3 Audacious Business Ideas from Odd Places

3 Audacious Business Ideas from Odd Places


Business idea 1


The $100 3D printer

One of the biggest sticking points with the 3D printing revolution is the high price tag of the printer. Kodjo Gnikou, an entrepreneur and inventor from Togo, has come up with a $100 3D printer constructed from parts he’s collected from e-waste, such as broken scanners, computers and printers.

Gnikou has his own crowd-funding page and aims to make machines from recycled e-waste that can function on Mars, and the 3D W.AFATE printer is a crucial part of the mission. Steps to building your own can be found online; the process is relatively quick and easy, with minimal investment. ulule.com/wafate

Shawn says

Thomas Edison once said: “Inspiration can be found in a pile of junk. Sometimes, you can put it together with a good imagination and invent something.”

This insight is definitely applicable to Kodjo Gnikou. His $100 3D printer may not be ready for Mars — or the local market — yet but, with discarded electronic equipment one of the world’s fastest growing sources of waste, inventions like this are to be encouraged.

Because 3D printing appeals to designers wanting to create prototypes rather than the typical high quality, high quantity traditional printing, forward-thinking design studios would be willing to invest in this invention.

That being said, local entrepreneurs considering this should research potential uptake in the South African market, given that 3D printing technology is changing all the time.

Compatibility with the latest design programmes, servicing and part replacement could also be  be key to success and sustainability.

Business idea 2


Doctor on demand

When you’re busy and feeling ill, a visit to the doctor isn’t always an option. It’s equally frustrating to pay a doctor’s fee and be prescribed rest to fight off that viral cough. Doctor on Demand is a smartphone service launched in the US to address minor medical issues without visiting the doctor.

For a fee of $40, the app matches patients with a doctor in their area and sets up a 15 minute video consultation. The service is available day and night, saves time, doctors can issue prescriptions, and you can call from anywhere. doctorondemand.com

Shawn says

Medical smartphone apps are already available. These take a proactive approach to monitoring one’s health, including detecting your heart rate before a potential heart attack and alerting a call centre to dispatch an ambulance.

Even in remote parts of Africa smartphone apps and devices are being used to improve access to healthcare in rural communities — making this business idea a potentially viable one.

However, certain challenges need to be taken into consideration. In the case of middle class market segments with medical aid for example, one might need to find a way to ensure patient honesty to prevent prescription abuse, and secure medical aid buy-in.

Legal issues resulting from possible misdiagnoses would also need to be considered. If used to improve healthcare access for disadvantaged communities, issues of culture and language would need to be overcome to ensure the success of the service.

Pilot studies would be critical to determine and prove viability in local markets.

Business idea 3


Pimp my porta-loo

Anyone who’s been to an outdoor concert or festival knows that it’s only a matter of time before the porta-loos start getting gross. So what do you do when you host a classy event and need to provide toilet facilities?

You take a page from the likes of companies in the UK and the US that are catering for celebrity weddings with portable loos so posh you wouldn’t know they had wheels attached:

There’s not a scrap of plastic anywhere with porcelain urinals and toilets, hot and cold water, hand soap and lotion, branded paper towel, well-lit mirrors, porcelain wash basins, wood trim and faux stone finishes, sky lights, and sound system, to name just some of the bells and whistles. Check out: Dave’s Septic Tanks, Don’s Johns, and Igloos.

Shawn says

As creative and ingenious as these alternative porta-loos are, my first question to a would-be investor/entrepreneur would definitely have to do with economies of scale.

Given that these will have an exceptionally niche market and only be in demand at very specific times in the year (e.g. weddings, Christmas and New Year), how many would be required to viably meet the needs of the customer base? And what size customer base would be needed to support the business?

Because of the very high end target market these are catering for, one might also be asked to change the décor regularly.

Would this be viable given the high-end finishings involved? How would one work the cost of maintenance, storage and transportation into the pricing structure?

Tracy Lee Nicol
Tracy-Lee Nicol is an experienced business writer and magazine editor. She was awarded a Masters degree with distinction from Rhodes university in 2010, and in the time since has honed her business acumen and writing skills profiling some of South Africa's most successful entrepreneurs, CEOs, franchisees and franchisors.Find her on Google+.