Natalie is a Part Qualified Accountant / Developer, specializing in data visualizations at the British Heart Foundation. Her team Garbage Brokers created a tech-enabled solution for the improvement of Ghana's waste management and were overall winners and best pitch at SU54: Africa Tech 2.0!
Why I attended SU54 Africa Tech
Even though I'm of Jamaican descent, I attended SU54 because I identify as an African woman and was intrigued by the title alone. The title gave me the impression that this an opportunity to meet other millennials within the tech space. That's just my perspective, however, all races are welcomed to participate. Personally, what happens on the continent is of personal interest to me. So the combination of Africa and tech thrilled me and I just had to attend.
I had previously attended Coding Black Females (CBF) meetups and wanted to visit another black-led tech event. In addition to this, I truly feel passionate about social change and had been praying for the opportunity to make a positive impact. On the flyer, I recognized a familiar face that I had met a CBF event and thought the description was exciting and in line with my interests.
Day 1: pitching ideas and forming teams
Before I attended SU54, I expected a safe space to share ideas and meet like-minded individuals. However, nothing could have prepared me for the days ahead. I arrived slightly late on Friday and accepted I had missed at least 1 talk. In addition to the missed talk, I also missed the moment that the teams had been brainstorming their ideas. However, I felt so excited by the energy in the room that, I had caught the wave of excitement. Then I chose to pitch an idea, that had came to me at that moment. Unfortunately, my idea to create an online library and tutoring service didn't receive enough votes to make it to the next stage.
So there they were, Nine brilliant entrepreneurs stood in a row at the front of the stage as we had the opportunity to advertise our skill sets and form teams. Each of the nine individuals had a brilliant idea. I had originally approached Richard from “wheretomed”. I was the first person to stand in front of him, then noticed other people surrounding us. I stopped to pay attention to the vibes in the room and noticed Garfield standing behind me in his sharp navy blue suit smiling. I asked if anyone had spoken to him yet. He replied "no", so I put my arm on him and said “brother let’s go through this together”'. I told him my skill set and he said “cool”. Two others joined the team and that’s how the Garbage brokers formed.
Day 2: masterclasses and validation
Coming up with a strategy within the time frame provided was exhausting. We questioned our process continuously and found more angles to explore. Learning how to scale down and focus was a priority in the beginning. As we believed we could take on all areas of recycling at the very beginning. We were provided with the opportunity to speak with correspondents in Africa which proved extremely beneficial. It provided us with a reality check on the potential barrier of entry for our project.
Looking back many factors contributed to our team's success. The masterclasses had a great impact on our team. Matt Black's master class on creating a business model taught me how to deliver a pitch and hold the attention of your audience. The pitching master class gave us the key points of consideration when delivering solutions to a problem. We were spoilt for choice when choosing mentors, such a great and vast array of business knowledge to choose from. From absorbing and reflecting on the all lessons provided through the weekend, I really felt supported and glad the Foundervine team had structured these classes into the schedule.
Day 3: final pitches
Listening to other teams' pitch was an awesome experience and quite informative. It was clear that all teams had done their research and soon we realized the bar had been set high. My team was 8th (out of 9) to pitch and when the nerves set in I had to remind myself that we had to do our best and have fun. I suggested a moment of prayer for solace and we held hands while seated for a short prayer before we presented our pitch.
We secured 1st place and best pitch. I'm truly humbled and still taken aback and would like to give God the glory for our win.
Now I'm feeling blessed to have taken part in this program. I feel validated as an entrepreneur and have gained the keys; such as knowledge and confidence that will enable me to go forward and achieve success. Moving forward we would like to pilot our waste management project in West Africa. As a team, we strongly believe Garbage Brokers can benefit the entire continent and change lives. With the future ahead our projection is to create a strong continental campaign to reduce the used of plastic while encouraging and educating the masses to accept their responsibility to keep the Motherland clean.