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Start-up Advice

Do You Have The Next Billion Rand Idea?

We’ve all experienced it. The adrenalin pumping through your veins when you think you’ve just discovered the next big thing. You could be walking down the road or in the shower when it smacks you in the face and you have to rush to write down your genius idea.

Nicholas Haralambous




Then the adrenalin leaves your body for a moment and you have time to think about whether this truly is a great idea or not.

My father is an ideas man. We would drive through the streets when I was a kid and he’d say that a McDonald’s would be great on this corner or a laundromat would work on that corner. Then months later, those things would pop up and thrive.

Ideas are great but they’re free and easy to come by. It’s the building that really matters. So what should you do when your billion rand idea hits? Here are some things I do when I think I’ve got a great idea on my hands.

We-recommend-tickWe recommend: How to Find Your Next Big Business Idea


Before you tell anyone about your idea, before you spend any money on developing any part of it and before you even expand your thinking around the idea, go and search the Internet. Open up Google and type in any related search.

Find any adjacent industries, similar companies, people or places that might have already done what you’re wanting to do. The sad and difficult truth about coming up with ideas is that very few are new.

That’s not to say that your idea isn’t new and unique but it may not be, so do your research. One of the valuable things about researching your idea is that you see if you have competitors, how they do things and where they might be lacking or defeating your potential business or idea.

When I decided I wanted to start my sock company,, I already knew who my competitors were because I was wearing their socks and disliked them immensely. I did more research and found out what it took to design, make, sell and distribute socks.

Think through the business

A huge mistake that I’ve seen people make is thinking that an idea is a business. It’s not. Wanting to start a sock company and designing, making and selling socks are two vastly different things. One involves thinking about how cool something could be. The other involves a lot of planning, strategy, foresight, hustle, capital and struggle in between.

Thinking through how your idea might one day make money is an imperative step. Are you going to patent the technology and licence it? Are you going to produce and sell it yourself? If you outsource production what will your margins look like and can they sustain infrastructure?

It may seem premature, but sometimes good ideas break when you try to turn them into something more.

Size the industry

Work out how big the potential pot of money is. Are you fighting to build a business in an industry that is worth R10 million? If you’ve already got ten competitors in the space, you’re fighting to take away some of their market share as well as grow your own.

At best you stand to earn R10 million if you take out every competitor. That’s great, but it’s a long battle for a relatively small industry and potentially smaller profit margins.

Build a simple version

The fun part of any idea is building and creating. So once the research is done, the market sized, you’ve planned and prepared how you want the idea to roll out, it’s best to just go ahead and build something.

We-recommend-tickWe recommend: 8 Steps for Nurturing a Winning Business Idea

Don’t go crazy and start funding this from your life savings just yet. You need to operate in a lean manner. The Lean Startup describes the concept of a minimum viable product (MVP). Build the smallest and simplest version of your idea to test the basic premise and see if anyone wants to use it or buy it.

Test the three Fs

The final phase of working out if you’ve got the next best thing since Facebook is quite simple; try to sell it. When I start a new business I always use the three Fs as my first market: Friends, Family and Fools.

Your friends generally want to help you, your family has to help you (but if they don’t, that’s a big indicator of potential problems) and then try to find people foolish enough (in a good way) to pay for, or just use, your new idea or product. If none of those work out, it probably means something.

Nicholas Haralambous is the founder of the style company, He is an entrepreneur, speaker and writer who likes to tell the honest, brutal truth at every possible opportunity.



  1. ntsatsana kenny phera

    Dec 13, 2015 at 18:34

    I have billion business to my nation was can development which one who can invest to it my nation luck filling station but too much cars and lots of tourism coming in no big businesses which people can buy on the way.Have a good place which Will can built this

  2. Lerata Maloke

    Dec 23, 2015 at 12:59

    Nice piece indeed, particularly at this time when most are seeking to gather momentum to begin the new year on a high note. I realized people have good ideas with potential of immense success and are eager to commence however, the courage which has been fired up by motivation leads to its paralysis. If it’s YOU don’t despair, press on and remember trying will always be the BEST!

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Start-up Advice

Put On Your Wellies: It’s Time To Wade Into Risk

Entrepreneurs aren’t all leaping into the unknown like lemmings off a cliff, but they do need to consider it…

Chris Ogden




You’ve had a great idea. You’ve looked into its development. You’ve recognised that it has potential beyond just what Auntie Mabel and Mike From The Grocer think. And you’ve clearly nailed a pain point that can make money. Now it is time to take the risk of running with it.

Every big idea comes with risk. You can’t step out into the world of entrepreneurial thinking and business development without it. Your idea may fail. It will also be time consuming, demanding, hungry for money, and hard work. It is unrealistic to expect that your project will leap out into the world and be an unmitigated success.

It is also unrealistic to assume that it isn’t worth taking this risk.

There are steps that you can follow to ensure that your risk is managed so you aren’t blindly leaping off that cliff…

Step 01: Do your research

No, canvassing your neighbours, friends and family is not doing research. You need to know that your idea will appeal to a broad market and that it will have significant legs. This may sound like daft advice, but you would be surprised how many people think an idea will take off just because Susan in Accounting said so.

Step 02: Understand the costs

Projects are hungry for money and investment. Realistically work out your budgets and how much it will cost to take your project off the ground and then stick to it.

A calculated risk is a far better bet than one that shoots from the hip and hopes for the best. You can also use this as an opportunity to draw a clear line under where you will stop investing and end the project. If it keeps eating money and isn’t getting anywhere with results you need to be able to walk away.

Step 03: Know when to walk away

As mentioned before, this can be defined by a line you’ve drawn in the proverbial sand (and budget) but no matter where you draw this line, you have to stick to it. Often, when time, money and energy have been poured into a project it can be incredibly hard to walk away.

You think ‘but I have put so much into this, just one more’ and then it gets to a point where the ‘just one more’ has taken you so far down the line that walking away feels impossible. Leave. Learn the lessons. Apply them to your next project.

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Start-up Advice

Mind The Gap

The entrepreneur’s guide to finding the gaps and building the right solutions.

Chris Ogden




Innovation may very well be the key to business success but finding the gap into which your innovative thinking can fit is often a lot harder than people realise. Some may be struck by inspiration in the shower, others by that moment of blinding insight in a meeting, however, for most people finding that big idea isn’t that simple. They want to be an entrepreneur and start their own high-growth business, but they need some ideas on how to find that big idea.

Here are five…

1. Network

It sounds trite but networking is actually an excellent way of picking up on patterns and trends in conversation and business problems. The trick is to note them down and pay attention. Soon, you will find patterns emerging and ideas forming.

2. Look for pain

Just as networking can reveal trends in the market, so can spending time reading. The latter will also help you find common business pain points. These are the touchpoints that frustrate people, annoy business owners, affect productivity, or impact employee engagement.

Be the Panado that fixes these pains.

3. Luck


This is probably the most annoying of the ideas, but it is unfortunately (or fortunately) very true. Luck does play a role in helping you capture that big idea. However, luck isn’t just standing around and random people offering you opportunities. Luck is found at networking events, it is found in research and it is found in conversations with other entrepreneurs.

4. Luck needs courage

You may have found the big idea through your network, a pain point or pure blind luck, but if you don’t have the courage to take it and run with it, you will lose it to someone else.

Being bold in business is highly underrated because most people assume that everyone is bold and prepared to take big leaps into the unknown. However, not all brilliant entrepreneurs were ready to throw their family funds to the wind and leap into an idea – they were courageous enough to figure out a way of harnessing their ideas realistically.

5. Pay attention

This is probably one of the most vital ways of finding a gap in the market. Often, people are so busy that they don’t really pay attention to that niggling issue that always bothers them on a commute, or in a mall, or at a meeting. This niggling issue could very well be the next big business opportunity. Pay attention to it and find out if that issue can be solved with your innovative thinking.

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Start-up Advice

5 Things To Know About Your “Toddler” Business

As you navigate this new toddler phase of your business, here are five things to bear in mind.

Catherine Black




Ah, toddlers. Those irresistible bundles of joy bring a huge amount of energy, curiosity and fun to any family – but there’s also frustration and worry that comes with their unpredictability, as they grow and start to become more independent. If you own a business and it’s successfully past its “infancy” of the first year or so, it’s likely it will also go through a toddler stage of its lifecycle.

Pete Hammond, founder of luxury safari company SafariScapes, agrees with this. “Our business is now three and a half years old, and we’ve found that we’re not yet big enough to justify employing a large team of people to handle the day-to-day admin tasks, yet we still need to grow the business as well,” he says. “As a result, our main challenge is finding the time to step back and see the bigger picture. Kind of like when you are raising a busy toddler and you spend most of your time running after them!”

As you navigate this new toddler phase of your business, here are five things to bear in mind:

1. This too shall pass

Everything in life is temporary – and that goes for both the good and the bad. It’s as helpful to remember this when you’re facing the might of a toddler temper tantrum, as it is when you’re facing throws of uncertainty in your business. If your new(ish) venture is going through a rough patch in its first few years, it can be easy to think about giving up – but don’t. As long as you have an overall big idea that you believe can add value to your customers, keep pushing through the rough parts until you come out the other side.

2. Appreciate what this phase brings

The toddler years mean that the initial newborn joy is officially behind you. But these small humans also bring their own kinds of joy, as you watch them learn new skills, say funny things, and give affection back to you. While your two-year-old business may not hold the same exhilaration for you as it did during those first few months, there are now different things to appreciate about it: Maybe you’re expanding your product range, or employing new people who can take the workload off you.

3. Establish boundaries

Toddlers thrive on boundary and routine – and your toddler business will too. As it grows into a new phase, try and establish limits in terms of the type of clients you want to work with and the type of work you’ll do. It’s also a good idea to make a decision about the hours you’ll work and when you’ll switch off, which will help you establish a good work-life balance.

4. Take a break

Every parent with a toddler needs a break every now and then, even if that means a walk around the block (on your own!), a dinner out with friends, or even a few days away. The same is true for a demanding small business: every so often, remember to take time out to rest properly, where you switch off your laptop and completely unplug. You’ll return much more inspired and resilient to deal with the everyday uncertainty that it brings.

5. Give it space to make mistakes

While the unpredictability of a young business can be stressful and tiring, it’s also a time for trying new things without the risk of huge consequences if they don’t quite work. After all, it’s much simpler to change your USP if you’re a small business employing a few people, rather than a big company where 50 people are relying on you for their salary, or where you’ve received a huge amount of investment capital. While you may fail in some of the things you try with your business (in fact, this is almost guaranteed), see it as a toddler that’s resilient enough to pick itself up, dust its knees and keep moving forward.

During this phase of business growth it’s also essential to have the right type of medical aid cover. There are medical schemes such as Fedhealth which has a number of medical aid options and value-added benefits to ensure that your health and wellness is taken care of too. After all, the healthier you and your staff are, the more productive your business will be – during the toddler (business) stage and beyond.

While this phase can be frustrating, it’s a sign that your business is growing and adapting, rather than remaining in its infancy, and that can only be a good thing! So embrace the difficulties, learn from them, and watch as your business strides forward confidently into the next exciting phase.

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