Financial Data
Updated 21 Sep 2020

Start-up business opportunities in South Africa

There are many reasons and benefits to starting a small business in South Africa. Follow these steps to find the most profitable business opportunities and run your own business.

Starting a business isn’t for everyone. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Starting a small business in South Africa requires you to invest time, energy and patience.

But more than anything else a Start-up needs passion, commitment and a clear sense of purpose. If you have what it takes and are willing to do the difficult things, then you should start your own business.

Related: Start-up checklist

“The world will make way for someone who knows what he or she wants, because there is not much competition when it comes to passionate commitment”. Laurie B. Jones.

Reasons for starting a small business in South AfricaBusiness -start -up -ideas _starting -a -business -in -south -africa

Own and run your own business in South Africa in order to provide employment and produce wealth. Your wealth represents potential jobs for countless people and it can lead to a better life for many South African as well as for yourself.

Always consider your wealth as a means of improving living conditions everywhere. Remember, you have a responsibility toward your associates, employees, stockholders and public. Use your capital to benefit your employees, customers and their families.

Secret to your success:

Do work that interests you. Increase your ability to earn. Start with desire and persistence. The more interested you are in your work, the more persistent your efforts will be.

Benefits of starting a small business in South Africa

Step away from that photocopier and work for yourself

Use your current skill set and expertise to become your own boss. You set the rules. You set the deadlines and you decide how to run your business. You don’t need permission to implement business ideas in South Africa or take time off, you can just do it!

You can work from anywhere at any time. You don’t need to be stuck in a cubicle listening to your colleagues complaining. Drinking instant coffee and trying to exorcise the smell of tuna lunch from your nostrils.

Owning and running your own business in South Africa can be very fulfilling. You’ll enjoy the fruits of your labour and can feel proud of your accomplishments. Many small business owners find they enjoy the respect they earn from their peers for having the courage to go out on their own.

Building your own brand can mean passing on a legacy to your children. Your children will be motivated to do great things and follow in your footsteps.

Owning your own business forces you to be more creative, learn more and in most cases teach others. It’s an opportunity for both personal and professional growth.

Better income potential: Make more money

As an employee there are limits to how much money you’ll make. When you start your own business, you have the opportunity to earn an unlimited income based on your own efforts.

An entrepreneur who starts their own business can break free from the restrictions of a month-to-month pay check and make their own job security.

You’ll never have to worry about being laid off or whether you’ll get that promotion. As a business owner you’ll have the resources and decision-making capability necessary to stay current and competitive.

Explore your interestsBusiness -start -ups _business -man -shooting -for -the -stars

You can profit from your passion. Getting paid to fulfil your destiny and live out your life purpose. As someone else’s employee you rarely, if ever, work on projects you are personally invested in.

You’re completing tasks in order to increase someone else’s bottom line. Working for yourself means you’re personally invested which will increase your persistency and likelihood of success.

Related: How to write a strategic marketing plan

Owning your own small business means you have time to explore the things you’re interested in. Expand your mind. Become who you were truly meant to be. Travel more, pursue your hobbies or just drop everything and go for a walk.

“I consider business as a game and I play it as a game. That is why I have been, and still am, so devoted to it.” Claude C. Hopkins. My Life in Advertising

Marketing is easier than even before

Marketing no longer requires thousands of Rand. Today you can easily and cheaply spread the word through social media platforms and build a Million-Rand company.

Transitioning your business online will give you access to a much wider network of clients and buyers. No longer will you be competing against other start-ups in your area, instead you’re free to think as big as you want. You could even go global and expand your business dramatically.

Shape your own working environment

You can base your workplace culture on yourpersonal values and beliefs. You are not restricted by having to follow a set work methodology, you’re free to change your work process if your wish. Make your own schedule and find your own work/life balance.

You’ll become an expert and authority figure

As head of your own business, you won’t just learn new skills, you’ll become an expert at them. You will receive multiple opportunities for acquiring new abilities and in the process discover hidden talents.

Deductions: Tax breaks and benefits

Keep every last bit of paper you receive when you buy things for your business. For example, when your business operates out of your home: Determine your home’s square footage (your house plans should show this), then measure the surface of your office space.

Now, determine the percentage space your office takes up within your home (house 820 square feet and office 164 square feet – your office takes up 20% of the total space). Now you can claim 20% of all your household expenses as “office use as part of house”.

This includes insurance premiums, electricity, cleaning services, house rent and interest on your home loan.Other expenses you can validly claim foras a small business owner include:

Stationery, printing, computer expenses, and advertising, internet and telephone fees. If you need to claim for travel expenses be sure to keep a logbook and capture all business related trips. SARS allows a certain amount per kilometre.

Tax tips for small businesses:

  • Diarise due payment dates
  • Keep close track of all business expenses
  • Claim maximum retirement annuity deductions
  • Keep business and personal expenses separate
  • You can deduct educational expenses that maintain or improve skills required for your business.

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Often start-up entrepreneurs make the mistake of trading from their personal bank account. This makes it harder to differentiate between your personal expenses and business expenses. It also doesn’t allow you to build up a credit risk profile for your business, which is an important factor should you ever want to approach a bank for financing. Rather, start trading as a business from the get-go by opening up a Business Current Account.

What start-up business options should I be looking at?

Choose a field you know and understand

Do not start until you have a good, solid working knowledge of the business. To help you get started, here is a list of some of the most profitable small business opportunities.

There are increasingly more business opportunities in South Africa if you are considering working from home. You can start these businesses and run them directly from home. Some lucrative home based business opportunities include:

  • Website consulting: Everybody wants a great website. Advice and guide others to building, growing and improving their websites.
  • Corporate catering: You can prepare and deliver delicious healthy lunches and snacks for business parks and offices.
  • Virtual assistant: Virtual assistants are becoming very popular as we live in an increasingly virtual world. Your small business could provide typing, research and other administrative services. Start-up costs are very low for virtual administrative assistants and if you want to increase your profits even more, get a certification. See resources at the end of this article.
  • Start an eCommerce website: You can launch your own website and sell products that you purchase wholesale from other companies. South Africans have become a lot more comfortable buying products online and are always looking for more ways to conveniently make their purchase through the internet.

Food businesses:

If you make food products, sell it. You can bake bread for local restaurants or sell your food from established businesses that already have a Food Handler’s license.

Look around your neighbourhood for food marketing opportunities. Open your own specialised bakery. Birthday cakes and sweets are always in demand.

Buying and running a franchise:

There are thousands of franchised businesses opportunities in South Africa. Choose one that interests you and is a good investment. See resources section. Keep your ears open for business for sale in South Africa.

South Africa’s clothing and textile industry:

Another great business idea. The demand for South-African made clothing and textile products are in high demand, not only from South Africans, but also neighbouring countries.

South Africa’s tourism industry:

Tourism is one of the world’s fastest growing industries. A small business move would be to offer services that cater to tourists, such as working as a tourist guide.


If you have green fingers and love the outdoors then this small business opportunity is for you. You can start your own a lucrative landscaping business in your local community by taking care of lawns, pruning shrubs, weeding and fertilizing.

Open a pet business:

Around Johannesburg I’ve seen at least three different mobile pet grooming vans driving around. The pet businesses is booming. People love their pets and will spend lots of money caring and pampering them. There are many business opportunities associated with pets: Pet sitting, pet grooming, baking dog/cat treats and dog obedience training.

Now that you’ve decided on a business opportunity you need to test your business idea and determine if it is profitable.

Steps to starting a business in South AfricaStarting -a -business -process _start -up -idea

  1. Clearly decide what you want by defining your goals and objectives.
  2. Take action and translate your goals into day-to-day activities. Luck favours men of action.
  3. Notice what’s working and what’s not by tracking your goals.
  4. Change what is not working.

You can download your Start-Up checklist here.

Step 1. Test your start-up idea: Minimum effort, maximum results.

If you’re not sure if people will be interested in your product, first create something with minimum effort that you can test.

For example, using screenshots and storytelling to convey that your web app already exists OR only advertising a book cover and blurb before actually writing your book. In this way you will test response rates before investing money and effort into your idea.

Make specific offers and analyse the number of responses, traffic, prospects and resulting sales. Remember, always use a control group to measure against and only test one variable at a time, otherwise you won’t know which change lead to the results.

Benefits of testing:

  • Higher sales yield
  • Cutting costs
  • Reducing risk.

Validating a product or service is important because it helps you get a sense of your potential market.

Step 2. Is there proven, relevant marketing success?

Locate a market for your product by doing a bit of market research. You can do this yourself, with the power of the World Wide Web. Ask Google the following questions:

  • Has this product/service or something similar ever been done before? If not, this might be a red flag. You want to know your product can sell.
  • Will my product or service satisfy a market need or want? Clearly show how your product will increase comfort/leisure or increase pleasure and fun.
  • Is it trending in Google? Check out Google trends.
  • What’s your brand personality? You are not a robot. Put a human face to your brand.

Step 3. What makes your small business the better choice?

Position your product as offering a unique benefit, one not provided by your competition. This is called your Unique Selling Proposition (USP). Incorporate your USP into everything you do.

Possible USPs include:

  • Broadest choices or best selection of products/services
  • Lowest price
  • Highest quality
  • Exclusivity
  • Keep your promises
  • Be Transparent. Explain how and why you do things.

Extend your USP by frequently offering promotions and special offers to existing clients. Everyone wants to know they’re appreciated and acknowledged.

You must find the benefit to your customer only you can provide. Your uniqueness must be relevant to your customer as well as beneficial to your small business. Educate prospects to appreciate and seize your provided advantage.

Related: Business Plan Template

Step 4. Pre-emptive marketing: Educate your potential customers

People don’t appreciate what you can do for them unless you articulate it. Tell them about the things you can do for them, even if it is things you and your competitors take for granted.

When a prospect is unfamiliar with a product they hesitate to purchase. People want to buy from someone theytrust. It’s human nature for us to trust those who educate us and conversely we distrust those we feel are withholding information.

Step 5. How to register your small company in South Africa

  1. Register at the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) 6 Days
  2. Open a bank account 1 Day
  3. Register for income tax, VAT, and employee withholding tax (PAYE and SITE) at the South African Revenue Service (SARS) 12 Days
  4. Register for unemployment insurance at the Department of Labour 4 Days
  5. Register with the Commissioner in defence to the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act 10 Days

Starting a business in South Africa is hard work. It requires an enormous investment of time, energy and finances. You need to carefully assess your market and be honest about your skills and experience.

Follow through by following up; educate your customers on your USP. Start-ups are hard work, but if you’re willing to put in the effort you’ll receive the benefits of feeling accomplished, increasing your income and having the ability to help others.


Business opportunities in South Africa

Buying a franchise business

Applying for a trade license