12 Businesses You Can Start With ZAR1M In South Africa

Launching a new business venture requires careful planning, ample funding, and the grit to see it through the initial struggles. While some enterprises demand massive capital investments upfront, South Africa offers several lucrative sectors that can be kickstarted with 1 million ZAR.

This article explores 12 such business ideas perfect for aspiring entrepreneurs with limited startup budgets. Thorough research and number-crunching reveal realistic costs, profit projections, challenges, and tips to establish sustainable ventures across diverse industries.

Overview of Business Landscape in South Africa

South Africa’s business environment has seen major improvements over the past decade – easier access to credit, relaxed tax policies, increased consumer spending, and growth across most sectors . However, challenges still abound.

The 2022 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor rates South Africa at 61.4 out of 100 on the Entrepreneurial Framework Condition – higher than the average for efficiency-driven economies (53) but lagging in pillars like financing, governmental policies, taxes, bureaucracy, and infrastructure .

Startup regulations can be cumbersome, with over 13 procedures needed before launching a business. But costs have reduced – it takes only R175 and half a day to register a new company . Access to credit has also expanded with government funds and alternate sources like venture capital.

South Africa’s market size, infrastructure, and growing consumer class offer attractive prospects across industries like food, retail, technology, manufacturing, agriculture, and more. However, differentiation is key as competition intensifies. The post-pandemic economy also brings uncertainties.

Careful planning and risk management are vital to navigate the unique combination of opportunities and challenges in South Africa. The following sections analyze 12 business sectors that can be realistically started with 1 million ZAR capital.

1. Supermarket

Startup Cost:

  • Lease for 800 sq. ft store in commercial complex: R15,000 per month
  • Shop fittings and refrigeration: R150,000
  • Inventory for first 2 months: R500,000
  • Licenses and misc expenses: R50,000

Total Cost: R1 million

Profit Potential:

  • Monthly sales of R250,000 with 30% gross margin = R75,000 profit
  • Breakeven within 8-12 months

Supermarkets offer a stable business model but require astute planning regarding location, target consumers, product assortment, pricing strategies and managing overhead costs.

The majority of large supermarket chains like Shoprite and Pick n Pay cater to middle and upper-middle income segments. But small local stores thrive by understanding hyper-local consumer preferences.

Target Location:

  • Residential neighborhoods and busy commercial complexes best for 800-1200 sq. ft stores
  • Focus on densely populated suburbs and townships with working professionals

Product Range:

  • Staples like grains, dairy essentials, packaged foods, fruits and vegetables
  • Include some branded products but focus more on quality private labels
  • Cater to local tastes – Mopani worms, Morogo greens, Mealie pap etc.


  • Match prices of national brands but offer 10-15% discount on private labels
  • Special discounts on bulk purchases and loyalty programs

Managing Costs:

  • Negotiate with vendors and distributors for better rates
  • Minimize inventory wastage through FIFO stock rotation
  • Operate with lean staffing to control payroll
  • Invest in technology like POS systems and accounting software

Small community supermarkets must differentiate through localization, competitive pricing and stellar customer service to thrive amongst larger players.

2. Restaurant Business

Startup Cost:

  • Lease for 800 sq. ft space + kitchen: R8,000 per month
  • Restaurant fittings: R150,000
  • Kitchen equipment: R120,000
  • Inventory and supplies for 2 months: R100,000
  • Salaries for first 2 months (5 staff): R100,000
  • Licenses and misc costs: R50,000

Total Cost: R1 million+

Profit Potential:

  • Serving 100 covers per day at R150 per head = R540,000 monthly revenue
  • 40% food cost + 25% overheads + 10% tax = 25% net profit = R135,000 per month
  • Breakeven in 8 months

The restaurant sector is highly competitive, but focused concepts catering to specific consumer segments can thrive. Some winning models include:

Local Cuisine Restaurants

  • Serve traditional South African delicacies like Bunny Chow, Bobotie, Chakalaka etc.
  • Rustic décor and cultural elements celebrate heritage
  • Live music and family-style service add to the experience

Food Trucks / Street Food

  • Mobile food units offer lower overheads and flexibility
  • Create unique fusion street food innovations
  • Tap into events, office parks, and nightlife hotspots

Cloud Kitchens

  • Delivery/ takeaway-only kitchens without dine-in areas
  • Listed on multiple food aggregator platforms
  • Lower rental and staffing costs compared to restaurants

Success depends hugely on chef capabilities, exceptional service, astute location selection and online reputation management. Leverage food aggregators and social media to drive trials and establish loyalty.

3. Boutique Business

Startup Cost:

  • 800 sq. ft leased store: R15,000 per month
  • Shop interiors and trial room: R150,000
  • Initial designer clothing inventory: R500,000
  • Working capital for first 2 months: R100,000
  • Licenses and misc costs: R50,000

Total Cost: R1 million+

Profit Potential:

  • Sales of R250,000 per month with 100% margin = R250,000 profit
  • Breakeven in 6 months

South Africa’s fashion market has seen entry of major international brands. But small designer boutiques catering to elite clientele still command demand.


  • Upmarket neighborhoods and luxury malls in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban

Product Mix:

  • Carefully curated collections of avantgarde South African designers
  • Showcase upcoming talent through events and pop-ups
  • Limited stocks create exclusivity


  • Premium pricing appropriate for luxury positioning
  • But offer loyalty discounts for top customers


  • PR activities and tie-ups with socialites and celebrities
  • Leverage influencer marketing on Instagram and Facebook
  • Craft an elite brand image through store aesthetics and service

Boutiques must stock cutting-edge designerwear not easily available at mass retailers. Scarcity and influencer buzz drives desirability for premium fashion amongst high networth individuals.

4. Used Laptop Trading

Startup Cost:

  • Small leased store: R5,000 per month
  • Shop interiors and security: R50,000
  • Initial inventory of 20 laptops: R300,000
  • Working capital for 2 months: R100,000
  • Licenses and misc costs: R25,000

Total Cost: R500,000

Profit Potential:

  • Selling 8-10 laptops per month at R3000 average profit each = R30,000 per month = R360,000 per annum
  • Breakeven in 12-18 months

With personal computing penetration still low in South Africa, demand for used branded laptops is massive – especially amongst students and small business owners.

Optimal locations include university campuses, residential areas with colleges, and markets selling electronics. Focus on procuring and refurbishing laptops from Dell, HP and Lenovo priced between R5000-R15000.

Paying customers expect fully functional laptops with licensed operating systems, reliable hardware, and basic software. Offer warranties and maintenance contracts to justify premium pricing over informal markets.

Building trust and repeat business through exceptional service gives an edge. Online channels like Facebook Marketplace, OLX, BidOrBuy can drive additional volumes.

5. Bakery

Startup Cost:

  • Leased commercial space + bakery equipment: R150,000
  • Mixers, ovens, dough makers etc: R300,000
  • Ingredients for test batches and first 2 months : R100,000
  • Packaging and operating supplies: R50,000
  • Initial working capital for staff, utilities etc: R100,000
  • Registration and licenses: R50,000

Total Cost: R750,000

Profit Potential:

  • Producing 500 loaves per day at R10 profit per loaf = R5000 daily = R150,000 monthly profit
  • Breakeven in 8 months

Bakeries are a staple business in every South African neighborhood. But new players must bring innovation beyond traditional white bread, whole wheat loaf and buns.

Product Range:

  • Introduce multigrain, seeded health breads, baguettes, fruit breads, pies and tea cakes
  • Low GI and gluten-free varieties cater to health-conscious buyers
  • Add savory items like pies, quiches and sausage rolls


  • Premium pricing for gourmet varieties counterbalances lower margins on mass-market white bread

Sales Channels:

  • Retail walk-ins drive volumes
  • Supply to coffee shops, restaurants and caterers
  • Corporate sales and online delivery using Mr. D app

Production Capability is key success factor – high quality ingredients, efficient equipment and hygienic process controls ensure freshness and customer retention.

6. Poultry Farming

Startup Cost:

  • Purchase 0.5-1 acre agricultural land: R500,000
  • 2000 capacity automated broiler houses: R300,000
  • Equipment like feeders, lighting, ventilation: R100,000
  • Day old chicks + feed for first cycle: R50,000
  • Salaries for 4 farm workers for 2 months: R50,000

Total Cost: R1 million

Profit Potential:

  • Selling 2000 chickens at R100 profit per bird = R200,000 per month
  • Multiple cycles possible each year
  • Breakeven in 12-18 months

Poultry is one of the fastest growing agricultural sectors in South Africa with 8.6% CAGR. Rising health consciousness and protein consumption are driving demand beyond just festive occasions.

Broiler chickens require precision farming for high productivity – automated housing, temperature regulation, ventilation, feeding and waste management. Preventing disease outbreaks is critical.

Tap into bulk supply contracts with restaurant chains and food processors. Direct online sales fetch higher margins but involve investments in cold storage logistics.

Skilled workers, biosecurity protocols and quality focus help maximize returns in this working capital intensive business.

7. Fish Farming

Startup Cost:

  • 2 acre agricultural land near water source: R750,000
  • 4 fish breeding ponds + boat, nets, aerators etc.: R200,000
  • Fingerlings + fish feed for first 8 months: R50,000
  • Salaries for first 2 months: R50,000

Total Cost: R1.05 million

Profit Potential:

  • Stocking 4000 fingerlings can yield 3500 Kg fish per cycle
  • Average selling price: R50 per Kg
  • Revenue per cycle: R175,000
  • 3 cycles per year = R525,000 annual revenue
  • 70% profit margin after costs
  • Breakeven in 18 months

Fish is amongst top 10 most consumed animal proteins in South Africa. But domestic supply falls short of demand. This drives imports of frozen fish worth $190 million annually .

Tilapia and Catfish are popular varieties suited for farming in controlled pond environments. Optimal locations require warmer climate, low water pollution levels and easy access to inputs like fish feed.

Ensure scientific pond management for maximum biomass yield – water quality testing, fish health monitoring, predator control and regulated feeding. Good husbandry practices also minimize losses.

Bulk supply contracts with hotels, restaurant chains and processors provide market linkage. Direct sales to consumers via online channels fetch much higher margins.

8. Computer Service Center

Startup Cost:

  • Small leased space in commercial complex: R5,000 per month
  • 5 computer workstations + printers/copiers: R150,000
  • Software licenses and internet connectivity: R50,000
  • Salary for one IT technician + helper for 2 months: R30,000
  • Furniture, signage and operating supplies: R40,000
  • Registrations and licenses: R25,000

Total Cost: R300,000

Profit Potential:

  • Charging R500 per service/repair = 10 repairs per day = R200,000 revenue monthly
  • Gross margin 70% after technician salaries and overheads
  • R140,000 profit per month
  • Breakeven in under 6 months

The digital skills gap in South Africa coupled with rising computer adoption across businesses represents a lucrative opportunity for computer service enterprises.

Focus on both retail and corporate clientele located nearby. Offer services like:

  • Troubleshooting problems
  • OS/software installation
  • Data backup/recovery
  • Network/internet connectivity
  • Security solutions – antivirus, firewalls etc.
  • Printer/projector servicing
  • Basic digital literacy training

Build capabilities in servers, networking infrastructure to target SME IT management contracts. Digital marketing via Google, Facebook connects you to more customers.

Provide prompt issue resolution and upgrade options to drive customer loyalty. Focus on securing steady corporate accounts in the initial years for sustainable revenues.

9. Co-Working Space

Startup Costs:

  • Lease for 800 sq. ft space + buildout: R150,000
  • Furniture – desks, chairs, whiteboards etc.: R200,000
  • High-speed internet, printers, projectors: R100,000
  • Website, digital marketing: R30,000
  • Staff salaries for first 2 months: R50,000
  • Licenses, utilities etc: R20,000

Total Cost: R550,000

Profit Potential:

  • 25 desk spaces at 70% occupancy and R2000 monthly fee per seat = R35,000 monthly revenue
  • Food/beverage and meeting room rental extra
  • Gross margin 60% after rental and overheads
  • R21,000 profit per month
  • Breakeven in 18 months

Co-working spaces provide affordable plug-and-play offices for remote freelancers, startups and small teams. They foster collaboration and networking amongst members through events and activity zones.

Location near business hubs and target community drives occupancy – options include tech parks, universities, creative hotspots etc.

Building a culture via member events also attracts patrons and drives retention. F&B and meeting room sales add incremental revenue.

Leverage automation for access control, invoicing and member communication to minimize overhead costs of running operations. This allows scaling to multiple centers across metro cities.

10. Food Truck Business

Startup Cost:

  • Customized food truck: R350,000
  • Kitchen equipment: R120,000
  • Initial inventory for 2 months: R100,000
  • Staff salaries for 2 months: R100,000
  • Licensing and misc costs: R50,000

Total Cost: R720,000

Profit Potential:

  • Daily revenue potential: R2000 x 30 days = R60,000 per month
  • 60% gross margins after food costs
  • R36,000 net profit per month
  • Breakeven in 12 months

Food trucks offer a flexible way to launch a restaurant business with low overheads. They can be stationed at events, office parks, campuses and nightlife hotspots to attract hungry crowds.

Cuisine variety is key – Mexican tacos, Indian chaat, burgers, hotdogs, milkshakes etc. have maximum appeal. Offer vegetarian/vegan and gluten-free options too.

Accepting digital payments is vital for convenience and higher transaction values. Apps like Mr D Food for pre-orders and and Uber Eats for delivery open additional revenue streams.

Build a schedule alternating between lunch and dinner across different locations. Active social media marketing and promotions attract customers in new places.

This mobile restaurant concept allows testing new menus and sites in a lean way before scaling up operations.

11. Import / Export Business

Startup Cost:

  • Office and warehouse lease: R15,000 per month
  • Logistics setup + initial inventory: R500,000
  • Working capital for first 2 months: R100,000
  • Licenses and misc costs: R50,000

Total Cost: R665,000

Profit Potential:

  • Importing 100 units per month with 50% margin = R50,000 profit
  • Increases exponentially with higher volumes
  • Breakeven in 12 months

Every year, South Africa imports over R1.2 trillion worth of products – from machinery to electronic goods, vehicles, fuels, food items and more . This offers a lucrative arbitrage opportunity for savvy importers.

Some best-selling imports include:

  • Smartphones and mobile accessories
  • Home appliances
  • Automotive components
  • Fast fashion apparel
  • Food items like nuts, candy, olive oil etc.

Focus on sourcing from China, India, Turkey, Brazil based on price competitiveness and quality. Maintain lean inventory to respond quickly to exchange rate fluctuations.

Tap into booming ecommerce and modern retail for distribution. Export of South African wine, fresh produce and minerals also opens profitable avenues abroad.

12. Online Store

Startup Cost:

  • Inventory procurement: R400,000
  • Shopify online store setup and customization: R20,000
  • Digital marketing budget for 6 months: R80,000
  • Order fulfillment and logistics: R100,000
  • Staff salaries for 6 months: R200,000
  • Licenses, misc costs: R50,000

Total Cost: R850,000

Profit Potential

  • Reaching R100,000 monthly revenue by month 6 (10% conversion on R1 million traffic)
  • 45% gross margin after costs of goods sold
  • R45,000 net profit per month in steady state
  • Breakeven in 14 months

Ecommerce is growing rapidly in South Africa with 16 million online shoppers spending R30 billion per year. This is projected to reach R53 billion by 2025 .

Winning product categories include:

  • Fashion and accessories
  • Consumer electronics
  • Home and kitchenware
  • Beauty and wellness
  • Baby products
  • Gourmet food

Utilize dropshipping or work with local vendors to minimize inventory costs. List on multiple markets like Takealot, Loot and BidOrBuy besides own site to maximize reach.

Facebook and Google shopping ads drive conversions. Excellent site user experience, influencer marketing and social buzz accelerate growth.

Omnichannel capabilities integrating retail stores, online and mobile commerce provide competitive advantage in customer experience.

Key Takeaways

The businesses above can realistically be established at an investment range of R500,000 to R1 million and generate over R20,000 in monthly profits on an average.

Success depends on astute location selection, lean operations, differentiated products and services, plus tech-enabled sales and marketing.

Sustainable growth needs focus on delighting customers, adapting to market changes and maintaining healthy cashflows.

With adequate planning, funding and execution, South Africa offers several attractive sectors for aspiring entrepreneurs to launch their dreams.

Leave a Comment