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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.

Small Business

Even SMEs Can Use Big Data: Here’s How

If entrepreneurs are brave (and forward-thinking) enough to take the plunge into big data, there are many business advantages to be gained… especially before everyone else catches on.

Michael Colin

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Big data has for years held a reputation as a business tool that only large corporates have the time, money, and human resources to use effectively. But, as is so often the case with technological disruptions – what once seemed unattainable is becoming sleeker, faster, more affordable, and more user-friendly than ever before. In fact, it’s not a stretch to say that with strategic usage, even small businesses can gain as much advantage from big data as any Fortune 500 company.

To start with, what is big data? Organisations deal with data every day, from customer profiles to supply chain processes and sales figures. Big data takes this operational information-gathering to the next level. Multiple data sets are drawn together to create a large resource of facts and figures, which (and here’s the most important part!)  are subjected to complex analysis to pluck out useful insights that enhance business operations.

Traditionally, SMEs haven’t delved much into big data. When you’re busy trying to build a successful business from the ground up, submerging yourself in statistics probably sounds more like a hindrance than help. But times have changed, and over the years, capitalising on big data has become a lot easier and more budget-accessible for SMEs. No need for dedicated data managers and unaffordable analytics platforms.

Related: 3 Ways You Should Use Data Science to Skyrocket Sales

In fact, over 70% of respondents to a global survey of small businesses found that the adoption of this type of technology exceeded their expectations. Closer to home, 27% of SME decision-makers expect to be using big data within the next five years.  If entrepreneurs are brave (and forward-thinking) enough to take the plunge into big data, there are many business advantages to be gained… especially before everyone else catches on.

A detailed understanding of your customers

You may think you have a good picture of your customers, but inevitably you’ll encounter blind spots at some point. Big data can fill in the blanks and give that same customer picture HD-clarity. Buying habits, consumer profiles, satisfaction levels, social media usage – combine this information, apply the right machine learning algorithm, and the result is a far better understanding of customer wants and needs, which you can then work to better fulfil. This applies to both the product or service you’re selling and the way you’re marketing it.

Perhaps even more importantly, big data can help you get ahead of trends. There are a few things more valuable to a business than having the first-mover advantage as latent demand surfaces. And the best thing about big data is that it’s based on solid facts and figures. When it comes to predictive decision-making, it removes assumptions and guesswork, allowing you to get off the starting block first, and with sure footing.

Improved internal processes for your company

Big data is not just about heightening customer relationships. It’s a powerful resource with massive benefits for organisations internally as well. And not just in terms of time- and cost-savings around business analysis.

Crunch your operational statistics, and you may find surprising ways to optimise processes – such as identifying places where automation can be introduced or retooling your staffing to meet shifting demands over the workweek. In addition to reinforcing business decisions, big data is excellent at helping to identify problems in real-time and correct course. Today, solutions are available immediately, when in the past it could take weeks or months to mine such valuable insights.

Related: Can Your Marketing Team Speak Data?

Tools to take advantage of big data

What do you need to make the most out of big data as a small-business owner? In the digital age, the foundation is a reliable high-speed Internet connection. This is because of big data’s own evolution.  Data analysis was once a lengthy process which required a large amount of hardware storage (and, before that, filing cabinets), it has now evolved into a digital product provided by many business solutions providers over the cloud. The handling of information is streamlined in this way, and setting up databases, sending information for analysis, or receiving meaningful results, happens almost instantly.

SMEs may not have the resources of their more established, big sibling rivals. However, up-and-coming businesses do typically have the advantage of agility thanks to their size. It’s easier for a start-up to move quickly, redirect as needed, and act on just-gained insights and trends. This makes big data no longer “nice but unnecessary,” but an essential tool to give your company that all-important advantage in the digital economy.

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Small Business

Why Small Businesses Need A Security Control Room

Below are just some of the reasons why you need a security control room for your small business.

Amy Galbraith

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As a small business owner, you know how important it is to provide your staff and your clients with a safe and positive environment. However, a CCTV control room is often not the first thought that comes to mind for a small business. A CCTV control room is one of the most effective ways to ensure that your staff and office space are safe, day and night. Below are just some of the reasons why you need a security control room for your small business.

It will prevent criminal activity

Businesses that install a CCTV security system are less likely to be targeted by criminals. Often, the mere sight of a camera on the side of a building is enough to deter and prevent criminal activity. Criminals do not want to be caught in the act.

If the unfortunate event occurs that you are broken into, you will be able to prevent further crime by installing CCTV control room equipment in your office space. Criminals tend to target buildings and businesses that appear to be unprotected, which means that having a CCTV control room will reduce your chances of being targeted, and can help to reduce crime in the area overall.

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

You will protect your business assets

A small business, such as an artisan coffee shop or vegan restaurant, will have assets that help it to function. It is vital to protect these assets, and you will need to have both insurance (in case one of them is stolen) and a CCTV control room to watch over every asset your business owns.

Installing a good security system also relates to cybercrime, as you will be able to watch both consumers and employees, noting who is using your computers at any time during work hours. If you notice missing data or incorrect time logging of employees, you will be able to go over the camera footage to see who logged what at what time. Data and information may not always be covered by your insurance company, which is why having a CCTV control setup is vital to protecting your assets.

Protect your employees

Your small business might only have five to ten employees operating at once, but this small number does not make protecting them any less important. Your employees are your most valuable asset, and so their safety should come first.

A CCTV control room will allow you to keep an eye on your employees, ensuring that they are safe. If any suspicious activity does occur on or around your premises, you will be able to see it happening and take immediate action, such as someone harassing your employees or trying to gain entry to your building. Protecting your employees also protects your business, making it a win-win situation for everyone involved.

Assist law enforcement

If your business is broken into and something is stolen, assisting the police with CCTV footage can help their investigation immensely. The police may need to release footage to the public in order to catch criminals who have stolen significant amounts from your business, or retrace the steps of the crooks in order to catch them.

Law enforcement officers might have the best skills in the business, but without video evidence, they are unable to find criminals with ease. A picture or a video can make a huge difference when looking for criminals, and will also prove to them that you made the right call in contacting them about the situation.

Keep your employees honest

While it is vital to protect your business from outside threats, there are internal threats that could damage it too, such as dishonest employees or employees who steal from you. You do have to make your employees aware that you are filming them with CCTV, but this footage may not hold up in a CCMA court, as every person is entitled to privacy according to the constitution of South Africa.

Related: Government Funding and Grants for Small Businesses

The knowledge that they are being filmed will, however, encourage employees to be honest and open while working, making for a more productive workplace. In a small business, it is easy to become friends with your employees, as you work closely with one another. While this is positive, it can lead to them taking advantage of you in some situations. Being able to monitor their behaviour will keep them honest and will deter crime in the office space.

Conclusion

Having a CCTV control room is vital for the safety of your small business, but it is important that you make both customers and employees aware that you are using CCTV in your office or retail space. Cameras can help to protect your staff and your assets, as well as aid in diminishing the crime in the area overall. Small businesses need to think about their safety just as much as bigger corporations, so investing in CCTV control room equipment and setting one up is the best action to take.

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Small Business

Why A Small Business Owner Needs Medical Aid

Outlined below are just some of the advantages of having a medical aid as a small business owner.

Amy Galbraith

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As a small business owner, there are many obstacles you will have to overcome in order to become successful. You might have to overcome financial hurdles or other burdens, but one such obstacle you should avoid is that of bad health. This is why having one of the many affordable medical schemes in South Africa is so important. Outlined below are just some of the advantages of having a medical aid as a small business owner.

Your health is an investment too

Small business owners and start-up creators are well known for overworking themselves in order to make their business a success. While this hard work is admirable, it can be debilitating to your health, causing stress-induced illnesses such as ulcers and migraines.

Your health is arguably one of the most important investments you will ever make as a small business owner, which is why having a medical aid or being part of medical schemes is so important. Your health should be as important to you as the health of your business – after all, if you are not functioning at your best, your business will suffer too. By keeping yourself healthy, you will eliminate business problems too.

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

Medical schemes fees tax credit

Medical schemes fees tax credit or MTC is a tax rebate that applies to people who are a part of a medical aid scheme, and it applies to both employees and employers. This is a huge financial advantage to having a medical aid scheme for yourself and your business.

This tax benefit can help a business with a smaller budget, allowing you to spend more money on other important business expenses. However, it is important to find out all the information you can about this tax credit, as there could be stipulations that affect your business’s claiming ability. You, as the employer, will have to ensure that medical aid tax is deducted from your employee’s account correctly and timeously.

Your family will be covered

As a small business owner, the support of your family is highly valuable in times of crisis. Having one of the many affordable medical schemes in South Africa as support for their health is showing them that you care about them.

Having your family covered by a medical aid will also help to reduce the stress that you feel on a daily basis, as you will not have to worry about what will happen to them in case of an emergency hospitalisation or medical procedure.

Many medical schemes allow extended families as dependents, but be sure to find out what the rules are as well as the monthly contributions per dependent.

Related: Government Funding and Grants for Small Businesses

medical-aid-coverageYour business will continue to run smoothly

You are the owner, and most likely, the manager of your small business, which means that in order for it to run smoothly you need to be in good health. Staying healthy is important for your business, and for your employees, as it will allow you to continue operations in any season (including the infamous Flu Season).

However, if something does go wrong, a medical scheme can help immensely in keeping your business up and running while you are in hospital or recovering from an illness. This will also enable your cash flow to continue, alleviating stress and allowing your employees to still receive a salary while you are unable to work.

Promoting wellness in the office

Having group medical schemes in small businesses has shown to help promote wellness, which in turn encourages employees to live healthier lifestyles. This will increase productivity and help the profitability of your business too. Healthy employees help to build a healthy business.

Promoting wellness in the office extends to the business owner too, meaning that you will also be encouraged to make healthier choices and practise wellness in your daily routine. Living a healthy life promotes a holistic office, allowing both you and your employees to work at a high productivity level and make clients happy without the worry of someone falling sick and lagging behind on work.

Related: How South African Small Business Owners Can Overcome Economic Uncertainty

The risk of penalties

If you are a young business owner, it is best to join a medical scheme now, rather than waiting for later. You will have to pay a late joiner’s fee if you join a medical aid late, and it can be a significant amount depending on how late you decide to join.

Luckily, this will not affect your employees but is rather applied to your own personal medical aid. Having to pay these extra monthly fees will eat into your finances, so it is best to join a medical aid while you are still young and able to afford it. As a business owner setting up a medical scheme for your employees may or may not incur these fees, so it is important to find out from your provider beforehand what the late joiner fees will be, if any, for your group medical scheme.

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