young entrepreneurs

Six practical tips for young entrepreneurs setting out to build a business

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Global Entrepreneurship Week (8 to 14 November) celebrates entrepreneurs and aims to inspire more young people to make their mark in society. It’s a timely reminder that we need to support youth entrepreneurship in South Africa to address our unemployment crisis and catalyse economic growth.

If you’re a young person looking to branch out on your own following university, school or a few years in employment, you are embarking on an exciting journey. The challenges can be daunting, but there is a real sense of freedom and empowerment in running your own business.

Here are some practical tips about how you can get started as an entrepreneur By Pieter Bensch, Executive Vice President, Africa & Middle East at Sage

1. Gain experience if you can

Many young people in South Africa create their own formal or informal businesses because they can’t find formal employment. However, if the opportunity presents itself, it can be worthwhile to earn some practical experience and start building a network in the workplace before setting out on your own. It may be worth applying for learnerships and internships to build up skills and knowledge before starting a business.

Sage, for example, runs an internship programme that offers young professionals an opportunity to apply their education in a real-world work setting. They are placed in different business functions, including customer services, customer for life, legal, marketing, IT, product delivery, partners and alliances, HR and transformation.

Volunteering with an NPO or in your community can also be a great way to build contacts and learn valuable business skills.

2. Look into business skills and vocational training

Furthermore, young adults create side hustles to make ends meet and start businesses to create jobs. Some will be lifelong business owners, while others might one day prefer to secure a job. For that reason, it makes sense to invest in building practical skills that strengthen your CV as you grow a business.

Even if you already have a skill – for example, welding or computer programming – getting a certification can show customers you really know what you’re doing. And if you’ve never run a business before? In that case, an introductory business skills course can help you develop administrative, time management, marketing, sales, and interpersonal skills that will vastly improve your odds of success.

Sage, for instance, launched an enterprise and supplier development programme in partnership with Aurik Enterprise Development during the Covid 19 pandemic. The programme focuses on developing small black-owned businesses as Sage Business Partners. The SMEs in the programme are given support to scale their businesses, drive profitability and strengthen their business systems.

Other examples of cost-effective or free learning resources include:

  • Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) Network
  • FutureLearn
  • Coursera
  • LinkedIn Learning

3. Seek a mentor

As you set out on your entrepreneurial journey, speaking to someone who has already walked a similar path can be highly beneficial. A mentor can provide you with sound advice and introduce you to their business network. If you know someone in your personal network who can help, reach out or ask a friend for a recommendation. Other areas to look for a mentor include industry networking forums like Heavy Chef; industry associations and local chambers of commerce, incubators like Cape Innovation and Technology Initiative and Riversands; and industry conferences and events.

4. Start small, run lean

External funding from investors, banks, and the government can be relatively challenging to get in South Africa, so most young entrepreneurs need to self-fund (or bootstrap) their businesses. Even if your business generates cash, it pays off to be frugal in the early months or years. Some ways to save money are to barter goods and services with friends or other small business owners, use free and affordable cloud software when you can, and work from home rather than renting office space.

5. Don’t forget the formalities

There is a lot of admin involved in setting up your own business. You need a business bank account, and you will need to register with SARS for income tax and perhaps even VAT. You’ll also need to decide whether to register a company with the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) or run as a sole proprietor. These aspects are essential to consider, and you might need professional help from an accountant or tax advisor.

6. Invest in yourself and grow

Knowledge is power. Investing in yourself is the best thing you can do if you’re an up-and-coming entrepreneur. The tips and resource links provided are ways to access mentorship, networking, career, and life skills that will help you succeed as an entrepreneur. These will help make you job-ready or business-ready as you begin your entrepreneurial journey towards growth and financial freedom.

About Sage

Sage is the global market leader for technology that provides small and medium businesses with the visibility, flexibility and efficiency to manage finances, operations and people. With our partners, Sage is trusted by millions of customers worldwide to deliver the best cloud technology and support. Our years of experience mean that our colleagues and partners understand how to serve our customers and communities through the good, and more challenging times. We are here to help, with practical advice, solutions, expertise and insight.

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