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Small Business

A – Z Easy Small Business Ideas

Whether it’s a ‘eureka’ moment at three in the morning, or a persistent feeling that you’ve got a great small business idea, here’s some of the things you need to know to determine if you’re on to a good thing.

Entrepreneur

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A small business is by no means a lesser one to the big corporates out there – even they were once small.

The term ‘small’ simply refers to the size of the company in terms of its turn-over (less than R1 million per annum) and its number of staff (usually 50 or less), certainly not its clout.

Related: How To Go From A Clever Idea To A Viable Moneymaker

In fact, it’s often small businesses that give large corporates a run for their money as being small allows for greater agility and flexibility, quicker turn-around time, and greater room for customisation. Ready to get your small business started?

A small business can start in a home kitchen, a spare room; it can start in a garage. It can start in a small rented office space with just a laptop computer and yourself manning it, or it can start between friends, spouses, business partners.

Mostly though, a small business has minimal staff, is started with a small amount of capital, and it carries low overheads.

Need small business ideas?

Take a look at the list below to help you start brainstorming. The key is to examine an industry that you have strengths in, and determine whether the skills and character you have (or can develop) can meet a need within that industry.

Here are some examples of businesses you can start from home:

A

  • Air-conditioner and appliance repair
  • App developer
  • Ad agency
  • Antique restoration and resale
  • Aquarium supplies and maintenance
  • Animal trainer.

If you have a skill and it can be sold to someone who needs your skills, it is a business.

B

  • Bookkeeping
  • Professional blogger
  • Business consultant
  • BEE consultant
  • Baker
  • Body guard service.

If you are looking at service oriented businesses, make sure you are properly qualified to perform the service and registered with the appropriate associations for credibility.

C

  • Catering business
  • Chef
  • Carpenter
  • Car mechanic
  • Cellphone repair
  • Child care
  • Computer maintenance and repair
  • Computer training or programming
  • Construction and clean-up
  • Customer service professional
  • Call-centre.

People will buy a product or service if it makes their lives that little more convenient.

Something that saves people time, money or hassle is essential for a sustainable business.

D

  • Dry-cleaning service
  • Driving service or school
  • Data capture or data analysis service
  • Desktop publishing
  • Dog training, walking or grooming
  • Disaster prevention and planning service
  • Direct mail marketing service
  • Database management

We know you were thinking Doctor – however, there are options beyond being a ‘doctor’.

E

  • Engineering consultant
  • Exporting business
  • E-tail store
  • eBay reseller
  • E-tail secret shopper to see if someone’s e-tail experience is easy.

If it’s happening online, you can add an e- to it.

F

  • Florist
  • Freelancer
  • Furniture removal company
  • Fire safety
  • Fire-hydrant maintenance and sales.

Whatever you do, it doesn’t always matter if it’s a traditional or ‘old’ business, so long as you’re doing things differently and that they’re meeting the needs and interests of the modern consumer.

G

Although established internationally, an up-and-coming industry in South Africa is all things green, from construction to materials, to greening businesses through lowered carbon footprints.

  • Green cleaning service
  • Green consultancy

If green doesn’t float your boat, there are household aggravations like:

  • Gutter cleaning
  • Garage makeovers
  • Gluten free products and foods creation and baking.

H

  • Hairdressing
  • Handyman service
  • Holiday planning service
  • Home inspection service
  • House-sitting service and anything home-based.

I

  • Importer
  • Image consultant
  • Image or Internet researcher
  • Interior designer.

Be careful to research your industry properly before entering in to it, take ink cartridge refilling for example. As technology changes, will you be able to sustain your business?

J

  • Jewellery designer
  • Jam-maker
  • Journalist
  • Javascript developer
  • Got space? How about a junk yard?

K

  • Knitting,
  • Kitchen fitting
  • First aid kits like cyclist and other sports, or kit-cars for motor enthusiasts.

L

  • Life coaching
  • Labour broker
  • Liquor manufacturer
  • Lab consultant or running your own lab
  • Laundry service
  • Language instructor
  • Lock-smith service
  • Lifesaving.

Provided whatever you do adds value to the customer that they can’t get elsewhere, you’re on to a good idea.

M

  • Start your own marketing company
  • Massage therapist
  • Make-over consultant
  • Motivational speaker
  • Moving company
  • mobile masseuse
  • mobile salon
  • mobile food truck
  • mobi-app developer
  • Medical consultant.

The latest trend as technology advances is for things to be mobile.


8 Ways to Come Up With a Business Idea

So, you want to be an entrepreneur? Then you’ll need a business idea. Here are eight ways to come up with a original business idea.


N

  • Nail salon
  • Nutritionist
  • Nurse – Think a post-operative care service, or even elderly care.

O

  • Organic producer
  • Online trader
  • Occupational therapist.

P

  • Personal shopper
  • Plumber
  • Party planning
  • Personal trainer
  • Pest control
  • Photographer
  • Photo-retoucher and restorer
  • Project manager
  • Personal tutor
  • Pool cleaning
  • Proofreading.

Q

  • Quality controller
  • Queuing service
  • Quantity surveying
  • Quiz master.

R

  • Restaurateur
  • Resume consultant
  • Recruiter
  • Research consultant
  • Restaurant or business reviewer.

S

  • Secret shopper or secret reviewer.
  • Sales
  • Salon or spa
  • SEO
  • Social media strategy
  • Scrapbooking
  • Speech writer
  • Sound engineer.

T

  • Translation services
  • Transcription services
  • Tax accounting and consulting
  • Sun-free tanning solutions
  • Training
  • Tutoring.

U

  • Underwriter
  • Upholsterer
  • Undertaking services.

V

  • Video producer
  • Videographer
  • Virtual assistant service
  • Voice-over production
  • Voice training
  • Viral marketing.

W

  • Webmaster services
  • Web design
  • Wedding planner
  • Wallpaper design and hanging
  • Car washing service.

X

Ok you’ve got us there… try something x-treme.

Y

  • Yoga instructor
  • Youth mentoring, counselor, camps, youth co-ordinator
  • YouTube video producer
  • YouTube channel manager.

Z

We’re drawing at straws for this one, especially when the only thing you can come up with is ‘zoo’. But even they might need some services outsourced.

Tips about selecting a small business idea

So now your brain is thoroughly overflowing with new business ideas. But before you go quitting your job and investing everything you own into it, it’s time to assess whether it can be turned into a sustainable small business.

Here’s what you need to evaluate:

  • Who is the target market? There’s no business if no one will buy your product or service. Is your target market able to afford (and prepared to pay) for it? Do you have reams of market analysis about your target market’s likes and dislikes, area densities, income, responsibilities, age, gender, education etc? The clearer the picture you can paint of your target market, the more able you are to provide to them.
  • What makes you stand out? Does your idea already exist? If so, what are you doing differently to your competition? Is there something unique or value adding that you offer? If your business idea is new, is your target market ready to take you on? SEO, for example, was around a long time before businesses saw its value and started paying money for it. Make sure your business has a unique selling proposition (USP).
  • Money, money, money. While some ideas are great, whether it will translate into an awesome business is determined by a financial feasibility study. What will it cost you to get the business off the ground, how long will you need to wait before you break even and see a return on investment? What are the on-going expenses like overheads? How will you bridge the gap between starting the business to it becoming profitable? Once you’ve completed a feasibility study, you may be disappointed to discover that the idea just won’t make a profitable and sustainable business. Don’t be sad though, at least you discovered this before you poured in your life-savings into a dead-end idea. Keep thinking.

Choosing a small business idea based on strengths and passions

Everyone has skills. The trick is to see what skills you have in your current job or through your work experience that are transferrable into your new business.

Take a hard look at your business idea and see whether you’ve got both the personality traits and the necessary skills to make it happen.

If the answer is yes, keep going. If you find that you’re quitting your corporate job because you despise it, starting a business to capitalise on that same work experience might not be your calling.

Related: 10 Businesses You Can Start Part-Time

Assess what your personal interests are, what you’re passionate about, and how you can use the skills you have to turn it into a business. Entrepreneurs need to be passionate about their business idea – as it will be passion that motivates you during tough times.

Entrepreneur Magazine is South Africa's top read business publication with the highest readership per month according to AMPS. The title has won seven major publishing excellence awards since it's launch in 2006. Entrepreneur Magazine is the "how-to" handbook for growing companies. Find us on Google+ here.

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Small Business

Simple Strategies For Financing Your Small Business

Below is some useful information on simple strategies to finance your small business.

Amy Galbraith

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So, you have found your passion and now want to start a small business? One of the first steps to fiscal success is to look for simple ways to finance your new venture. This might sound difficult and you might not know exactly where to start, but it can be done with the right know-how and tips.

You could start by looking for small business funding online. There is also the option of attracting an “angel investor” or crowdfunding, but if you are just starting out it is best to keep things simple. Below is some useful information on simple strategies to finance your small business.

Look for small business-specific loans

There are financial companies in South Africa that are geared specifically towards helping small businesses. They believe that small businesses are making a difference in the country and are building a better solution by striving for excellence. Simply put, these financial companies want to help you reach your goals of success.

You will have to meet certain criteria for some of these companies, such as having at least three of the most recent months of bank statements for the company to scrutinise. You will be scored according to the performance of your company, but if you are just starting out, the process will be slightly different. If you look for small business funding online, you will need to find out the stipulations, such as having been in business for at least a year, earning R500 000 annually and being based in South Africa.

Related: Seed Capital Funding For South African Start-Up Businesses

Try out crowdfunding

Through crowdfunding sites such as Indiegogo or the South African version Candystick, you will have access to thousands of investors who could help fund your business. One of the benefits of crowdfunding is that many of the contributors are not necessarily interested in acquiring equity in your company but simply want to get their hands on your product.

You will need to ensure that your crowdfunding campaign will attract investors and contributors. An effective way to draw the attention of investors is to offer an incentive, such as sending the first 100 people to contribute funds a sample of the product you are planning to make in your small business.

Be sure to read all the terms and conditions to find out if you have to pay any fees to the crowdfunding website to join or maintain your campaign.

Run a pre-sale campaign

If you already have a product, you can run a pre-sale campaign to earn funds to finance your small business. This way, you can keep the entirety of the money you earn and use it to build your business and make more of your product for new and returning customers.

A pre-sale campaign means that you will sell prototypes or early versions of your product through a PR (public relations) campaign, attracting new customers and benefitting from the traffic that it will draw to your website. You might end up selling all of your prototype products, which is fantastic as this revenue will allow you to build more and improve your profits. Be sure that you have enough product for the sale or you could arrange an exclusive event for a select few customers before you the official release of your product.

Ask friends and family

This might not sound like the best idea, but asking friends and family to invest in your business can often lead to success. You could ask a close friend or a family member who supports your vision to provide a percentage of money to help fund your business, with strict plans in place to repay them with interest.

Before you approach anyone asking for a loan, you will need to have a sound business plan in place, as well as a legally drawn up contract stating how and when you plan to repay the loan. This will reduce the likelihood of unpleasant surprises and shows your investors that you take their money and trust seriously.

You will need to seriously consider how the arrangement will be structured. Are you offering them an investment in your small business or is it a loan? This will affect the repayment options as well as the risk involved for them.

Related: Government Funding And Grants For Small Businesses

Explore all options

As a small business, start by looking for small business funding online and for small business loans in South Africa, then move onto the more creative outlets. If you explore all of your options, you will soon find the perfect solution to build your small business.

The best way to start is with a small business loan, as this is the most reliable way to gain funding and use other ways as secondary sources when the time comes to grow your venture. Remember to have a business plan in place first before you apply for any loans, whether it is from friends, family or a financial institution.

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Small Business

How Small Businesses Can Give Back Without Breaking The Bank

If you are not sure how to start giving back, below are some top tips on how to do just that… without breaking the bank.

Amy Galbraith

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As a small business owner, you might think that charitable giving is impossible on your small budget. But, this is not true. You can donate to a charity or contribute to a fundraiser, even if you have a startup or small business budget. You just have to be creative about it.

In today’s world, more and more consumers care deeply about social causes, which means that you need to seek ways to incorporate giving back into your business strategy. If you are not sure how to start giving back, below are some top tips on how to do just that… without breaking the bank.

Encourage your team to volunteer

You will see many calls from charities, such as MSF, to donate time and resources. One way to give back without breaking the bank is by encouraging your team to volunteer and offering paid time off as an incentive for them to volunteer at a charity.

You can give your employees a specific amount of time each month or quarter for volunteer work, and you will soon notice morale improving. It will also increase your community involvement and visibility in your community. You will have to ask your team which days they would prefer to volunteer, as many people might prefer the weekend over a Monday or other weekday.

Related: The Importance Of Being Organised For Your Start-up

Use your talents

Giving back does not always have to mean making a monetary donation. You can use the talents of the people in your business to give back to clients, or you can offer your services pro bono to charities that could use them.

For example, if you are a marketing agency, you can offer to upgrade a charity’s website or write content for their social media pages. If you are a financial business, offer a free day of accounting services to a charity that desperately needs some bookkeeping help.

Using your talents costs you nothing but can help to make a significant impact on the cause that is closest to your heart.

Set up a collection jar in the office

If you have chosen a charity, such as MSF to donate to, it can be difficult to find the funds in a small business. A simple but effective way to collect some funds is to set up a collection jar in the office for employees to contribute to.

Be sure that your collection jar is placed in a high traffic area of the office, such as in the kitchen or on the way to the coffee machine. You can make it fun by running a competition of who can donate the most and offering a prize, or you could ask those who bring in their own lunches to donate what they would have spent on purchasing a lunch that day. Be sure that your staff never feel forced into giving a large amount of money, but remind them the jar is for a good cause.

Launch a charity drive

If money and time are in short supply in your small business, you can still give back by launching a charity drive. You can collect anything from books and clothes for children, tinned food and bedding for an animal shelter or even tinned goods for a soup kitchen.

Be sure to choose a charity that everyone in your office agrees with supporting, otherwise it will be difficult to encourage everyone to take part. Take it one step further and ask your local community to contribute to your charity drive. Set up a place in your office where people can drop items off and offer them a thank you card or note so that they feel appreciated. Make posts on your social media platforms before, during and after the drive, and ensure that you share photographs of your company donating the goods to your chosen charity.

Related: How Entrepreneurs Can Make Good Decisions Quickly

Use your voice

If you know about a cause, such as the outbreak of Ebola in the DRC in 2017, then as a business you can use your voice to make people aware of it. You can create a social media campaign for a charity or join in their advocacy, lobbying, letter writing, and other efforts.

By adding your voice to theirs, their cause becomes louder and it is likely that more people will be interested in donating to them. For example, you could set up a Facebook page for your local animal shelter and create informative posts about pet health for their followers to share. Or you could post blogs to your company website detailing the needs of a local homeless shelter and how people can help them.

Be creative

You do not have to stick with monetary donations when helping a charity, although these are much appreciated. You can look for creative ways to give back without breaking the bank. As a small business, it is important to build your presence with consumers, and helping a charity is an effective way to do so.

You can encourage your team to volunteer, use your skills to help your chosen cause or you could set up a collection jar in the office. Whatever you choose to do, make sure it is creative and in line with what your employees can achieve.

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Small Business

The Importance Of Training In A Small Business

Having happy and satisfied employees is great for business and will put you two steps ahead of your competition.

Amy Galbraith

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As a small business owner, you might not think that training your staff is as important as it would be in a larger company. This is where you are wrong. A small business is still a business and, in order to be successful, you will need to have staff that understand their roles and their responsibilities completely.

They should also be trained in other aspects that do not relate to their position, such as computer literacy and general administrative duties. Skills development facilitation is an effective way to ensure that your employees perform to their highest levels and feel appreciated and valued in your company.

It can help to address weaknesses

While you are not trying to make your employees feel bad about their performances, training programmes can help them (and yourself as the business owner) to address any weaknesses they might have.

By addressing these weaknesses, you can find ways to improve their skills, such as sending them on computer courses or communication courses. Training your staff also allows everyone to be elevated to the same level of competency, making for a more productive and proficient business. Any employees who feel they have weaknesses will be able to improve their skills and reach the same level as the other employees.

Related: How To Plan Effective On-The-Job Training Programmes That Work

Employee performance will improve

If weaknesses and shortcomings are addressed during skills development facilitation courses, this will obviously help to improve your employees’ overall performance levels. You should be sure to send employees on relevant courses that are targeted to their roles and responsibilities so their departments can improve too.

Your staff might be feeling unmotivated or overwhelmed, and a training programme can help to improve their confidence and performance. Improved employee performance is a huge positive for a small business, as it will mean a faster turn-around time and projects being met on-time and within the client budget. Training your staff in their areas of expertise is a sure-fire way to boost their confidence and performance levels.

It can provide direction

direction

If you have a department that is not operating at its full capacity, then a training programme might be the perfect tool to help this department reach its full potential and find direction. Having direction when working in a small business is vital to any employee, as it helps them to be productive and reach business goals.

You can choose from a range of skills to train your staff in, such as computer skills or office administration skills, targeting a certain department that might help with direction in their work. Skills development facilitation can also help those employees who are not sure of their roles or whose skills are too “general” to fit into one department.

If you only have a few employees, sending them on training courses can help to show them what roles and responsibilities in the company are.

Training provides consistency

Sending your employees on skills programmes will ensure that everyone who works in your business has the same level of experience and expertise. This consistency is particularly important when it comes to policies and procedures, as all employees need to be aware of the expectations and procedures within the company.

Putting all staff members through the same basic training will ensure that everyone has the same exposure to every department, which can help the office run smoothly and improve employee relations. Having consistency in your office means that everyone is operating at the same levels and that your business is able to finish projects at a much quicker rate than before the training. Be sure that you also look into more targeted courses for your different departments.

Related: 5 Tips To Make Managing Employees Less Stressful For Everyone

It gives you an edge on the competition

Human capital and skills can help a small business to get an edge on the competition. This is especially true if your entire workforce has been trained in their fields and has received the same training across the board.

Having an edge on the competition is not only beneficial to you as the business owner, but will help your staff to have a sense of pride in their work and can even help to retain your talented employees. Being able to outdo your competitors relies heavily on the abilities of your employees, which means that you should take your training programmes seriously. If you want to be a success, put the needs of your staff first and see how quickly your business improves.

Happy employees means better business

Sending your employees on training programmes can help immensely with job performance, employee retention, office consistency and addressing any weaknesses there might be. Your employees will feel valued and respected, which, in turn, will improve their loyalty to your company and help with quicker turnaround times.

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