Running a small business in South Africa remains an exciting adventure. A 2016 study* found that small business is actually big business for our country: it is estimated that start-ups contribute between 52% and 61% to the GDP. The same study found that small businesses are also relatively successful: of the 400 business owners surveyed, 3 out of 4 believe they are making more money than they would have working for someone else.
If you are thinking of starting your own business or recently opened a start-up, here are some of our top tips for a successful venture.
Spreading the word
Marketing your new business can be time consuming and expensive but if you work smartly, you can get great results. Here are some cost effective marketing ideas:
‘Google’ your business, in other words complete a business listing on Google – this page will guide you through it. It will ensure that your complete business info appear when people are searching online.
Use testimonials: Don’t be shy to ask for feedback for a job well done and display these soundbites on your website, LinkedIn profile and email signature.
Work the power of word of mouth: If it suits your business, start a customer referral programme by offering a free product or other discount for every new customer that is introduced.
Enter a small business award: Even just being a finalist is something to mention – for example Entrepreneur of the Year, 702’s Small Business Awards and The South African Small Business Awards. If these competitions are too daunting, look for opportunities in local papers.
Don’t over-capitalise on equipment
Think carefully about each purchase you make for your business. Take advice from Bos Ice Tea founder, Grant Rushmere: “Don’t create anything that has only one use. Before you spend any money, ask the question: Can we use this in multiple places? Create assets that aren’t wasteful by being disciplined and putting thought into every spending decision.”
For example, you don’t necessarily need a fully kitted out office – there are plenty of co-working spaces where you can work at a very affordable rent. If you can’t afford to open up a shop or eatery, consider markets, pop-up shops, food trucks or offering online shopping. Sibusiso ‘Skinny Sbu’ Ngwenya started his successful Skinny Sbu business not with lots of equipment and stock but by simply buying and repackaging socks to test the market. Only when there was an established demand, he started producing his own socks.
Call the professionals
Something that is worth splurging on is the right professional advisor, from a tax expert and accountants to a knowledgeable insurance broker. The former can help you work out your tax liabilities to help prevent a cash shortfall, and point out ways to save money in your business. Small business insurance may feel like an optional extra but could mean keeping your doors open should disaster strike.
Most of our 1001 days featured businesses agreed that a mentor truly helped them on their journey. Decide which former colleague, boss or client you’d like to learn from and make time for regular advice sessions – even if it’s a weekly or monthly phone call.
You could also hang out with like-minded entrepreneurs. Keep an eye out for free events such as MyBizExpo where you can hear inspiring talks and attend networking sessions. It’s taking place in Johannesburg at the Gallagher Convention Centre, 15-16 Feb 2017, at the Durban Exhibition Centre on 22 June 2017, and at the Cape Town International Convention Centre on 24 August 2017.
Time is a precious commodity for a small business owner so you have to be clever in how you spend it. Get an overview of all your projects with an easy-to-use project management tool such as Trello or Basecamp.
Block out an hour when you need to – no phone calls, no instant messaging, no checking emails – and put time aside in your diary to actively do marketing, get some exercise, come up with new ideas, etc. Apps like Evernote and Wunderlist can help you keep track of all your tasks and ideas, while RescueTime will show you exactly how much time you spend on each activity and show you where your time is being wasted.
Keep believing in yourself
Anat Apter, founder of falafel and schwarma franchise Anat, went from a R600 food trailer to being the owner of 25+ franchises around the country. “When you’re small, it takes chutzpah to get noticed.” For Anat, starting small, selling only the very best and keeping things affordable paid off.