11 Uniquely South African Business Ideas

11 Uniquely South African Business Ideas

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1Business idea 1: Create A Uniquely South African Drink

Create a uniquely South African blend of Iced Tea, Craft Beer or even authentically African Aloe Juice

South Africa’s landscape is one of the most diverse in the world. Its Cape Floral Kingdom is one of only six floral kingdoms in the world. The country’s ecosystem supports 9 600 recorded plant species. 70% of these plants are found nowhere else on the planet.

This wonderfully diverse and unique environment brings with it the opportunity to develop and create products from uniquely South African resources, such as our rooibos plant, unique African spices, African aloes, or even distinctly different SA wheat and hops.

As with any business idea, you need to identify the good and the bad.

Businesses That Spotted The Gap

Successful founder of YDE, Paul Simon, sold his business when it had an annual turnover of R160 million at the time of its sale, to start his own home-grown rooibos iced tea brand; Über Flavour. Simon discovered a South African product being made in Stuttgart, Germany, and felt he had to correct this ‘injustice’. Über Flavour sold out in the first six weeks of production, and within eight months it was in 150 locations in Cape Town and Johannesburg; from restaurants to grocery chains. 

Mikie Monoketsi is obsessed with healthy living and realised how ill-informed people in townships were about herbs and spices and its health benefits. So, she set out to capture the township market with her unique blend of healthier spices from her business Mama Spices; and it was an amazing success. Now, she’s producing approximately 1.2 tonnes of spices monthly for Mama Spices & Herbs, to keep up with demand. 

Here’s what you need to consider when setting out to accomplish this:

 

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Pros

  1. You already have access to uniquely South African resources.
  2. You already know how to create a product using those resources.
  3. You already know there’s a market for your new product.
  4. The raw material will be cost effective because you’re sourcing it locally.

Cons

  1. You will have to develop a network of suppliers, for example; rooibos tea farmers.
  2. You may require a food technician to assist in developing your distinct South African flavour.
  3. You’ll need to make sure there’s a market for your new product.
  4. There will be a significant capital investment.

Related: A – Z Easy Small Business Ideas

2Business idea 2: Start A Business That Educates

There will always be a market for your service or product.

South Africa ranks 56th out of 60 countries in Central Connecticut State University’s latest study on illiteracy. South Africa also ranked 56 out of 60 for computer illiteracy, which is yet another challenge for SA’s people.

You could develop a concept to bridge the education gap within South Africa. Offer services or a product to help improve the shortage of access to education within South Africa.

Businesses That Spotted The Gap

Silulo Ulutho Technologies flipped SA’s shortage of education into an opportunity and started offering access to computers, as well as training sessions for those who didn’t know how to use a computer. Now, the business has branches all over the country and it is still growing.

Another example of businesses involving themselves in the education industry is Sports for All. Marina de Lange, is operating in the Geluksdal area and offers training sessions for children, for a small membership fee. The franchise continues to grow and the students are competing in official sporting leagues.

Go in with both eyes open. Here’s what you need to consider when setting out to accomplish this: 

Pros

  1. There is a large demand for programmes/businesses involved in education.
  2. You will, arguably, attract a lot of willing funders, because this is an important social entrepreneurial sector.
  3. The government knows that education is important and could offer you support and/or training.
  4. You will need to have knowledge of the education sector already, in order to fill in the gaps in the market.

Cons

  1. You will have to work on your business model in order to make a profit in this ‘underprivileged’ sector.
  2. You will have to have a very lean operation.
  3. You will have to develop a network amongst the educational community.
  4. Your service will have to meet to current standards and regulations.

Related: Hate Being Stuck Behind a Desk? 7 Business Ideas for You

3Business idea 3: Tourism With A Twist

It reported that more than 2 million people visit South Africa every year. This is a large market to tap into, particularly considering how well you know this country already.

A large portion of South Africa’s economy is directly linked to tourism. South Africa was voted 48th out of 141 countries as a popular place to visit by the World Economic Forum.

South Africa is popular amongst international visitors because of its rich natural resources and cultural heritage, a positive business environment and less ‘red tape’; along with good infrastructure.

There are many tourism related businesses across the country, such as restaurants along the beach side, activities offered at popular tourist destinations and in-depth knowledgeable tours.

Businesses That Spotted The Gap

An app was created by a Kruger Park enthusiast to help nature lovers get the most out of their game-drive experience. The app is a platform used by visitors to post sightings of animals, post videos of sightings and chat with other nature enthusiasts. This helps tourists and frequent visitors to navigate the Kruger Park as well as see as many of its animals as they can.

Another app was developed to enhance tourists’ experience of a specific location. Voicemap is an informative guide app, which allows tourists to be guided by bestselling authors, expert correspondents, veteran broadcasters or passionate locals. This app is recorded in real-time as the person walks around the specific destination, helping its users to really experience South Africa and not just see it. This allows tourists and visitors to South Africa to find its truly hidden gems.

Pros

  1. You already live in South Africa and know where the gaps in its tourism market are.
  2. There are many positives to show off using numerous types of tourism techniques.
  3. South Africa is still relatively unknown to the world and you can determine what narrative you want the country’s story to follow.
  4. You have a lot of different types of tourist activities to choose from, you can offer something that leverages all types or just focus on a specific type of activity.

Cons

  1. Tourists could be dissuaded from visiting South Africa because of bad publicity and past injustices.
  2. Your tourism business can be negatively impacted if it is a seasonal business and you haven’t planned for the rest of the year.
  3. The tourism industry can be fickle and what works this year won’t necessarily work next year.
  4. You’ll need to research the international tourism market and create an opportunity around that.

Related: 5 Small Business Loan Ideas

4Business idea 4: Go Online The SA Way

As with any business idea, you need to know the strengths and the weakness.

South Africa sits 24th out of 40 countries with a smartphone penetration of 37%, this means there are significantly more people in South Africa with access to the Internet. You could develop an app that can be successful.

Businesses That Spotted The Gap

Trevor McKendrick made a name for himself by upgrading an already existing app. He found that although there was a large demand for the Bible in Spanish, the apps that were available were not good quality. He managed to improve the app and made a success out of upgrading someone else’s idea.

To take advantage of this gap in the market you can start selling upmarket food, toys and clothes for children. South African parents aren’t skimping when it comes to their kids and you can connect to them through the Internet. An online store doesn’t require retail staff and if you strategise correctly, you may not even need storage space for stock.

Here’s what you need to consider when setting out to accomplish this:

Pros

  1. It’s a cost effective business idea.
  2. It doesn’t require you to have a physical building or staff.
  3. It can essentially run itself, while you concentrate on other things.
  4. It can make you a tidy sustainable profit.

Cons

  1. There is a lot of activity in this industry.
  2. You’ll be competing with international organisations
  3. You’ll need technology experience and know-how, to be able to successfully run this business idea, unless you hire someone; and that could significantly lower your profits.
  4. If you don’t market your concept correctly it could go nowhere. 

Related: 10 Business Ideas Ready To Launch!

5Business idea 5: Open a Restaurant Offering Authentic SA Cuisine

Dishes like boerewors rolls, milk tart or chesa nyma have helped businesses to be profitable and successful.

South Africa has many traditional cuisines that you could turn into a profitable business.

Businesses That Spotted The Gap

Vuyo’s is a mobile-vending opportunity, selling boerewors roll and growing from strength to strength. It has become such a success, that it is even developing into a franchise opportunity.

Mama Thembas is another well-known South African restaurant serving traditional food and making a big success.

Even large grocery chains like Pick ‘n Pay, Woolworths and Spar make an effort to capitalise on traditional South African food including milk tarts and koeksisters. Another possible idea is opening up a food truck as these are growing in popularity. You can serve traditional South African food to locals and visitors outside tourist destinations and local hotspots.

Before you dive in, always do your research and consider the pros and cons of the business.

Pros

  1. You already know how to manage and run a restaurant.
  2. You already know there’s a market for your new offering.
  3. Locals and tourists will enjoy your uniquely South African cuisine.
  4. Traditional-type food is popular at the moment, and can help to boost your restaurant’s sales.

Cons

  1. Restaurants have very high failure rates.
  2. You will need to have a large offering, or you could become too niche for the South African market. A large offering will mean carrying a greater amount of stock at all times.
  3. Restaurants are hard work and you have to be there all the time.
  4. Trends can change and you need a restaurant that’s going to be sustainable.

Related: The Only How-To You’ll Need to Start a Restaurant

 

6Business idea 6: Get Crafty With a SA Spin

The customisation or personalisation trend continues to grow even amongst South Africans.

If you’re a creative DIY type of person, and enjoy making things for yourself and your friends as gifts, then this might be the business opportunity for you.

Businesses That Spotted The Gap

Homemade craft items are highly sort after across the world. Online platforms like Etsy and South Africa’s Hello Pretty make it possible for you to sell your wares for substantially better margins.

Some entrepreneurs have even crafted opportunities out of challenges they came across. As an example, Molemo Kgomo struggled to find an African doll for her daughter, so she created one. There was a definite target market for her African dolls. Her company Ntombentle Dolls went online and the orders just came flying in. An entrepreneurial success, because she was solving her own need. The next online ‘big success’ story could be yours.

Pros

  1. If you’re interested in crafts, you’re naturally suited for this business idea.
  2. It can be quite cost effective to create.
  3. This is very popular right now, and locals are looking for South African versions.
  4. This is a very niche market so you’ll have customers all to yourself. 

Cons

  1. If you aren’t doing the work, you won’t earn a profit.
  2. It’s a very niche market, so if your customers lose interest there goes your income.
  3. This trend is becoming popular so many people are entering this market.
  4. If your prices don’t match your product quality, you’ll struggle to maintain repeat customers.

Related: 10 Young Entrepreneurs Under 30 Share Their Start-Up Secrets

 

7Business idea 7: Offer Low Income Market Products or Services 

This is an opportunity for you, starting a small business that can cater to the lower income market.

The low income market within South African has been targeted by many of the larger conglomerates, but has not successfully been penetrated.

Businesses That Spotted The Gap

The business Repurpose Schoolbags was created by two high schoolers, Thato Kgatlhanye and Rea Ngwane, who transform discarded plastic into schoolbags. These school bags also come with a solar panel and a light so when children get home they have a light to enable them to do their homework. This business is a sustainable social enterprise that benefits kids, employs people from the community and also turns a profit.

Pros

  1. You can start with a lean business, which doesn’t require a large amount of capital.
  2. There is a large previously untapped market so you’ll have few quality competitors.
  3. You can base your business idea on any of the challenges the lower income market experiences.
  4. You’ll be uplifting the lower income market, which isn’t sufficiently catered to.

Cons

  1. You’ll need to keep your prices low to cater to this market.
  2. Your business model will need to work so that you earn a profit on a small amount of funds.
  3. Since this is a lucrative market, others might copy your ideas if these are too generic.
  4. It’s a very niche market, so if your customers lose interest there goes your income.

Related: 6 Of The Most Profitable Small Businesses In South Africa

8Business idea 8: Spotlight South Africa’s Distinct Fashion Flair

Manufactures are creating so much fabric, but designers haven’t been able to create a business model to really catapult their shweshwe designs onto the international stage.

South Africa’s unique shweshwe fabric is turning heads around the world, but isn’t getting enough penetration into overseas markets.

Businesses That Spotted The Gap

Shwe.co.za is part of the Eco Smart Group, which is an organisation focused on job creation and waste to resource production. They sell a collection of beautiful, and practical, items made from hand printed South African shweshwe. They have international stockists and have grown since their establishment in 2014.

Pros

  1. Only South Africa makes authentic designs and so this is the only source of the fabric.
  2. You should already know how to create a product using those resources.
  3. You should already know where there’s a market for your new product.
  4. The raw materials will be cost effective because you’re sourcing locally.

Cons

  1. You will have to develop a network of suppliers, such as shweshwe manufacturers.
  2. You may require designers or seamstresses to assist in developing your distinct South African designs.
  3. You’ll need to make sure there’s an international market for your new product.
  4. This type of business will be a significant capital investment.

Related: Attention Black Entrepreneurs: Start-Up Funding From Government Grants & Funds

9Business idea 9: Farm Fresh Fish and Food For Communities

You can develop something equally innovative.

There are large portions of South Africa’s population whom do not have access to fresh food and must grow it themselves. These communities are often poor and do not have access to a lot of basic living essentials.

You can now create a business for them that will be profitable. Fresh fish and vegetables can be grown in these areas using existing franchises.

Businesses That Spotted The Gap

Reel Gardening was founded by Claire Reid who at 16 created a seed strip that would help to reduce water usage and increase germination. Reid went on to win both local and international awards for her invention and her company now sells this product across the world.

Aquaponics offers rural people an opportunity to breed and sustain their own fish supply. The entire system is closed and requires water and electricity, but can be transplanted anywhere. This business option can be profitable for those involved, as the fish breed naturally, you never run out of stock and you never have to purchase any additional fish after the first batch.

Pros

  1. There are willing members of this society to assist you in launching a business.
  2. You will have a large market that you can expand into.
  3. Everyone needs fresh food, so there will always be demand for your product.
  4. There is a growing trend towards healthier sustainable farming and produce; so many investors could find interest in your idea.

Cons

  1. You will have to start quite lean.
  2. There is no access to many things including water and electricity.
  3. The profits you’ll make will only grow once you’ve got several ‘projects’ going at the same time.
  4. You will need to teach this community everything.

Related: How To Start A Farming Business

10Business idea 10: Start A Transport Business The SA Way

Tourists also need help navigating the busy streets of South African cities, why don’t you offer them tour guide services while you take them from A to B.

Transport is always a challenge in South Africa, millions of people travel via public transport on a daily basis. You could be helping them travel or transport their goods; while earning your own slice of the pie.

Businesses That Spotted The Gap

Shesha provides a convenient, eco-friendly and low-cost alternative to short-range commuters in both Johannesburg and Pretoria through operating 55 fully-compliant tuk-tuks in the public transport service. This business grew out of the Sandton Eco-mobility festival and now is thriving and growing from strength to strength.

Pros

  1. You will never run out of customers as there’s always a high demand for transportation services.
  2. Tourists also need help navigating the cities of South Africa.
  3. Offer added value services such as package deliveries or tour guide information.
  4. Your vehicles will pay for themselves in a short amount of time.

Cons

  1. You will be competing with taxis, buses and Über.
  2. You will need a significant investment in vehicles.
  3. You’ll need to maintain these vehicles.
  4. If your prices aren’t competitive enough, you could lose your customers.

Related: How Do I Start a Transport or Logistics Business?

11Business idea 11: Improve Healthcare Access

A large portion of South Africa’s population does not have access to medical information or services.

You could create a business that caters to this South African need. Whether it’s informing locals about medical procedures or having a large area subscribe for a very low amount, for you to offer medical services.

Businesses That Spotted The Gap

Speaking Books created a range of books with audio buttons, which teaches the user how to complete simple medical tasks. The business now offers 48 products in 24 languages in 20 African countries, with plans on expanding into China, India and South America. These books are successful because they do not rely on the user being literate, they instead explain via audio to the user with diagrams to assist.

Pros

  1. There are willing members of this society to assist you in launching a business.
  2. You will have a large market that you can expand into.
  3. Everyone needs medical services, so there will always be demand for your product.
  4. If your business becomes a success you can expand into the rest of Africa.

Cons

  1. You will have to start quite lean.
  2. There is no access to many things including water and electricity.
  3. The profits you’ll make will only grow once you’ve got several ‘projects’ going at the same time.
  4. You will need to teach this community everything healthcare related, which can be time consuming.

Related: Enterprise Development Programmes For Black Entrepreneurs

Next Slideshow: 6 Of The Most Profitable Small Businesses In South Africa

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Nicole Crampton
Nicole Crampton is an online writer for Entrepreneur Magazine. She has studied a BA Journalism at Monash South Africa. Nicole has also completed several courses in writing and online marketing.
  • Paul S

    The app was a great concept but perhaps too effective. It has created major issues in Kruger, with visitors speeding to respond to sighting info from the app resulting in accidents, road rage and animal deaths and injuries. Back to the drawing board with this one.