Starting Small — How to Start a Small Business

For some of us, it has always been a dream, for others it is an idea that comes later in life after years of building experience in the workforce. Opening a business on one’s own can be a huge challenge, but the possibility of providing for ourselves and family through self-employment is a huge reward.

The early days of a new business is exciting, and much like any newborn, it will take all you’ve got to give in time, energy, and resources. For anyone with the will to work, the courage to take a chance, and the ambition to win, this will be invigorating rather than frightening. Dreams come true, but certainly the potential for success is increased if things are thought through and planned carefully.

Do your business homework.

Follow your dream, but carry this advice with you — “Think it through. Do your homework.” This is what is called ‘due diligence’. Talk to others who run businesses, rub shoulders with people in your industry, and seek the advice of experts who’ve been there and are able to tell you what you should know. The internet and old fashioned publications are low-cost gold mines with the ability to both inspire and sober, which is exactly the balance you need.

Check out the South African Government’s information page on Starting Your Own Business. When you’re ready, seek local professionals such as accountants or lawyers who have experience in the legislation and paperwork required to set up a businesses in your area.

Make a business plan and budget.

Even for the smallest business there are costs and running expenses, so it is highly recommended to prepare a business plan and a budget well before investing anything. Check all fixed costs (rent, fees, permits, wages) and other day-to-day or occasional outgoings. In the end it’s the rewards that count, both income and satisfaction, so make sure in your budget plan that there is room for both.

Know the market.

Research the market for what you want to supply. Whatever your product or service, there must be people who value it. The internet is a great tool for general market research and improving on any existing ideas. An excellent way of gauging the market is by opening a temporary pop-up shop or stall for services, goods and/or food. This can often be done on a much smaller scale, and is in turn much lower risk.

It also gives you a connection to your potential customers, rather than making assumptions based on ‘gut feelings’.

Trust your experience.

This is essential. If you are going to launch a food service business, experience working in a kitchen is a necessity. To be a lawyer, you must have university or legal qualifications. As a shop owner you must know stock, where to source it, how to sell it, and how to make a profit. As an online entrepreneur, you must be computer literate, resourceful, innovative and have technical skills. And so it goes for anything you plan.

The How.


There will always be a place for traditional brick-and-mortar type businesses. Starting with a small office or shop front and growing into yourself is a wise option when this is your first business venture. The temptation might be there to run before you can walk, but learning and expanding gradually will serve you best.

Offering excellent face-to-face customer experiences is a must in a time when customers can easily go elsewhere. Keep this in mind and you will surely begin to build a loyal customer base.


Mobile businesses work well if you have an established set of skills and value flexibility. Think hairdressing, beauty therapy, photography, car and truck repairs, computer repairs, financial planning, pet grooming and anything that can be done with a small amount of equipment, ‘know-how’, and transport.

Turning otherwise brick-and-mortar type businesses mobile is another option — starting a catering business, vintage clothing shop, or grocery store are all ideas that can easily be made mobile with the help of a purpose designed vehicle.


The old saying ‘the world is your oyster’ may be correct, but the internet is your key to access it. Freelance writing, brand consultants, buying and selling websites, eCommerce, even counselling. The internet offers all kinds of creative options for running a flexible business with low overheads.

Starting up a new business is exciting.

It takes grit, skill, risk and determination and rewards in choice, freedom, and a satisfaction that is hard to come by in many lines of work. If you’re thinking to take the plunge, prepare yourself properly, listen to your customers, and get ready for the adventure of a lifetime!