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Starting a Business

How do I re-zone a property for commercial use?

According to Leon du Bruto, Town Planning Principal of ZoningApply: “A proposal has to be sent to the local Ward Committee. They provide the application’s municipal evaluation process with the community regarding the proposed development.




Direct stakeholders provide inputs through the public participation process that legislation provides – i.e. objections, etc”. Deed restrictions “run with the land,” that is, they restrict any future owner and cannot be removed without obtaining a release from every possible party who could benefit from keeping the restriction.

The local authority (municipality) is empowered to amend, suspend or remove restrictions or obligations in respect of land within their jurisdiction They are also authorised to make provision for the regulation of fees charged by township owners in respect of consents required by applicants; to repeal Removal of Restrictions Act, 1967 (Act No. 84 of 1967).


When applying for re-zoning budget for the cost of preparing the application (advertising, plans documents, professional fees etc) and the application fee which is payable to the Council.

Approximate costs in the Johannesburg municipal area are (as at 2009):

  • Consent: R500
  • Re-zoning: R3 310
  • Development Plan: R500
  • Removal of Restrictions: R600
  • Simultaneous Re-zoning and Removal of Restrictive Conditions: R2 000

How long does re-zoning take?

A lot depends on the local council and on the type of application but it can take up to 12 months. Contact the town planning division of your local municipality for more information.

How to find commercially zoned property

With the exception of professionals such as doctors or lawyers, it is unlikely that a business will be successful in applying for business rights in an established residential area. This is due to resistance from neighbours whose objections are taken seriously by the local council.

The best way to find a house that is commercially zoned is through a good property agent who will be able to assist with identifying residential buildings that are either re-zoned or have the potential to be.

There are many kinds of applications, of which most are technically and legally complex. It is therefore advisable to consult a professional town planning consultant or a land surveyor or a lawyer to guide you.

Some development proposals don’t require a rezoning or removal of restrictive conditions, but need the Council’s permission. These are known as Consent Applications and are usually less complex, but need to be legally and technically correct.

Zoning regulations

Property zoning is set out in the applicable Town Planning Scheme which spells out the rules for possible land use, i.e. general business, shopping centres and office use. Development is also controlled by conditions of title.

These conditions are set out in the Title Deeds of each property, and can restrict the way in which a property is developed. Other legislation that regulates development includes the National Building Regulations, the Building Standards Act (Act 103 of 1977), the Public Health Bylaws and other Municipal Bylaws.

Understanding how businesses are zoned

There are four sub-divisions.

  1. Business 1: This is for general business in the form of shopping centres or malls and the developer or owner would be allowed to have almost any type of shop on the premises.
  2. Business 2: This is also for a shopping centre, but with certain restricted businesses. For example, a restriction may be placed on opening a bottle store.
  3. Business 3: A strict zoning which will not allow a wider variety of businesses to open and operate in a centre.
  4. Business 4: This zoning excludes shopping centres or malls. It provides for office use (with or without residential use).

If you are running a business from home you may have to apply for re-zoning, due to the business growing to the extent that traffic and activities reach a level which could inconvenience neighbours.

One would then apply for rezoning from a Residential 1 to a Business 4 category. This usually does not apply in the case of a small home run business with two or three staff, one or two cars, and occasional business visitors

Starting a Business

What are the do’s and don’ts of securing an online domain name?

We asked founder, Wayne Diamond, what the do’s and don’ts are when it comes to entrepreneurs registering domain names for their start-ups…

Wayne Diamond



There’s that L-word again:

“Location, location, location”. It’s the make or break decision. Every estate agent and business owner cannot overemphasise the importance of this Critical Business Decision Number 2 (Number 1, of course, has to do with what you’re going to sell!).

Related: As a start-up, what are the most important areas I should be looking at?


Whatever business you’re in, being close to customers and convenient to business partners and suppliers is essential. That bricks-and-mortar wisdom is equally true in the world of online commerce. Having the right domain name and the right support for your online presence has emerged as a real driver of success.

Some figures put the scale of the opportunity into perspective: US e-commerce is predicted to reach $440 billion by 2017, showing a compound annual growth of 13.8%[1]. While the Internet economy is in its infancy in South Africa and Africa, it is growing strongly: research by World Wide Worx showed that consumers, small and medium businesses and government were already purchasing products and services worth R59 billion on the web three years ago.[2]

So how to secure the best and most profitable Internet real estate to make sure your business can ride the e-commerce wave?

It’s all in the name:

The first decision is what domain to use. One of the exciting developments is the launch of new Internet domain names, so it’s definitely no longer a choice of .com or The proposed dotAfrica (.africa) geoTLD (geographic Top Level Domain) is one option that’s set to come online around the first quarter of next year, but what about the ZAdotCities domains of .joburg, .capetown or .durban? Domain names within these additional geoTLDs will be able to be snapped up by the public around November this year.

While .com remains a good choice for truly international businesses, choosing a domain name with some local flavour is probably going to work well for many companies.

The greater range of domain names also makes it more possible that you will be able to choose the right name for your business. When it comes to the more established domains, like .com or, chances are higher that the name you want has already been taken.

When it comes to that all-important name, received wisdom used to be that short was best, but the trend nowadays seems to have reversed—even phrases are now used. The key is to choose a name that is easily recognisable, that will stick in peoples’ minds and that describes the business well.

Perhaps a good example is the domain used by the writer of this article: is both a brand name and a name that perfectly describes the nature of the business. At just seven characters in length, “domains” is also an easy to spell, easy to remember word – keeping names under ten characters is guaranteed to help audience recall.

Something people will remember easily is absolutely vital.

Some companies use specific names for individual campaigns, but always make sure the business as a whole has its own web address.

Experience has shown that it’s probably worthwhile to register similar domain names to the one you choose, just to keep competitors from taking them in an effort to sow confusion.

My final advice: it’s always a good idea to use an ISPA (Internet Service Providers’ Association of SA) member to help you register the chosen address of your start-up. That way you’ll be sure that all the formalities are correct, and that the company you’re dealing with abides by ISPA’s code of conduct.

Finally, as there are already almost 950 000 domains registered, it’s a good idea to surf to and perform searches to see if the domain you would like is indeed available.

Related: Does the South African government award grants to franchisees?

[1] Chuck Jones, “Ecommerce is growing nicely while mcommerce is on a tear”, Forbes, 2 October 2013, available at

[2] “Internet 2% of SA economy”, 29 May 2012, available at

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Starting a Business

How to protect your business idea when sending them to financial instituitons?

Signing an NDA, is it necessary?

Anton Ressel



How can I protect my business idea before I submit my business plan to financial institutions and other agencies for help?

You have a few options:

Firstly, you can include a disclaimer as an introductory clause, saying that any and all information contained in the business plan and related documents remain the Intellectual Property of xxx (your name) and may not be reproduced, copied or used in any manner without express written consent. This is not legally binding, but usually enough.

Secondly, you could ask them to sign a non-disclosure agreement, which is more binding from a legal perspective. The downside of this is that it can come across as arrogant, especially from someone who is approaching us for help. Personally I refuse to sign any NDA from clients who approach me for help, it just smacks of mistrust and arrogance.

On a final note, good ideas always get copied. If you are that worried that your idea will be stolen, you may need to re-look at it and find ways to make it difficult to replicate, or better yet, make sure you are first to market.

Related: As a start-up, what are the most important areas I should be looking at?

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Starting a Business

Does the South African government award grants to franchisees?

In my experience, unless you as the entrepreneur have some ‘skin in the game’ and a reason to get up and make the business work every morning, it seldom will.

Anton Ressel



I am considering purchasing a children’s education franchise and wanted to know if the government offers grants. The cost of the franchise is R 86 000. If so what are the criteria to qualify and how does one go about it?

Accessing grant funding for a franchise may prove challenging, unless that franchise is registered and accredited, in which case there is a fund that may consider it – see CNBC for more info.

Otherwise, you could look at and see if any of those sources of financing are of interest. It naturally depends on your own PDI (previously disadvantaged individual) status as many of these funds are focused on youth, women and PDI’s.

Finally, on an emotional level I would caution against going all out for grant funding and not loan finance. In my experience, unless you as the entrepreneur have some ‘skin in the game’ and a reason to get up and make the business work every morning, it seldom will.


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