Low-cost business ideas for South Africans; ideal for getting a company off the ground or making cash on the side.

low cost business ideas

Ready to commit to your own business or simply wanting to make some extra money on the side? We hope these low-cost business ideas for South Africans help inspire you.


In this article, we cover:

Why now may actually be the perfect time to start a new business

The formal economy is still reeling from the effects of the pandemic. Many small businesses have closed up shop. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t succeed as an entrepreneur.


In fact, lockdowns have encouraged many people to adopt a more entrepreneurial mindset. For some, finding ways to make cash on the side has been driven by necessity, due to job loss or salary reductions.


Others had time to realise that they simply don’t want to return to their “before COVID-19” lives. A frustrating commute and long hours in an unfulfilling position? Maybe it’s time for a change.


The pandemic also created new problems for businesses to solve.


As Dov Girnun, CEO of Merchant Capital, noted, “That’s what entrepreneurs do. They separate their emotions from their thinking. They find solutions to problems…If ever you wanted a blank canvas to create new solutions, products and services, this is it.”


Most profitable small business opportunities in 2021

Two main trends are influencing business success in 2021:

  • a move online, for everything from shopping to learning, work, entertainment and social interaction
  • tough economic conditions.

Both these factors have created gaps (or increased existing demand) for specific small businesses.


E-commerce sites for cosmetics and other small luxury items


The economy may be struggling but significantly more people than before are turning online for “retail therapy”.


Direct, online sales of small luxury items are booming.


The most popular items offer an enjoyable bit of extravagance, at a price low enough to be within reach for the average salary earner.


Hair and beauty products are especially good sellers this year. Home décor items (including hand-crafted items) are also popular.


Home-based business services

home based business services

Businesses are looking to save on costs. Many have also cut back on full-time staff – or at least are hesitant about adding new staff members.


Globally, this has opened the way for more contractors. Individuals who can provide needed services at cost-effective rates (without requiring office space or full-time contracts) are in demand.


Examples range from virtual assistants to bookkeepers, virtual assistants, recruiters, HR specialists, programmers, editors, writers and more.


So rather than seeking employment in your field, you might adopt a company name and market your services to multiple businesses.


Homemade food deliveries

meal delivery

A year and a half into a pandemic, people are still staying home more – but many are tired of cooking.


There’s good demand for deliveries of home-style meals and other goodies.


Home-made pet food (minus all the fillers, salt and low-grade cereal) is also a potentially profitable niche market.


Prepared food items can be marketed effectively through personal networks and word of mouth, as well as via paid channels.


Online tutoring

online tutoring

From school kids to university students, learners everywhere have been affected by:

  • disruptions to academic calendars
  • limited face time with teachers
  • restricted access to resources (like physical libraries).

At the same time, students have become accustomed to the idea of being taught via their computers.


Both these factors are translating into greater demand for online tutoring.


If you achieved high grades yourself, are studying in a related field or have an appropriate qualification, private tutoring is a great way to make extra money.


If you don’t have a particular qualification, you can offer homework assistance for younger children, perhaps paired up with an aftercare service.


Mobile service provision

mobile hairdresser

Any business that’s willing to get to customers’ homes may have a competitive advantage.


Examples are mobile mechanics, hair stylists, personal trainers, children’s tutors and pet trainers.


A need for social distancing isn’t the only factor. For customers, advantages include not having to sit in traffic; spend on petrol and parking; or waste time navigating crowded centres.


Other business ideas with low start-up costs

It doesn’t have to take a fortune to start a new business venture.


Grocery deliveries

grocery deliveries

Thanks to the pandemic, demand for grocery deliveries is at an all-time high.


Supermarkets’ own delivery networks are overburdened. This means there’s plenty of room for entrepreneurs to offer their services locally.


After the pandemic, it’s likely that people accustomed to having their produce, fresh-baked bread or other treats delivered will continue to value this service. It saves them time and hassle.


Local tours

local tours

It’s just a matter of time until SA once again attracts record volumes of tourists.


If you’ve been living in your city for most of your life, you’ve got an edge over the average tour guide. Many tourists want a more local experience when they visit South Africa.


Offering a walking tour of local attractions can grow into a lucrative side business. You can even partner up with some local businesses.


Home baking business

home baking

South Africans have an appetite for cakes and pastries, including local specialties like koeksisters and milk tart.


If you enjoy baking, approach local restaurants and coffee shops (preferably with some samples) and offer your services as their daily baker. In most home kitchens, you can produce a few cakes, tarts and pastries each day.


Writing and editing services

writing and editing services

If you have editing or writing skills, consider setting up a website and offering your services professionally.


With more and more companies moving part or all of their trade online, the demand for well-written online content is high. If you’re familiar with SEO basics and have strong copywriting skills, you can offer content marketing services.


If you have a passion, you could also simply start a local blog. Then work towards using it to earn advertising revenue.


For example, South Africa is a travel destination of note. A blog could give potential visitors a glimpse into everyday South African life. Write articles about your favourite local places and activities, and illustrate with attractive images.


Transport for kids

transport for kids

Getting to and from work or school remains a challenge for a large percentage of South Africans, especially with an unreliable public transport system.


If you have a reliable vehicle, consider offering a lift club for school kids.


Many parents would happily pay a safe and reliable driver to take their kids to school so they can spend less time in traffic.


Sandwich delivery


Pack a wheelie basket with fresh, tasty sandwiches and take a walk around your local business park (with permission of course), offering affordable lunch options to the office workers.


If you keep your prices reasonable and your sandwiches simple but satisfying, this may be an attractive option for a lot of workers. They might otherwise have forked out way more at the shop.


Local laundry service


A lot of people work long hours and barely have the time to squeeze in a bit of washing at the end of the day. If you have a decent size washing machine, consider offering a washing service for your local community.


You can collect the washing first thing in the morning and they can come and fetch it clean, dry and ironed at the end of the day.


Small business solutions at XtraSpace

As your low-cost business idea starts to evolve into a successful business, we may be able to help with keeping costs down.


At XtraSpace, we specialise in offering small business storage solutions, designed to provide entrepreneurs and startups with the affordable rates and flexibility they need.


A number of our branches also offer cost-effective Flexi Offices. With flexible terms and on-site business services such as reception and courier services, our offices are the perfect solution for new or small businesses.


Contact us to discuss your business storage or office space needs, or browse to find a branch near you.


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