Towards the end of last year, I got an email about a competition for small businesses. I almost pressed ‘delete’. That would’ve been a big mistake.
I did enter. And I got called for the first interview, then for a second. The second interview was with two guys from EDFM – Gavin and Riaad. Never before had Garth and I faced such intensive intuitive questions. I walked out there thinking that we had really messed up.
So, I was really surprised when I was called by the organiser, Evashnee, and told that we had been selected to face the final panel. Gavin and Riaad told us in a briefing session that the final panel consisted of some of the best business minds in South Africa, together with a team from Cedar in the UK.
Garth and I worked like maniacs to put our 15 minute presentation together. Just putting that presentation together was an extremely worthwhile exercise – I learnt a LOT. We were probably working on the presentation up to the moment we left the office. Eventually we arrived at the hotel in Kempton Park where the panel was sitting.
We were a bit early. I paced around outside, trying unsuccessfully to eavesdrop on the competitor before me (Ubuntuism) and practising my lines. When Keith from Ubuntuism came out, he seemed relaxed (but in retrospect, he always is) and told us that they were a ‘friendly crowd’.
We went into a very larney boardroom with about 12 people sitting around a table. We set up our laptop and handed out the brochures. I had organised that Garth did most of the talking, because I am hopeless at public speaking. With me telling the odd story inbetween.
After what seemed like hours, we finished and it was time for the dreaded questions. The only question I actually remember being asked was Shirley from Absa’s question about eventing. I had mentioned our Calm mix product trial with the British Event Riders Association in our presentation. Shirley asked what eventing was and why riders would need calm horses for it. I explained how eventing needed horses that were almost maniacally brave, willing to hurtle over huge solid fences at a flat out gallop. I also explained the difficult balancing act of trying to keep those same fit, brave, excitable horses sane enough to do dressage on the first day. And how much Calm mix helped obedience triumph over recklessness.
Then it was over, and two of the judges actually bought some of my samples. Without quite knowing why, I felt we had done well. We took ourselves out to dinner to celebrate.
Sure enough, when the phone call came a few days later, it was positive. We were one of 10 companies selected to go on a Business Bootcamp in Stellenbosch, a trip to the UK and help with internationalising our business.
Even then, I didn’t realise how big it would actually be.