According to the latest Global Entrepreneurship Monitor Report, 43% of South Africans felt that they could perceive good entrepreneurial opportunities, but only 11% of entrepreneurs had taken the plunge to start their own businesses.
While there are multiple reasons for that high failure rate, much of it comes down to a lack of education or knowledge on the part of the business owner. But success isn’t impossible. Even in a country as challenging as ours.
These are just four examples of entrepreneurs who came up with some interesting ideas and managed to keep their business doors open.
The Spinach King
The founder of Espinaca Innovations, a bakery and spinach empire that’s promoting healthy living in Khayelitsha, Cape Town started his business with only R40 to his name.
In 2011, Lufefe Nomjana had to bake his bread every night in his neighbour’s oven. The next day, he would take to the streets in Khayelitsha to sell his loaves. It was when Nomjana saw a need in his community for healthy eating that he set his sights on spinach. The green leaf veggie was the key ingredient in his bread and muffins and, through a partnership with a top supermarket chain, he managed to set up the first Spinach King eatery in Khayelitsha.
Today he sells his healthy foodstuffs in local supermarkets and has opened up a Spinach King franchise in the Netherlands and is looking to open another in the USA. He sources his produce from local Khayelitsha growers.
Mashaba founded a lifestyle business Hamethop, which includes the Michael Mikiala brand and handbag and accessory line.
Michael Mikiala is a skincare range aimed specifically at African men. Her skincare range has revolutionised the grooming industry as international brands weren’t developed with black skin types and pigmentation in mind.
“When I started the brand, I’d just quit my job in advertising and was tired of selling international brands to Africans,” she said in her previous interview with DESTINY.
When it ended up taking weeks for Pandor to find someone to help short-term with cleaning her parents’ home over the festive season while their helper was away, she took a step in creating SweepSouth – an app that lets home or business owners quickly and easily book reliable weekly or on-demand cleaning.
Pandor started with just four domestic workers – they now work with over 8 000. Her business, co-founded with her husband, has grown exponentially since launch and in the past year, despite tough economic conditions, has paid out R33 million to domestic workers in South Africa.
Virtual Reality (VR) isn’t just stuff of gamers. VR has become increasingly popular in numerous fields, particularly for training. Gillis’s company, Sea Monster, created a VR platform for ArcelorMittal that allows the mining giant to test potential mineworkers for a fear of heights. The test is both safe and cost-effective.
Sea Monster opened its doors in 2011 and Gillis openly admits that it’s been anything but easy to keep going. “People in big corporates can have a hard time understanding and seeing the effectiveness of innovative solutions,” Gillis says.
To date, Sea Monster has worked with everyone from Arcelor, to Pick n Pay to the SA Reserve Bank.
Starting your own business isn’t easy, but as these four entrepreneurs show, it can be done. For information on funding assistance and how-to guides, go to the South African Institute for Entrepreneurship (SAIE).