A Guide to Small Business Ideas in South Africa

Updated on Jun 30, 2023


There is no limit to the kinds of small business ideas that South African entrepreneurs with the necessary skill set, passion and resources can successfully launch. There are, however, emerging and fast-growing industries which present particularly lucrative business opportunities. In South Africa, the industries that entrepreneurs should keep an eye on include finance and banking, ICT, transport and logistics, agriculture and agro-processing5 Agro-Processing Business Ideas in South Africa, healthcare and fashion and beauty. There are also opportunities in the green sector as consumer demand for sustainable alternatives increases and new businesses launch to meet this demand.

See also: Green Business Ideas in South Africa

Finally, the COVID-19 pandemic has seen a surge of new business ideas in response to changing consumer needs. Sectors that have resulted in growth include virtual business services, e-commerce, and the courier and delivery industry.

The Role Of Small Businesses In South Africa

Small businesses are major drivers of growth in the economy and make a meaningful impact on unemployment, particularly in sectors identified as being high-impact job creators, including manufacturing, agriculture, transport, information technology, and renewable energy.

Despite evidence that small businesses can have a positive impact, most entrepreneurs don’t have the support mechanisms required. The reality is that if you launch a business idea in South Africa, you are likely to do it without any funding.

As a result, most entrepreneurs have to rely on personal savings, family and friends or other alternative options such as crowdfunding. Adding to the funding challenge, small businesses also face a distinct lack of resources, as well as limited access to infrastructure, expertise and support.

Get the full guide: Starting a Business In South Africa 

In spite of the obstacles they face, most small business ideas that are launched in South Africa are started by passionate and eager individuals looking to make a difference. This was one of the findings from the SME South Africa Landscape Report which shows that most SME owners are starting their businesses out of “idealistic and intrinsic reasons” and are looking to “positively impact the world around them”.

Whether you are looking for your next money-generating idea or want to do good, below is a list of business ideas to start, including ideas for youth and township-based entrepreneurs.

Business Ideas To Start In South Africa

Catering – Catering remains a popular choice for entrepreneurs who are interested in food service. There are a variety of functions you can cater, including weddings, funerals or even corporate events. This business can be run from a home kitchen or a professional one as you scale up.

Read more: How To Start A Catering Business

Bakery – All that is required to start a successful bakery business are solid baking skills, a passion for baking and a solid business plan. Products that you can sell range from cakes and pastries to bread rolls and pies.

Read more: Guide to starting a bakery business 

See also: Licensing And Permits For The Food Industry 

Recycling and Sorting Business – There are plenty of opportunities for entrepreneurs looking to make money from waste. Businesses can charge for collecting, sorting, and transporting waste from residential complexes and office parks. Recyclable materials to focus on are plastic, tins and paper.

Read more: How To Start A Recycling Business In South Africa 

Blogging and Content Writing – Start and monetise a personal blog by providing relevant information to your niche, becoming an affiliate or selling products to your audience. You can also help to meet the demand for copywriting services by offering freelance content writing services to other companies.

See also: Home Business Ideas South Africa 

Buying and Selling / Thrifting – With the rise in popularity of thrifting, there are business opportunities for fashion entrepreneurs to buy and resell fashion items for a profit. You could visit thrift stores, garage sales, and second-hand marketplaces to secure stock.

Metal Recycling – Beverage cans and scrap metal are popular items that can be recycled. In fact, according to an SME South Africa article, metal is one of the most in-demand and profitable materials and presents many opportunities for entrepreneurs.

Read more: How To Start A Metal Recycling Business 

Construction – The construction industry continues to present opportunities for experienced contractors with access to capital and expertise. If you want your construction company to be eligible for public contracts and tenders, you need to adhere to the long list of compliance requirements, licences and permits, and unique requirements.

Access the full guide: How to Start a Construction Company 

Logistics – There is a constant demand for reliable trucking companies to transport goods. If you have the required capital you can succeed by identifying a niche. Ideas include whether it’s consumer goods, livestock or construction materials.

Read more: How To Start A Logistics Company In South Africa

Franchising – Franchising continues to be a popular option for both first-time and experienced entrepreneurs. You can choose from a variety of sectors, including fast food, automotive, education and beauty and wellness. The cost of a franchise will vary depending on how established or well-known the brand is. Get the guide to buying a franchise in South Africa

Cleaning Services – This is a great business option for many as it has low capital requirements and does not need expert knowledge to get started. You will, however, need to market your business to secure customers and make the business profitable. Find out what you need to start a cleaning services business.

Food Trucks – Food trucks continue to grow in popularity with the increase in demand for new and exciting cuisine. Food trucks can operate in multiple locations including live events such as festivals, weddings and markets.

Read more: Guide to launching a food truck business 

Scooter Delivery Business – The demand for deliveries is at an all-time high with the increased popularity of online shopping and demand for meal and grocery delivery. It’s therefore a good time to start a scooter delivery business as a freelance delivery driver for big retailers. Learn the ins and outs of the scooter delivery business 

Livestock Farming – While farming remains expensive and demanding, there are a few options available that don’t require a lot of space or money and are relatively easy to start. The best options for smaller operations are poultry and pig farming which are some of the easiest ventures to get into and have lower costs and great profit potential.

Rabbit farming is another great option with relatively low set-up costs. It is also less demanding, easy to maintain and requires less land and resources. Access the full guide: A Guide To Launching A Rabbit Farming Agribusiness

See also: 5 Manufacturing Business Ideas In South Africa 

Garden Services – Gardening service businesses maintain the gardens of residential and business premises. Some of the services you will be required to provide range from lawn mowing and cleanup to landscaping and garden design services.

Online and Digital Services – If you have sufficient digital skills you can launch a successful online business. Businesses in this industry provide digital media services such as website building and maintenance, e-commerce, SEO and social media management.

Read more: Everything You Need to Know About a Digital Business 

Tutoring – There is a growing need for private tutoring services targeting primary, high school and university students. There are countless options to explore in tutoring including peer-to-peer tutoring, examination preparations and other academic support services.

Influencer Marketing – With just a good quality camera and editing software you can start a business as an influencer. Influencers create content for their audience on their preferred social media channels and leverage their following to secure paid campaigns from brands.

See also: Business Ideas For University Students 

Food Markets – The food market trend remains a lucrative option in South Africa. There are many opportunities for entrepreneurs to launch their own food markets or cookouts catering for food lovers who enjoy an outdoor setting.

Car Wash Business – Car washes remain one of the easiest businesses to start. To start, you only need a bucket, water and soap and a suitable location. There is also the option to go mobile with your business and service residents in office parks and apartment buildings. Find the full guide to Launching a Car Wash Business.

Shisa Nyama – This remains one of the most popular township business ideas. Shisa Nyama’s offers visitors a place to buy meat and braai. These establishments also offer patrons a variety of other meals, beverages, wines and alcohol.

Read more: Guide to Launching a Shisa Nyama 

Sneaker cleaning – Sneaker cleaning businesses provide a variety of services that include washing, refurbishing, colour touch-ups, stain removal, waterproofing, disinfecting and deodorising as well as customising sneakers. Read the full guide to help you Launch a Sneaker-Cleaning Business 

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  • Retail
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  • PLUS Business ideas for the COVID-19 pandemic

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