20 rising South African Businesses share what it takes to run a profitable business.
Abraham Lincoln said the best way to predict the future is to create it yourself. With job uncertainty and the world in turmoil, this is more relevant now than ever.
Since more than 45% of businesses fail within five years it’s easier said than done. How do you go about growing a business, ensuring you replace your job and create your future?)
We scoured the business landscape to find 20 up and coming businesses that despite difficult times make things happen in extraordinary ways.
From day job to passion: satisfying 70 happy paws per week
Power Paws owned by Ondine Schultz and Davina Toale
Ondine and Davina can’t imagine their lives without dogs. This is why, despite having full-time jobs, they started walking dogs before and after work.
This simple passion exploded, and before they knew it they had to resign from their jobs as well as hire another walker to keep up with the demand.
By now Power Paws has grown to a team of eight walkers who walk 70 dogs per week.
They also boast their own app. Clients can view the route that was walked and pictures of their dogs. They can even chat to the walker.
They added the sale of pet products to their repertoire, with free delivery when they collect their clients for their walks.
One of Power Paws’ main keys to success is investing in their staff. Potential dog walkers go through a two-week assessment period to see if they are a good fit.
Thereafter full training as well as quarterly training sessions are provided.
Power Paws works with a business coach, and they advise that this is especially helpful in terms of keeping up with the numbers.
“You can’t run a business if you don’t know how much money you’re making and spending,” says Ondine.
“Know what you’re working towards and have a plan to get there. Break the plan into bite-size chunks. If your daily to-do list is too long, you’ll feel deflated if you don’t finish all of them.”
“If you haven’t done something because you were too lazy or don’t really like doing that thing, be honest about it and outsource if necessary.”
Find them here: www.powerpaws.co.za
60 to 60 000 followers while embracing the quirky side of life
Pretty Pandora – South Africa owned by Monique Napier
Any person with even slightly alternative tastes will tell you that it is always a challenge to find clothes and jewellery that you like. This is where Monique saw an opportunity.
Fancy Alice in Wonderland-themed jewellery, earrings in the shape of a ribcage or perhaps a pretty dress covered in skulls? Pretty Pandora can help you out, and everything happens online.
Pretty Pandora saw the light in 2013 when Monique, who always dreamed about selling handmade crafts, saw a friend using Facebook as a platform for sales.
By now her business doesn’t only feature handmade items anymore.
It has grown from having a following of 60 friends and family to a client base of over 60 000 people – all thanks to the power of social media.
Monique ensures growth in her business by making use of Facebook advertising, competitions, sponsorships and word of mouth.
Pretty Pandora’s always-available friendly service and keeping followers involved with quirky memes is part of the charm, and keeps followers invested in the business.
“You need to be determined and not go in with a mindset that you will be making stacks of money from the start.”
“Most of the money you make you will need to put back into your business to ensure growth. Anything good takes time.”
Gaining clients and their trust is the most important first step to building your business.
“Anyone can start a business, but it takes perseverance for your business to become a brand,” is Monique’s advice to budding entrepreneurs.
Find them here: https://prettypandorashop.com/
A thriving online course born from modest flea market beginnings
Little Family Projects: Teddy Bears owned by Thinus and Anecia Buys, and Estie Human
In a world that has become overwhelmingly artificial, few things are as refreshing as something that is authentic. Little Family Projects: Teddy Bears is all about the real teddy bear.
As they explain on their website, there is a big difference between teddies and teddy bears. A teddy is the stuffed toy in the shape of a bear that you can buy almost everywhere.
A teddy bear is a jointed bear which is not so widely available, and is often a collector’s item. Many a child (and adult)’s best friend, the authentic teddy bear will never lose its charm.
A family business born from necessity, Little Family Projects: Teddy Bears went from selling handmade bears at flea markets to having a profitable online shop.
They even proudly offer teddy bear classes for those who want to learn how to make their own teddy bears.
Little Family Projects: Teddy Bears’ biggest secret to growth is constantly developing new ideas. “There is always joy and a story behind every bear that we design,” says Thinus.
“Our memory bear is made from the clothes of a family member who has passed, as something to remember them by.”
Thinus advises entrepreneurs to never stop believing in themselves. Stand up when you fall and learn from your mistakes. You will succeed if you believe in what you do.
Find them here: https://teddybears.littlefamilyprojects.co.za
How to keep a‘breast’ of the competition
The Bra Guru owned by Lizette Holahan
Buying a bra can get tricky, and many women are not even sure of their size. Yet the right bra boosts your confidence as it makes you look and feel like a new woman.
Finding the right bra becomes an even bigger challenge if you have special requirements such as very large breasts or if you have undergone a mastectomy.
Understanding the struggle of having large breasts, Lizette founded The Bra Guru to empower women.
The Bra Guru is a one-stop shop, catering not only for a huge variety of bras, but also assisting ladies with post-operative bras, mastectomy bras and prostheses.
According to Lizette networking is critical if you want to expand your business. And this she has done with great success.
Her business has grown to the extent that she had to move to a bigger premises three times in the past three years.
“Stay relevant, be passionate, listen to your clients, do effective marketing, be aware of how things change and see how you can adapt,” says Lizette.
She further states that having your own business means you are saying goodbye to a normal work day and even a normal work week. You have to work hard.
“Get a lawyer, sign contracts, and stand out among your competitors,” she says. “And remember insurance.”
Partner up to a newly-developed beat
Lumen Handpan owned by Guy Munton Jackson
If you want to acquire a traditional acoustic handpan, you will have to get in line. They take a long time to manufacture, not to mention that they are extremely costly.
With this in mind, Arclight Projects, founded by Guy, saw a gap in the market. What if they could develop something better? And they did just that.
The Lumen Handpan is an acoustic instrument that incorporates electronics and digital samples. Furthermore, it doesn’t require any cables, amps or speakers.
Guy emphasises that the road to owning a successful business can be riddled with anxiety. “So many times, things that I’d never even thought could go wrong, did,” he says.
To achieve success, you will need to use sheer determination to push through the myriad of hurdles that will get in your way.
“Every time I feel like throwing in the towel, I take a few days and re-look at the overall goal of what I’m trying to bring into the world, and keep going.
It’s been a very long and difficult road, exacerbated by the global pandemic, but belief in the instrument and its future success keep things on track.”
Guy recommends working with a partner who shares your goals and complements your weaknesses, to increase your chances of success.
An unconventional way to international success
Solsken Clothing owned by Thelma Haupt
After 26 years working behind the scenes in the entertainment industry, Thelma Haupt founded Solsken Clothing in 2007.
The result was a combination of Thelma’s love for period costume and her own offbeat personality.
Does the idea of a big white dress bore you? Thelma can dress you for a glamorous steampunk wedding.
Alternatively you can shop for items such as gothic maternity wear, or get your live action role play costumes custom made.
Thelma explains that her work is aimed at a very select niche market with a diverse clientele, and therefore she prefers to keep things small and intimate.
Despite this, she has achieved international success establishing her brand, and she supplies for clients throughout Africa, as well as Great Britain, Europe, the USA and New Zealand.
Thelma says it’s vital that your business is your passion but on the practical side, you have to deliver what you promise.
“Maintain a high standard of workmanship and customer service, always deliver on time, be approachable to your clients and never stagnate.”
Be prepared to put in long hours and keep it professional. “No matter what you are going through in your personal life, it should not be a part of your work ethics.
Also, never sit back and think you know it all. If the crisis has taught us anything it is that life can change overnight, so always be open to change, new ideas and new ways of doing things.”
The most rewarding aspect for Thelma is when a client orders a custom design with a vague idea of what they want, and the finished product far exceeds their expectations.
But what is the most important thing about owning a business?
Find them here: www.solsken.co.za
Shedding 12 unwanted kilograms leads to new business success
Body Evolution SA owned by Sinobuhle Ndlovu
Sinobuhle is a woman who knows the heavy load of being overweight. She also knows what it’s like to love good food.
This led to an idea being born while Sinobuhle was going through her own successful weight loss journey, during which she shed 12 unwanted kilograms.
Thanks to many failed attempts at fad diets, Sinobuhle knew that the only way to lose weight and keep it off is through a balanced diet that contains all the food groups.
Her love for food and cooking inspired her to develop her own delicious calorie-controlled recipes. Today, Body Evolution SA provides a large variety of frozen meals to their valued clients.
Apart from meal prep and delivery Body Evolution SA provides meal plans, recipes, loads of motivation and service that shows the passion of this former attorney.
Passion for her clients is one of Sinobuhle’s secrets to success. “I pay attention to my clients’ needs. The secret always lies in what your clients say. Listen to them and provide what they need.”
Sinobuhle says she ensures growth in her business by keeping up with international trends. She agrees with other entrepreneurs that it’s all about passion, perseverance and hard work.
“You are capable of doing whatever you put your mind to,” says Sinobuhle. “The sky’s the limit. Never doubt yourself.”
Find them here: www.bodyevolutionsa.com
Handbag success is no monkey business
Bobby Yarn owned by Antoinette Stoltz
Founder Antoinette cleverly created her business’ name by combining her nickname (Bobby) and her love for sewing (yarn).
Together these words form a play on the word “bobbejaan”, Afrikaans for baboon, which is perfectly suited because Antoinette adores all kinds of apes.
Bobby Yarn produces unique African-inspired bags, and with the arrival of the pandemic they have added masks to their repertoire.
We are talking handbags, shoulder bags, sling bags, tote bags, beach bags and more. You can choose from African or proudly South African themes, or design your own beautiful bag.
Bobby Yarn has grown from buying fabric off the shelf to now being able to design, print and manufacture their materials themselves.
They rely strongly on the various social media platforms to promote their products – and they make sure that there is always something new, boring is not an option.
Antoinette believes in doing her best to always keep customers happy, and she will go as far as contacting past customers to see if they need anything or can provide feedback.
She advises entrepreneurs to stay humble, and to be kind yet confident.
“Life has no remote, get up and change it yourself. Take the risk or lose the chance. Starve your distractions and feed your focus. The saying goes: ‘She believed she could, so she did!’”
Find them here: https://bobbyyarn.com
A grandmother's love turned into a special business idea
Because U R Special owned by Estelle Engelbrecht
“Raising a child takes a village. This could be no more true for the parents of a special needs child.”
This realisation became Estelle’s reality when she became the grandmother of a little boy with cerebral palsy.
Soon it became evident that specialised products for special needs children are hard to come by. Estelle then decided to start making her own, and so Because U R Special was born.
Because U R Special offers an incredible range of helpful products.
These include wheelchair blankets, gastrostomy tube accessories, head support accessories, bibs, custom built bath chairs, multi-functional carriers and more.
Because U R Special, like many companies today, make use of social media marketing to ensure growth.
Apart from that, they emphasise the importance of delivering a high quality product and excellent service. “A happy client will give you the best free advertising,” says Estelle.
She adds that it’s imperative for entrepreneurs to persevere. “In these trying times it may take longer for a new business to take off.”
But quality is key. “We take an enormous amount of pride in each and every custom made product.
It is expensive to raise a special needs child, therefore we ensure that any money spent on one of our products is well worth it.”
Find them here: www.urspecial.co.za
FNB employee stretching for entrepreneurial success
Stretch & Decor owned by Kevin Hydes
This stretch tent and event hiring brand saw the light when Kevin, a previous FNB employee, was inspired by a similar company. He loved the concept and idea.
After plenty of research to learn as much as he could about the industry, Stretch and Decor was born.
“I owned nothing at all when I started this company, so I started advertising and then subcontracted the work at a higher rate to make a profit,” Kevin explains.
Sacrifice is a key component of entrepreneurship, as demonstrated by the fact that, for the first two years, Kevin didn’t pay himself a salary.
Investing all available funds back into the business was one of the main factors contributing to the growth of Stretch and Decor.
“I put all the money back into the business and bought my own furniture and fabric stretch tents, which allowed me to stop subcontracting the work and retain all the profits.”
In the second and third year business boomed. This was the result of creating a reliable, ethical, hands-on and well-priced company.
Kevin continued to invest profits back into the business. This time he started buying proper waterproof stretch tents which are very expensive.
By the end of year three, Kevin was working at the bank on weekdays, and weekends were dedicated to his own company.
After a year he was exhausted – it was time to focus on Stretch & Decor full-time.
In time the company went on to start manufacturing their own waterproof Bedouin stretch tents, at around 30% of the normal purchase price.
By now, over 100 of these tents have been manufactured and sold.
Stretch & Decor also now make the furniture for the event hire side of the business and they handle the installation of permanent waterproof structures and shade sails.
Kevin says that it’s important to stay innovative, keep watching and learning from the industry you are in and constantly upskill.
“Continue to learn, be innovative and take chances, investigate before taking risks and learn from your mistakes,” are his pearls of wisdom.
Find them here: https://stretchanddecor.co.za
Breathing positive life into a drunk, broken industry
Reno and Garden Queens owned by Sharon Mould
A serious health scare led Sharon to the realisation that she would have to work for herself. She should be able to control her work environment in order to preserve her health.
Sharon is passionate about renovating properties and was at that point flipping properties with great success.
Furthermore, she was playing with the idea of starting a construction company, but she was hesitant considering that it’s a predominantly male industry.
However, she found her gap in the market upon noticing a few disturbing trends. “Every time I renovated a property, there were always several terrible contractors,” she explains.
“They were either drunk, wouldn’t show up or there would be poor workmanship, a lack of proper management of employees.
I even had employees begging for money as their employer did not pay them.”
Apart from the above flaws in the industry, Sharon noticed that many women are nervous about allowing contractors into their homes.
“I vowed that when I start, I will prove that I am true to my word and I will not do what other contractors have done to me.
Also, my company would put single and elderly people at ease with me on site, overseeing and working with my teams.”
Reno and Garden Queens was born, and Sharon stuck to her vows, providing a reliable company that offers an all-encompassing service under one roof.
Services include drawing plans, building, plumbing, electrical work, tiling, roofing, landscaping and tree felling.
Sharon’s secret to success is simple and that is keeping your customers satisfied, as they will then refer more customers to you.
“Exceed on expectations and ensure staff members are happy, as then they will deliver great work in return,” she says. She offers the following advice for entrepreneurs:
- Pay your workers properly, and promote staff members who excel in what they do.
- Keep it real with your clients. Don’t promise things that you can’t deliver.
- Don’t turn any work down until you have found what you are really good at, then promote that.
- Start small, take it slow and manage expectations.
- Manage your admin, there are great apps available to small businesses that can help you.
- Trust your gut and don’t listen to other people as many will want you to fail.
- Don’t give up.
“If you have a passion for something, try to find a way to make it your career as you will never work a day in your life, and you’ll love it!”
Find them here: https://coveru.co.za/
Messy sensory fun profits while scratching your own itch
Messy Bo-Peeps owned by Bodene Maritz
Browsing through Messy Bo-Peeps’ products you are faced with colourful, inviting products that most children will find irresistible.
Bodene is a qualified preschool teacher who understands that children learn through play, and that they tend to make a mess in the process.
When she became a mom herself she identified a need for stricter safety measures. Children like to put things in their mouths, and you don’t always know what shop-bought items contain.
Bodene started to make her own taste-safe messy play products after plenty of research and testing different recipes to ensure the best for her own kids.
When she started posting her handiwork on Facebook, other moms took notice. And so a business was born.
Bodene started an online store, and expanded her range of products. Apart from messy play kits, she also develops sensory boxes that are taste safe and affordable.
Bodene has a unique approach to success. Social media exposure helps her to grow her business, but most of all, she believes in giving.
“I do a lot of gifting to influencer mommies, I love doing give-aways and I donate some of my products to the less fortunate. I believe that giving when you can will help you grow.”
When asking small businesses about their success recipes, most of them mention passion. Bodene is no exception.
“Stay passionate about what you do and what you believe in. Surround yourself with positive people and always give back where you can.”
Find them here: https://messybopeeps.co.za/
Improving lives with a touch of luxury in loving memory
Hello-Honey owned by Sarah Midgley
In 2009 Sarah’s mother was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer, and the cancer cells had spread to her skin and lungs.
“During her chemo sessions, she constantly told us how she felt her skin was on fire and how everything that came into contact with her skin exacerbated the feeling,” Sarah shares.
“A few days after chemo, mom asked me to drive her to the fabric store where we bought satin for her to make pillowcases from.
With painful hands, burning skin, severe fatigue and weakness, she pushed through. She made pillowcases for anyone and everyone.
Whenever there was a new patient, a new pillowcase was made and gifted.”
Sarah unfortunately lost her mother to cancer, but her memory lives on in Hello-Honey, manufacturers of high quality satin pillows.
Since then, the business has grown by adding various other satin products, such as face masks, scrunchies and headbands – items that aren’t always available, and often expensive.
Sarah says that she relies heavily on social media to gain customers. She also prides herself on outstanding service, affordable products and word of mouth.
“Don’t focus too much on what your competitors are doing,” she says. “You are the competition.”
“Don’t let anyone tell you you’ll never be able to be successful.”
40% referral business from doing the right thing
Domestic Support owned by Estelle Carstens
With a background in human resources, it was easy for Estelle to spot a need among people who employ domestic workers.
She noticed that many domestic employers were confused about the legal requirements in terms of hiring their workers.
Domestic employees include cleaners, gardeners, au pairs, nannies, carers, drivers and cooks. This is an employment sector which has become more formal over the years.
Sometimes employers fail to understand that the law applies to their domestic workers as it applies to anyone else employed in a commercial business.
This is where Estelle saw a chance to educate, and therefore she created a business that allows her a daily opportunity to make a living by doing the right thing.
Estelle started her business in 2017 with only two clients. Currently she assists over 100 monthly clients and she estimates that she has helped a few thousand clients over the years.
Excellent, personable service is Estelle’s secret to success, and the reason why around 40% of her business comes from referrals.
She recommends being available to clients at times that suit them, and treating each case as unique. Be open and transparent with your clients, and give them peace of mind.
Good old marketing is vital. Have a strong social media presence.
“Growth will come when you are consistent in your work,” says Estelle.
“Have knowledge of what your competitors are doing. You shouldn’t necessarily copy them as that won’t bring you as much joy, but know what is happening in your industry.”
She adds that you should prepare yourself to keep going, because long hours of work awaits when you start your own business.
“It’s eating, sleeping and thinking about your business. There are many tough days and many sacrifices. In the end it is all worth it.”
Find them here: www.domesticsupport.co.za
The crime of coming clean
Crime Scene Cleanup (Jhb North) owned by Annrie Fowler
Back in 2012 Roelien Schutte’s book Blood Sisters exposed the gory details behind scenes where violence and death occurred.
It is the story of Roelien and her sister Eileen de Jager, who scrub these unpleasant scenes sparkling clean for a living.
Crime Scene Cleanup was the brainchild of the ‘blood sisters’. Annrie Fowler is the owner of the Johannesburg North franchise.
This came about when Annrie’s cleaning company, Ultimate Cleaning Solutions, was requested to clean the scene of a suicide.
Annrie realised that this is not a job for a domestic cleaner, as you require specialised equipment and knowledge, so she declined. But the seed was planted.
She looked into what it would take to expand her business to offer this specialised service, but instead the opportunity to acquire the Jhb North franchise became available.
According to Annrie, financial restraints lead to people preferring to clean up their own scenes.
Crime Scene Cleanup strongly advises against this, due to pathogens and insufficient knowledge of how to clean these types of scenes effectively.
Therefore, in a business of this nature, you will have to educate people in order to establish growth.
Crime Scene Cleanup presents talks at hotels, community police forum groups, retirement villages, police stations and the like – anyone who could potentially require their services.
Annrie says it’s crucial to get the basics right when running your own business. This includes accounting and having clarity on your business name, branding and concept.
“Be prepared for rough days and long nights,” she says. “But also take time off and find something that allows you to focus on something other than your business.”
She adds that having a supportive family was paramount. “Their understanding and acceptance of me breaking out on my own has helped me.”
Last but not least, she advises entrepreneurs to celebrate the small wins and accept that you will learn more along the way. Nothing is perfect from the start.”
And no one dared disturb the sound of entrepreneurship
Resonate DB owned by Raymond and Amy Barnes
Few things can cause more frustration than a constantly noisy neighbour. Raymond and Amy specialises in solving this problem. No, they do not solve domestic violence issues…
Resonate DB handles the acoustic treatment of recording studios, high-end home cinemas, commercial spaces, open plan offices, schools, churches and home acoustics.
With over 15 years design and interior contracting experience, and eight years’ acoustics experience between them, Resonate DB are experts in any acoustic solution you might need.
Their expertise enabled them to recognise a gap in the market for someone to offer quality acoustic products into both the music industry and for residential applications.
Upon starting their business, the Barnes couple had acoustics in mind, but they were willing to do any work that came their way.
They fondly remember their first job: sealing windows to keep out the cold.
From these humble beginnings they have grown into an acoustics company specialising in recording studios and high-end home cinemas.
“We strive to come up with spaces that are unique to the client. We offer a service that is neat and creative, and hope to always exceed the client’s expectations,” says Amy.
While the value of advertising should not be underestimated, Amy states that most of their leads come from referrals, as they aim to always do work of a high quality.
Any words of wisdom from Resonate DB? “Every failure is a step towards something greater, every no is a doorway to a bigger yes.
It’s not an easy road, but being an entrepreneur gives you more freedom to have time for the people and things that matter most.”
Find them here: https://resonatedb.com
How to overcome failure and ensure ‘free range’ success
Food for my Journey owned by Jaco and Ryan Brand
In a modern society we are becoming increasingly aware of what we put into our bodies. We want it to be healthy, and we want it to be cruelty-free.
This is the one promise Food for my Journey makes to their customers. No damaging chemicals will enter your body when consuming their chicken products.
Furthermore, animals get treated respectfully, fed the diet nature intended and are left to grow naturally, with enough space to spread their wings.
Food for my Journey is an online free range meat store which came into being after lockdown caused the demise of Jaco’s audio-visual company.
They currently have two chicken houses that can accommodate 300 chickens each. They are getting an increasing number of daily orders and a third house is in the pipeline.
Jaco says that the value of constant online marketing cannot be underestimated. That, and word of mouth. He continues to say that you will get from your business as much as you put into it.
“Do a lot of research and do as many courses as you can, taking from it what you need. Stay positive, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and keep at it no matter what. If it’s your passion it will work.”
Find them here: https://foodformyjourney.com/
Making the world a better place 35 000 connections at a time...
Forgood owned by Andy Hadfield
Founded in 2015, Forgood took the concept of connecting people who want to make a difference to those who need their help, and made a business out of it.
Forgood started as an SMS service giving individuals tips on giving back.
Today it is South Africa’s biggest online volunteering portal, with a specific focus on running best of breed employee volunteering programmes for our country’s largest corporates.
Forgood has grown to represent 14 multinational or listed companies.
Founding team member, Nerissa Roberts, explains that this means they have facilitated more than 35 000 connections between people and causes.
This company achieved something rather unique – growth during lockdown.
“There was such a surge in giving during the initial lockdown, we needed to recruit three new staff members,” says Nerissa.
One of the secrets to their success is caring about all the people involved, and remembering to use any mistake as a learning opportunity.
“A large part of our growth comes from our constant engagement with almost 300 large corporates. We share actionable insights to help them to start employee volunteering within their organisation.
We also have a fairly large and well managed social presence, allowing us to tell the stories of volunteers, causes and corporate activity,” says Nerissa.
Forgood’s advice to entrepreneurs? “Learn from others. Don’t be scared to change a plan if it’s not working. Always try to find new/different ways to approach tasks. Challenge your team.
Nobody grows in a comfort zone. Working for a start-up is not always easy, but being part of a growing business is the most amazing reward.”
Find them here: www.forgood.co.za
Overcoming retrenchment with entertainment, fun and the occasional glass of wine
All About That Wine owned by Nadia Greyling
Another covid-inspired business, All About That Wine was born after both Nadia and her husband got retrenched due to the pandemic.
With experience in online marketing and websites, Nadia started an online shop selling wine-related novelties, initially only wine necklaces and funny t-shirts.
Soon even more products of a high quality were available, all aimed at making wine drinking even more fun than it already is.
All About That Wine is all about entertainment and fun. They keep their followers’ interest with regular humorous posts about drinking and wine.
Nadia says that they work on staying relevant by regularly adding new designs, as well as by staying on top of special times of the year when people are looking for gifts, such as Christmas.
“Online is the way to go,” says Nadia. “Make sure you have a strong social media presence and offer your target audience something of value to keep them engaged.
There will be hurdles, but just deal with them as they come and move on. It’s all about baby steps.” And wine, of course.
Find them here: www.allaboutthatwine.co.za