The Pitch Hub: YGF 2017 Winning Project

The winner of the annual Idea Grant at The Youth Global Forum 2017, receiving the vast majority of votes, was Ms. Aurelia Abena Attiope, who travelled all the way from Ghana to present her project, “The Pitch Hub” – a training program aimed at equipping 50 young Ghanaian social entrepreneurs with the soft skills and platforms required to build and sustain their businesses. For her fantastic efforts, Ms. Attiope was awarded Youth Time’s Idea Grant in order to realize her project.

The Pitch Hub is the place where ideas are developed that turn into businesses. The target group is underprivileged people who would not otherwise have the opportunity to be educated in the field of pitching. It is not enough to have an idea without knowing how to implement it. Before we share our ideas with others and start looking for support, we should learn how to present them to the world to obtain needed support and partnership opportunities. The Pitch Hub is the place where young people from Ghana can come and get answers to such questions as: how to come up with a business idea, how to pitch a business, how to manage and develop a business through workshops, training, networking, and business plans.  Advice and potential connections are provided at Pitch Hub.

Aurelia Attiope has described the reason she founded The Pitch Hub: We realized that there is a huge gap: there weren’t so many people in the eco system doing what we are doing, so we noticed that this is a unique thing that we are doing for people, so why don’t we open it up and help other people to get more access and support for running projects. Before we solve the problem, we need to know what the problem is.

After winning the grant, Aurelia thought that this would be a one-year project, but it turned out that it could become a long term project which could be transformed into an NGO.  The main reason for it is the strong need for The Pitch Hub’s services in Ghana. The following paragraph outlines the situation:

 “According to the Ghana Statistical Service, young people in Ghana form approximately 12million of the country’s population and out of that number 53% are unemployed. Also, Statistics from the Institute of Statistics, Social and Economic Research (ISSER) of the University of Ghana indicates that 60,000 students graduate from tertiary institutions yearly, with only 10% of them securing employment in the first-year post-graduation. It could take up to ten years for a large proportion to secure gainful employment. As a stopgap measure, majority of graduates turn to entrepreneurship but unfortunately cannot sustain and expand their businesses due to lack of the dexterity and acumen required to survive. This is where The Pitch Hub comes in – To train and empower young entrepreneurs who will run successful businesses that can potentially change their lives and those of others.”
(The source, Pitch Hub official website http://www.pitchhubghana.com/about-us/ )

Three years after The Youth Global Forum, the Youth Time Movement decided to meet Aurelia Abena Attiope again to see how her project is developing, are statistics getting better, and what the impact of the project is today, in 2020. We will start from the beginning, the way how every story should start, and we will go through Aurelia’s personal and professional growth together.

Could you please take us back to the moment when you decided to take part in The Youth Global Forum? How did you hear about this event, and what encouraged you to take part in it?
I remember that sometime in August 2017, a friend of mine from Botswana shared the conference application link on Facebook and encouraged everyone on her timeline to apply. When I read about the conference, I thought it was a great opportunity. What attracted me was the fact that they were going to provide a coach/mentor to go through the idea before the presentation and that there was going to be a grant awarded to the winner. To be honest, that made me excited about attending the conference. The next thing was to make sure I got selected and then prepare adequately for the challenge.

Do you think that The Pitch Hub would be possible without strong support?
Without any support we cannot do anything, somebody should offer you a hand and those persons should be mentioned. Also, I do not think any organisation will survive without buy-in from its customers, employees, and partners. The story is the same for The Pitch Hub. The success of every organization depends on recruiting right. As Jim Collins observed in his book “Good to Great”, successful companies first figure out the right people they need on their bus (company) before figuring out where to drive the bus.

Now that we are talking about people and support, I would ask you to present your team, the people without whom The Pitch Hub wouldn’t be possible. Everybody knows you as a founder of The Pitch Hub, but let’s meet other members of the team.
Richmond Engel Bennah is the Head of Business Development at The Pitch Hub, his role entails leading strategic initiatives with partner organisations. Derrick Edem Sosoo is the head of Media and Logistics at The Pitch Hub. Jude Kwegyir-Aggrey handles PR and Communications at The Pitch Hub. Adu-Poku Richard at The Pitch Hub feeds in on strategy, programs, and program content. Nana Okyir-Baidoo is head of Finance at Pitch Hub. He also runs some of our training sessions as a resource person. Efua Adadzewaa Nunoo supports all the Logistics needed by the team.

What does it look like, the journey from the idea to the realization?
I got a lot of help with fleshing out my idea from Goran Luburic from the Zagreb School of Business. He was assigned to me as a mentor by the Youth Time team as part of preparing for the conference. This gave me an idea of how to run the project, but that was on paper. I had to test it and ensure that it was the right approach. After the conference, it took me 4 months to start rolling out the project. I had to do a lot of research on the approach to use, form a team, register The Pitch Hub as an NGO and create a bank account for the organization. It was a remarkably busy period for me. I am grateful to all the people who offered to help me put it together. Today, The Pitch is not an idea anymore. We have helped hundreds of young entrepreneurs validate their business ideas and secure funding for their businesses.

How many people have you trained so far, and what is the percentage of successful business set up?
Together with our partners, we have trained close to 800 people since February 2018. Some of the people we trained have gone ahead to secure jobs in the corporate space and the others have established their businesses. Again, through our partners, we have close to 50 entrepreneurs who have received funding and are running their businesses.

I suppose that there are not so many similar initiatives in your country, what has inspired you besides devastating reality to take the first step to start changing reality?
When we started, one of the first things we did was to form partnerships with various start-up hubs and corporate firms that were focused on supporting the growth of small businesses in Ghana.  Some of the partnerships were project-based, but we still stay in touch with the partners and ensure that they are aware of the work we do. The success stories of some of the young people we have worked with continue to inspire and motivate us to keep working.

Is the Pitch Hub sustainable for life, or it is still a passionate project that has potential to grow?
We are working on making our materials available online to benefit other entrepreneurs outside of Ghana. We are also looking forward to entering other African markets to help businesses there achieve scale and growth. These are some of the things we are seriously looking into. The Pitch Hub is here to stay. The team is very committed to improving our service and making sure the organisation survives long term.

How would you describe your role in society now, at this moment?
I am still that woman who is doing her bit to help improve the lives of others. I am lighting a candle in my little corner and seeing it light up in other spaces. I always pray for grace and opportunities to do more.

What would you recommend to young people? Have you been afraid of challenges?
How did you manage not to give up and become desperate? If you have an idea, and you cannot push people to buy your idea, than you will not be supported in it. You will not be able to do it alone unless you have all resources. Even if you have all resources, you will still need partners, clients, and the chance to find the right way to talk to the clients, or how to convince somebody to be a partner with you. You have to learn how to convince people, and that is what pitching is about. I have something that you don’t, but I need to convince you how to take that from me, not from another person. If you don’t know how to talk about your idea, then you will not get any support for successful implementation. Always keep in mind what is the real need in the wider society for your project.

Today The Pitch Hub is growing fast, from a one year project it has become an NGO organisation which is counting many partnerships and activities. Pitch Hub is part of the “Home for Business” project in partnership with Societe Generale. Home for business is helping small entrepreneurs and startups in the field of business consulting and management. The Pitch Hub is also working with people with disabilities in partnership with the Organisation called Disabled. They are teaching people with disabilities how to manage their businesses during the crisis. The proof that good deeds are noticed and supported is found in Aurelia’s statement: “A lot of people are coming to us and telling us – I want to help, that is how they are giving back to society.”

By Nevena Saulic (Youth Team) -14.05.2020

Photos: The Pitch Hub