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Ensuring startup success in South Africa

startup success

Starting a business comes with challenges and unfortunately the failure rate is regarded as high. This must be put into perspective though, as there are a host of reasons for business failure. While various factors are out of anyone’s control, there are a large number of variables that are in your ‘circle of influence’ as an entrepreneur. This is where the focus must be – and this read zones in on three very important factors in the pursuit of startup success.

Market-relevant business idea

Rule number one of any venture, underpinning any business plan and justifying any investment of resources, is that there MUST be viability. Core to this is the feasibility of your business idea. It is pointless launching a business that is out of context with your market. So the business idea must be of relevance to the local consumers in the market where you trade. This ensures in economic terms that you have demand, warranting the supply of your product or service (i.e the solution). Without this fundamental relationship of supply and demand in favour of your industry (in your environment) no business can be sustainably profitable. 

Entrenched determination

You’ve probably heard, if not learned through the school of knocks, that business is in no way for the faint-hearted. The entrepreneurial spirit is not a clichéd title attached to anyone who decides to open a business. Like leadership it must be enduring and as such should be earned. This is not to be confused with passion. Passion is innate; we are talking about ingrafted courage and determination that is core to entrepreneurial spirit and drive. Courage that allows you to not only take the first step, but to take the next, and the next. Think of it this way, if you fail to possess this chip there is a realistic chance you may quit one inch before your breakthrough. And you may never know what could have been.


Many people, even authorities, highlight the importance of having a reserve such as working capital to cushion cash flow deficiencies in the start-up phase of business. The reality is, few explain how this is possible or practical in South Africa or for that matter anywhere. What happens, as in most cases, when the initial loan isn’t possible, the business isn’t bankable, personal loans are not available? And literally all you have is the idea, yourself and perhaps some small resources such as a laptop, little shared workspace or your office might be a cafeteria or internet cafe. Here, it’s all about sweat equity to develop traction. One of the fundamentals here is extreme resourcefulness. This means really thinking out of the box, being proactive and very daring. With this you can solve a difficult challenge by creatively stretching what little you have. This includes stretching or concentrating on your circle of influence.

For example, you have a business with no real flesh and infrastructure. But the product is available and you could deliver if you could promote to a client. Resourceful ingenuity can allow you to tap into your contacts, shortlist a few probable leads who perhaps know you or would be willing to listen to you – despite the lack of infrastructure and resources. The rest is up to you to close the deal and the idea is simply to bring in cash-flow – which can then go towards initiatives where (like most leads) you don’t know customers and you have to prove capacity. Unlike the former leads, the second group may be very sensitive to seeing proof of your success as a startup. You can now refer to your ‘existing clients’ as well.

These are three crucial factors for startup success, notwithstanding general business success. Start by reviewing your business plan and evaluating if and where you can apply and maximise the above for greater effectiveness.

Proudly brought to you by the National Small Business Chamber (NSBC).