Unique South African Business Ideas


If you were thinking that all business ideas have been done – these South African entrepreneurs prove that original ideas are still abundant – whether it’s exploring an untapped market, new business models or finding new ways to exploit what may be a saturated market.

From innovative ways to make male circumcisions safer to taking the classic South African veldskoen global – these are unique ideas that caught our eye this year.

Isivuno Container Business – Beyond the container


Beverly Gumbi’s company supplies customised containers to a wide variety of clients, with conversion options including offices, kitchens, spaza shops, hair salons, ablution facilities, childcare facilities, gym in a box, and more

Beverly Gumbi is the founder of Isivuno Container Business. In 2005 Gumbi took the plunge and resigned from her job and left for a trip to China, where she investigated what the Chinese people were doing with shipping containers. She came back full of inspiration and ideas for the new container conversion company she wanted to start. Isivuno Containers was born in the same year.

The company supplies customised containers to a wide variety of clients, with conversion options including offices, kitchens, spaza shops, hair salons, ablution facilities, childcare facilities, gym in a box, and more. “What makes Isivuno different is that we deliver a completely finished product. When you move into your container, all the installations have been done. There are shelves, water, electricity – you can literally just move in and start using it,” says Gumbi.

Today Isivuno Containers is a well-established company with 30 staff members, and the only container conversion company in South Africa that is owned by an African female.

AirAdvance – Tapping into new markets

House Property Home Airbnb

AirAdvance is a fintech startup, it provides those offering private accommodation through Airbnb easy access to affordable finance. It uses a confirmed Airbnb booking as collateral for a cash advance.

Its founder, Jozette Chetwynd-Palmer, explains how AirAdvance works. “Hosts simply link their Airbnb properties by making AirAdvance a co-host and they are then offered an advance value based on their future bookings. Once terms and conditions are signed, hosts can expect the funds in their accounts within 48 hours. AirAdvance only direct debits hosts for the amount owed after they have been paid by Airbnb. By linking the repayments of the advance to future bookings hosts have peace of mind that they will always have sufficient cash available for repayments.” Read more

The People’s Fund – Crowdfunding with a difference


Johannesburg-based Tshepo Mohlala owner of Tshepo The Jean Maker managed to raise funds to be able to execute the production of his signature Presidential Slim Fit Jean on The People’s Fund crowdfunding platform.

The People’s Fund is a crowdfunding platform with a difference. The Fund provides a springboard for young and innovative businesses and allows individuals, stokvels and corporates to invest assets into budding black-owned companies.

The same ethos that drives stokvels is what’s behind their crowdfunding model, says Luyanda Jafta, founder of Paybook, which alongside Brownsense and The Hookup Dinner, are behind the platform.

“We want to demonstrate that between us we can build the economy we want to see, and we can all directly benefit from it,” he says.

The People’s Fund uses a royalty-based model which allows business owners to retain equity.

“We get everyday people to buy assets for entrepreneurs. The entrepreneurs then pay the crowd a royalty for each product that gets sold or delivered through the asset.

“They [investors] then earn a return from a growing business which means greater than unit trust or bank returns,” Jafta says.

Current and past campaigns include Just Laundry, a next day laundry delivery service; MySurfer, an affordable internet service provider for students and Stimela Brewing Co, a Gauteng-based brewery. Read more

Sxuirrel – Turning storage into profit

Peer-To-Peer Storage Sxuirrel Secures R2.4Mil In Seed Funding

The Sxuirrel co-founders built a peer-to-peer platform that connects users with extra storage space with those looking to rent it out.

Sxuirrel’s offering comprises three key space elements: storage space, parking space – and soon to be added eventing space in the form of venues.

The Sxuirrel app enables anyone with extra storage, an unused parking space or an events venue to connect with those who need it. It is a peer-to-peer platform that benefits both the providers and users of the space listed on the app.

Founders, Michael Louis, 21, lead software developer, together with Michael-John Dippenaar, 24, CEO and Henri Bam, 24 COO.

Last year the startup secured seed funding of R2.4 million from a strategic partner investment holding company with interests in the storage, logistics and transport industry, in return for a minority shareholding. Read more

Train with boxing grannies at a gym (Airbnb Experience) – Sharing a uniquely South African experience

Airbnb Experiences

Airbnb Experiences was introduced in South Africa in 2016. Many of the experiences centre around food, fashion or physical and cultural activities.

Training with boxing grannies is one of the Experiences available to be booked on the platform. Hosted by the A-Team Foundation, this Cape Town-based experience helps promote fitness and bodybuilding in underserved areas. Hosting an experience on Airbnb raises funds to renew training material and pay the fitness trainers.

“You’ll meet us for our morning boxing session. These grannies have been training with us for years and will show you the way. We will start with an introduction on our NGO and what we stand for. You will then be paired with a granny who will be your partner for the training.” Read more

Dorp (Veldskoen) – Taking on the global stage

Veldskoen final

Cape Town-based ecommerce Startup, DORP, is introducing the world to the Veldskoen.

DORP’s (Digital Online Retail Products) first product, the classic South African Veldskoen leather walking shoe, launched into the UK and Europe market this year.

Long4Life, which has invested in a number of well-known South African brands including Sportsmans Warehouse, Outdoor Warehouse and the Sorbet beauty chain, has a 49% stake in the e-commerce company.

DORP was founded in 2016 by Nick Dreyer and Ross Zondagh and officially launched in the UK and Europe in May this year.

“We’re excited to bring our South African brands to a global audience. In the short space of time that Veldskoen has been trading in the UK, it has already seen success, and we’re excited to introduce it to the rest of the world,” says Dreyer, CEO and co-founder of Dorp.

“Launching a retail brand in the UK and Europe is a challenge, the fashion retail market is already highly competitive, but we believe that the quality of our products and our ability to tell our brands’ stories will make us competitive,” he adds.

Next for the brand is the US and Australia markets – as well as Africa. Read more

Circumfort – Local innovation at its best

The desperate need to find something to relieve pain after his circumcision led to Musa Morgan inventing a medical device that now helps other initiates all over South Africa.

Morgan’s device, called Circumfort, is now being distributed at health centres and hospitals in Johannesburg and Pretoria, and even at several NGOs spread around the country.

Circumfort is manufactured in Orlando West in Soweto. It is specifically designed to reduce the pain that is experienced during the post operational wound treatment of recovery.

In August this year, the Stoelbag Foundation which was co-founded by Morgan, Lwazi Ntshangase and Nokubonga Dlamini, was awarded the Manufacturing Award and the Overall Township Entrepreneur of the Year Award by the Gauteng Provincial Government. Read more

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