Issue Date: 
Thursday, October 31, 2019

Starting your own business in South Africa

By Werner van Rooyen, Director of HowToTender (Pty) Ltd which specializes in tender consulting and tender training.

Starting your own business in South Africa can be a challenge.  According to survey that is done annually by The World Bank, South Africa is rated 88th when it comes to the ease of doing business.  This is all good and well if you are an overseas investor with a lot of money and looking for new countries to invest in.  However, if you are a South African with little or no money, doing and/or starting a business in South Africa can be a daunting task!

There are many people who dream of starting their own business.  There are many people who go out and start their own business and then they fail dismally.  There are horrific statistics of how many start-up businesses fail within the first two years.  It is said that 80%-90% of all new start-up businesses fail within the first two years and of the remaining 10%-20% another 80% fail in the following three years.  The 2-4% of businesses that survive the first five years will most probably be successful and exists for some time.

You think the large family concern that you are working for is safe from failing, wrong again, most family owned businesses last not much longer than twenty-five years. 

So, starting one’s own business is tough, keeping the doors open – even tougher. 

The question is why do so many businesses fail?  There is not a straightforward.  Many people have studied this phenomenon and there are many reasons why businesses fail but we are not going to focus on that; we need to focus on what to do to make your business sustainable.  You want to ensure your business survive the first two years in order for you to build up a reputation as reliable and sustainable enabling you to respond to that large tender that will provide you with financial independence.

But let us get back to the ease of opening a business in South Africa.  There are many factors that one needs to consider when starting your own business:

  1. You must decide which product or services you are going to sell. 
  2. You then must decide on where you are going to locate your shop or factory or offices.  Getting a lease agreement signed is challenging in South Africa – ensure that your credit record is clean; otherwise you are going to struggle to get a lease agreement for your business.  If you are going to sell goods, then you need to be located at the best location.  You can have the best product or service on offer but if people do not know of your existence you are going to fail.  Find the best place to put up shop so that as many as customers as possible see your goods that you have on offer.
  3. Then there is the matter of registering everywhere – from SARS to UIF, Workman’s Compensation to your industry specific regulation body. 
  4. You also will have to open a bank account – this can be a challenge.
  5. Ensure you have enough funding.  There are few businesses that you can start without money.  Even the smallest of small business will need a cash injection to get the ball rolling.  There are many ways to get funds to start a business, but the trick is to have access to funds to sustain the business when times are tough.  Always save money for tough times.
  6. The most challenging thing of opening your own business is to find clients.  Sure, if you open a shop in the busiest mall in town you will attract walk in cliental.  But what if you are not so lucky?  Or, you produce something that needs to be sold to retailers all over the Country?  How do you then find clients?  This is where a lot of business owners tend to take the Tender Route.  They imagine that if they are lucky enough to be awarded a tender, they will generate enough sales to be sustainable. 
  7. Advertise.  There is an old tale about the business owner who did not believe in advertising, eventually his business failed and the first advertisement he had to place was advertising the liquidation of the business.  Advertise as much as possible.
  8. Be committed.  The main reason you start your own business is because you want to be independent.  The problem is that once you have the freedom you lack the commitment.  When you work for yourself you need to be 110% committed otherwise you are going to fail.  The rule is to apply the same work ethics and commitment that you would have applied should you have been working for a boss.
  9. Be willing to start from the bottom.  There are few businesses that started out as multi-million-dollar operations.  Ninety nine percent of the time it is small businesses that grow into large businesses.  The rule is to start out small and affordable and then grow your business over time.

By following these guidelines, you might just give yourself the edge needed in succeeding in your own business.

So, starting one’s own business is tough, keeping the doors open – even tougher.  My advice to you when starting your own business is to be as well prepared as possible.  Ensure that you have enough knowledge of your product or service.  You do not need to be the best but be at least competitive. 

To learn more about this and many other tender conditions attend our “Become a Tender Expert” 2-Day workshops presented in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban, Port Elizabeth, and Cape Town.  Book and pay online at

Contact us at should you require more information.

You can also purchase a Tender Manual (Handbook) on our website which is a step by step guide how to respond to a South African Tender.  It includes examples of completed SBD forms.

Title Closing Date Tender No.
Request for Proposal for appointment of service provider to source bulk media buying (space and airtime) for promotion and marketing of the Free State as a Destination. 2021-02-04 11:00 FSGLTA:01/2020/2021
Supply & delivery of protective clothing for public works staff 2021-01-21 12:00 PWBS-Q035/20/21
Supply and delivery of roads materials, equipment and tools 2021-02-02 12:00 T10/2020-2021
Supply and delivery of water and sewer materials, equipment and tools 2021-02-02 12:00 T11/2020-2021
Supply and delivery of electrical materials, equipment and tools 2021-02-02 12:00 T12/2020-2021
Training of 15 municipal employees 2021-02-02 12:00 T13/2020-2021
The replacement of the 120m MET tower cat ladders and landings 2021-01-28 10:00 KBG2013
Zoom Meetings Biz Host 1 year prepay 2021-01-18 11:00 RFQ20/21/104
Asset disposal: Subsea equipment in Port of Cape Town 2021-01-27 12:00 AD0058
Request for quotation: for the supply and delivery of food supplies for UNHCR’s Osire Refugee Settlement in Namibia 2021-01-20 23:45 RSA-2021-001
Supply and delivery of construction material 2021-01-20 12:00 SCM26/11/2020
Supply, delivery, install and service air conditioners 2021-01-20 12:00 SCM27/11/2020
Supply and delivery of the renewal of software licenses 2021-01-29 14:00 27/2021
Sale of vacant business zone I Erf: Erven 232 and 233: Merweville 2021-02-05 14:00 02/2021
Upgrading and Refurbishment of Electrical Networks (132/22/11/0.4KV) for the greater Beaufort West Municipality for the period ending June 2023. 2021-02-19 14:00 SCM 21/2021
Supply of licences for handhelds and meter reading software (re-advertisement) 2021-01-20 12:00 08/2/18/50
Supply and delivery of 3 layer fabric face masks 2021-01-27 12:00 BID 08/2/18/57
Notification of personal protective equipment (PPE) tender 2021-01-29 17:00 PH05012021- Notification of Panel PPE
Sale of scrap transformer oil at Phillipi SS - Western Cape 2021-01-19 10:00 OLT1238511
Provision of Estate Management Services 2021-01-28 12:00 NLM/EMS/2020/2021


Who is the bidder or his or her representative?

By Werner van Rooyen, Director of HowToTender (Pty) Ltd which specializes in tender consulting and tender training.

In Organ of State tenders, the Standard Bidding Document 4 – Declaration of Inters – ask in paragraph 2.1 the following: “Full name of bidder or his or her representative... Read More

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