notably, the bank’s commitment goes beyond financial support, as it seeks to create a conducive environment for Basotho entrepreneurs to thrive. The Scaled-Up Pitching Den was live-streamed on Standard Lesotho Bank Facebook page, inviting viewers nationwide to join in and vote for their favorite entrepreneur. This enhanced inclusivity and gave Basotho a 20% voting right which bettered their favourite’s chances of winning. 

Standard Lesotho Bank was decribed  to be a go-to bank for entrepreneurship in Lesotho, with a distinctive passion for youth and entrepreneurial endeavors. Through initiatives like the Scaled-Up Pitching Den, the bank not only elevates individuals but also plays a pivotal role in shaping the landscape of business in the region.

Therefore, as the event unfolded, social media enthusiasts were encouraged to actively engage, share, and support the participating entrepreneurs using the official event hashtag. Therefore joining in the celebration of innovation, resilience, and the spirit of entrepreneurship that defines Basotho businesses. With Standard Lesotho Bank, if you can dream it, you can attain it!

Encouraging the entrepreneurs, Mr. Phothane remarked, “Three words: DARE to DREAM! Hunger, Honesty, Perseverance. Imagination is everything! When you sell your businesses, remember that we buy what you tell us, so when you get the chance say all that you need to such that you propel an investor to pour money into your business right there and then.

“May we give ourselves a round of applause for it is not easy standing before all these experienced and seasoned business men and women, firing at you tough questions  meant to catalyze understanding and  appreciation of you and your services”, he said.

He further applauded them for standing their ground and sharing their knowledge, and passion for their businesses. “Like I said, this is no easy assignment!! Well done to you.