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Terry and Tony in South Africa. Two South Africans working from home in East London in South Africa since early 2008.

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20 Small Business Ideas

Want to start a small business? Need some small business ideas? 20 small business ideas that may perhaps help you think of even more small business ideas.

Facility to provide office space, hosting, etc. for low budget start-ups
How much can your empty unused room or garage earn for you every month? All over South Africa, in fact, all over the world there are people who would love to be self employed, but, for some reason or another cannot work from home, and cannot afford to pay the rental on a mainstream office.

If you have unused space in your home, consider turning it into an office space facility for individual freelancers.

Let’s take an imaginary scenario. You have a double garage, with a toilet attached, available and you need extra money to help pay for your bond. Divide the garage into two areas. In one area, install 5 or 6 work-stations. All each work-station will need is a wide shelf that will serve as work top, and a dividing screen. In the other half of the garage, create a kitchen area, equipped with a kettle and a microwave, along with a sink unit, and a work top.

The remaining section you can turn into a “boardroom”, where your tenants can meet with their clients.

Create a website, and allow each of your tenants to populate it with details of their business and business offering.

Install a telephone line, with a high speed internet connection. There is software available that will allow you to monitor each work stations’ telephone and internet usage.

The quality of the finish in your office space facility will dictate the rental you will need to ask. Most freelancers would be happy to pay between R1500 and R2000 for a convenient, safe location from which to work. Another advantage will be the opportunity to interact with other freelancers, who, although they may not be offering the same service, will be able to provide input on any number of matters. Also, several of your clients may be able to combine forces on larger projects that they would not have been able to consider had they been on their own.

A website to which fashion designers can submit their designs, and work with vendors to manufacture their clothing lines
Such a website would require a lot of preparation and planning, and the monetization model would need to be carefully considered.

The model I would use would be 3 pronged. Firstly, I would use Adsense advertisements, secondly I would solicit paid advertising from businesses in the fashion trade, and then I would charge a percentage based “commission” for every successful designer or vendor hookup. This would involve some pretty hefty programming, but the business model is continually sustainable, meaning that satisfied clients, whether they are designers or manufacturers, will keep coming back to your website. The possibility does exist that after the initial hook-up the parties will continue working with each other, outside of your programme, but such parties will be few and far between. You will be better off without them.

To get an ideas of how successfully contractors and clients can work together from opposite ends of the globe, take a look at oDesk.

Create a website for non-profits and a list of their projects or needs and a similar list for foundations. It’s a central meeting place for people to look for funding from the right people.
I have no doubt that there will be no shortage of organizations clamoring to fill your space. Monetization of such a programme would be Adsense, related businesses paying for advertising space, and then, if you are able to warrant it, a finders, or introducers fee on any funding raised for an organization through your website

Web package for a school system that allows parents to see their kids’ school schedules, grades, lunches, sports activities
This concept is easily achieved using WordPress as a base, with a collection of carefully chosen plug-ins. The way I see it, the challenge is to first convince schools that they need it, and secondly to get them to part with the funding you need.

“How to live on a small budget” website written by college students for college students for all sizable college towns sponsored by local merchant coupons.
Back in the old days, before internet was a part of life, students would have given anything to be able to find out how to get the most out of their money. Now? A student website, for students, and by students, that tackles the one problem shared by all students, and that is a shortage of money, is bound to be popular. Monetize with Adsense and paid-for advertising.

Encourage your contributors to address matters such as clothing, furnishing, where to get cheap meals, how to cook cheap meals. Compile a list of “student-friendly” part-time employers; Where to find cheap text books and stationery. Listen to what fellow students complain about, and address these issues. Students want to know where to take a date that is not going to involve washing dishes afterwards.

Don’t offer vague advice, such as find a part-time job as a waiter. Tell them that Joe’s Greasy Spoon is always employing.

Students don’t have much time or money. To make money from a fellow student don’t waste their time

Online flower shop with one-hour delivery
This will take some groundwork, but is potentially a great money spinner. It stands to reason that you will need several participating florists. Not all of them will have exactly the same flowers in stock, so, it would seem that the way to approach this is to offer price based packages.

The one hour delivery can only be promised from the time confirmation of payment has been received. Needless to say, the participating florists have to shine at service delivery. It may be an idea to get participating florists to agree to a (partial) cash-back guarantee.

A kids’ birthday party planner with educational and fun activities.
Party Planning is popular, and if you anticipate entering the field, offer educational themes as one of your packages. As long as the activity is interesting, and a life lesson can be learned, you will have the kids’ attention, and ultimately the parents’ gratitude.

National Traveling Customer Service Training Program
The national restaurant chains, and even the retail chains, have their own “training “courses for their staff. Very often, the front line staff, the waitrons and cashiers are the only contact we as members of the public have with the store or restaurant.

If you have traveled around the country just a bit, and visited several restaurants or chain stores you will know that very often there is a world of difference in how these front-liners treat you. This is because most of these establishments are franchises, and although training standards are specified, many franchisers will only do the minimum training required, due to time constraints, and not properly understanding what is required.

Approach a franchise, and offer to train the staff at all their franchises, to a level higher than that which is required. Base your training program on the franchise manual training program. Management generally prefer to not spend much on front-line staff training, however, a well trained and motivated front-liner will be more loyal, and will help client retention, making them an invaluable asset for the business.

Depending on the franchise, a program should cover about 3 days. 2 Days for the course, and the third for an examination. Certificates should be issued upon completion of the course, reflecting the staff members’ achievement.

The franchise training manual will highlight the areas that are considered important. Include modules that will help the staff members earn more via tips.

Recorded eulogies
Offer a eulogy service. People can leave eulogies for each other online. They would need to be connected in some type of social site format, which will allow them to leave a eulogy for their connections. Allow editing, but not deleting. When someone dies, upon receipt of the death certificate you release the eulogy file to the next-of-kin. I’m not sure how the monetization would be implemented.

School real estate rental company – Company that specializes in renting out underutilized school rooms during the summer
Schools are generally barren wastelands during vacations. For a fee, it is possible that a school would allow their facilities to be used by visitors and groups during vacations. There will inevitably be a long list of conditions, and your insurance will need to be comprehensive, but there is no reason that this idea should not be profitable.

Brainstorming.com – put in an idea and gives you 10 ideas
This would be a great business idea for someone who is able to think out of the box.

Many businesses try the concept of brainstorming at meetings, but, when it comes down to the ideas, the meeting participants have no inputs. To alleviate this, offer a service that will generate, say 10 ideas, for a flat rate fee of R100, or 5 ideas for R75. Once the convener of the meeting has your ideas, they can introduce them at the meeting, as ice-breakers

Web-based devil’s advocate service for startups looking for someone to critique their ideas. Provide referrals to services for startups, like cheap graphic design, cheap business plan feedback, printing, web designers, etc. We feel this is quite self explanatory. The service is free (use an online forum format, to encourage involvement and an exchange of ideas), but service providers pay to advertise.

Company that organizes & executes business retreat / team building activities based on adventure sports

Girls Getaway

A company that sets up ‘girls week / weekend’ vacations (shopping, Broadway shows, hiking, wine tasting, etc.)

Mancations

A company that sets up ‘guys week / weekend’ vacations (whitewater rafting, hiking, hunting, fishing, sporting events, etc.)

Tourism with a twist? What ideas do you have that would encourage group participation?

After party cleaning crew
Who really feels like cleaning up the mess after a party? For the right kind of money, you can be the party cleaning crew. You and your crew need to be on site as soon as possible to restore the party venue to its previous glory. If it’s in a home, you will probably only be able to get access the following morning. Apart from general sweeping, mopping and vacuuming, you will need to wash and dry dishes, remove trash, and deodorize the venue. The key values here would be, in my opinion, quick efficient and quiet service.

Create a YouTube channel with local restaurant reviews
In my opinion, local is best, but then too, in the South African context, these reviews would be best embedded into a local review website, as South Africans are pretty lazy internet users. They won’t go to YouTube to search for and find a restaurant. Offer them a list of restaurants on your site, and let them choose which they want to look at. WordPress is a great platform to use for this type of website.

You can involve friends in other cities to contribute, to broaden your geographic appeal.

Hot product report for your town
Develop contacts with local retailers and publish any hot products on a daily basis. Use this on its own, on a website, or combine it with the previous YouTube idea

Endorsement deal Agency
Specialize in helping professional athletes find obscure, unprecedented, endorsement deals.

Car driver moving service
Driver will drive your car to any location, a useful service to people who are relocating, or who have purchased a vehicle in another town.

Chauffeur
Source a few vehicles that you can rent out for whatever reason. Think weddings, special dates, Matric farewells. Think vintage mini, limo, horse and trap, rickshaw.

High Pressure washing
A high pressure washer can be used for a multitude of things, beyond spraying your own car down once a month. Consider roof cleaning, walls, driveways and pavements, pool paving, patios and stoeps, outdoor tools and equipment, and shop-fronts.

© copyright Tony Flanigan 2014

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