Business opportunities are everywhere...even in the most unlikely places

2015-07-30 14:47

Being an avid reader and also one who is passionate about business, whenever I come across stories which show creativity and ingenuity- I can't but acknowledge such exploits.

1) Lere's Shoe Shine

As a frequent traveller, I get to pass through the airport a number of times and something one never can miss after passing through the security check are the gentlemen doing shoe shine. All the times I see them I am impressed by the simple yet profitable venture. Same way there are quick massage, manicure and pedicure stations at airports, the shoe shine booths are a most welcome addition for mainly business travellers.

Today I was even more impressed when I read the profile of the founder of the shoe shine stalls located at the South African airports. Lere Mgayiya owns and runs Africa's largest shoe shining business with a turnover of over R2.5 million per annum. After having dabbled in a number of ventures with different levels of success, he got his shoe :) in the right door when he started this venture.

One of the things which stood out for me was his understanding of the importance of seeking professional advice and coming up with a business plan. Although there are many people at different corners shining shoes, this step resulted in him differentiating himself from others and gaining a first mover advantage. Although it took a year for his application for a stand at Cape Town International Airport to be approved, when the approval came through he took off on the right foot.

A few weeks ago I came across a story about the Taste Holdings CEO's vision that his company would one day become big. In his own words,"Many businesses have to undergo a huge clean-up when they list, but I always knew that this would be a big company and I ran it like one from the beginning. Although we had only one store, we set up audit and remuneration committees. As a result, it took us a mere three months to list from the day we made the decision." 

When Lere started out he did not anticipate that the company would grow to the extent that it did. In his first month of operating they made R9,000 when he had been anticipating about R4,000. With time he discovered that every time they increased capacity (i.e. adding more chairs and people to shine the shoes), the customer's came.

In establishing your entity, it pays to set it up in a way which will ensure it's easier to transition to being a major company from the onset.

2) Happy (Dog) Walker

A few days ago I had gone to get my car's rear tire checked as it had a slow puncture. While waiting for my turn I was listening to SAFM 105.7 FM (you can get them on Tunein) and there was an interesting discussion.

There is a lady in Melville a suburb in Johannesburg who identified a business opportunity based on work she had been doing. While working as a maid one of her duties was to take her employer's nine dogs for a walk. Yes! you read that correctly NINE :) From her own admission she was previously afraid of dogs but with time she got used to it.

Walking the dogs led her to developing her business concept. She realised there were other people who also have dogs but do not have the time to take them for walks, she decided to start taking dogs for walks and charging for it. With the help of her previous employer, she obtained a van which she uses to fetch the dogs and take them for walks. Her company is called Happy Walker. She definitely barked up the right tree :)

3) Espinaca- Healthy Bread

I came across Espinaca a few months ago while reading the business news on Lufefe Nomjana runs a company which specialises in producing healthy bread from spinach. He started off his venture in 2012 after attending the Raymond Ackerman Academy of Entrepreneurial Development.

Lufefe had become a vegetarian when he was 22 which was a difficult thing to maintain while leaving with people who were not vegetarians. As part of the classes at the Academy, they were required to come up with an innovative concept and Espinaca was birthed out of the need to have healthy vegetarian options for himself and others who might not necessarily be vegetarian.

To read more of his story you can check out the following links on GroundUp and on Fin24.


These and many other stories show that there is a lot that can be done in the different communities where people find themselves. For you to establish a successful venture you need to first have identified a need/problem, come up with a solution to the problem- the solution can be a product, service or combination of both. Finally there is need to take the product/service to the market. In this whole journey it is beneficial to seek for help from others who are knowledgeable about the industry or about how to start and run your business- just as Lere and Lufefe did.

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AB praises selfless skipper

2010-11-21 18:15

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