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Updated 21 Jan 2019

What it takes to succeed as a start-up business

Have you finally started that business you’ve been dreaming about? Are you finding it more challenging than expected to run it? Here’s real-world advice on what it takes to flourish.

18 April 2018  Share  0 comments  Print

All the answers to your unique business lifestage questions

You’re tired of working for a company. You want to be your own boss. You see being in business for yourself as a way to both grow your wealth and enjoy personal freedom. You quit your job and open your business.

Reality check: You quickly realise thatstarting and running a business is no easy feat. You learn that to succeed in the world of entrepreneurship, a solid foundation is required.

Here’s how a few local business people got their reality check, found their way around the challenges, and built a path to success:

Insight 1: Success and experience go hand-in-hand

Rapelang -Rabana

Rapelang Rabana, entrepreneur, technology expert and now chief digital officer at BCX, believes that anyone in the start-up phase of a business has to simply draw on their experiences to succeed.

She explains that you don’t need to re-invent the world, you simply extrapolate from it and plug the gaps to succeed: “Great ideas do not take shape in our minds, they are the result of external stimuli hitting a prepared mind. We don’t think up ideas – we notice them.”

Using experiences gained in your professional career and in life can help you refine your start-up with granularity.

Related: What Top Venture Capitalists Are Looking For In Your Start-Up

Insight 2: Leverage experience to run your business

Owners of the Kgalagadi Lodge, SJ and Denise Koortzen say their experience led them to start their own business. The pair would visit their family farm near the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park on a regular basis only to find that accommodation in the area was filled to the brim. By experiencing the congestion in the area first-hand, they knew there was a business opportunity worth exploring – even though the opportunity presented itself in a desert:

“It was clear to us that there was a high demand for accommodation in the Kgalagadi area. All we needed to do was find the right piece of land. Even though I did not foresee some of the obstacles the location presented in the beginning, we could not have chosen a better site to build and run a successful lodge.”– SJ Koortzen

Insight 3: Keep going despite the challenges

Running your own business could be one of the toughest challenges you decide to take on in life, but it can also be very rewarding. From time to time, obstacles will however present themselves, hindering the most-well-laid roadmaps to success. For Koortzen, obstacles have recently presented themselves in the form of dwindling tourist numbers and the threat of legal action. Despite these hindrances, he is confident that they can be overcome and that sales will improve:

“One of the key tourist attractions near our lodge made some changes to their operations, which has impacted us in terms of accommodation numbers. We’re also being legally challenged for trademark infringement over the use of our name even though I registered the name when we started. I just remind myself that this is the life of an entrepreneur and work toward the best possible solution in any situation.” –SJ Koortzen

Tips to help beat the challenges your start-up could face

In an interview with Entrepreneur, Tara-Lee de Wit, founder of local recruitment firm Principal Class Placements, said working in recruitment allowed her to glean the experiences that make it easy to overcome challenges and obstacles.

Related: Nicolas Bereng is creating an industry where none exists in SA

But, she says, there are a few key things she wishes knew during the early days of starting her business. Here’s a few insights from the start-up founder:

1. Always have a sales pipeline

Just because you have loyal customers or clients, don’t stop searching for new ones. If regular supporters start to spend less, you’ll find it tough trying to pick up new sales. Constantly seek new business and track the sales engagement process.

2. Accept that you won’t be an overnight success

You might want to get every single thing right in your business from the very first day, but as you know, things don’t always go the way you want it to in business. Be forgiving and learn from everything you do to ensure success is attained progressively.

3. Be prepared to learn, evolve and adapt

You can’t get better at doing things if you don’t practice doing things better. In her business, de Wit tracks targets and KPIs. She never wanted to operate like a big corporate – looking at the business in the form of endless streams of numbers and reports – but it has become essential as she looks to achieve growth.


If you’d like to learn more about what it takes to succeed in business from local entrepreneurs, why not visit Standard Bank’s Incubator in Rosebank, Johannesburg? If you’re in another part of the country, you can contact the incubator on 011 721 77 33 for more information on start-up incubator activity around SA.

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