In this series, we will look at the businesses in the various stages of the Supply Value Logistics Chain, instead of looking at specific businesses, we will take an abstract look at the value chain in this link of the supply chain. This can be used as a guideline or framework to choose a business idea.

This is part of a series on How to Start, Run, Grow & Fund a Business in South Africa. These pages has to be read in order:

  1. How to Start, Run, Grow & Fund a Business in South Africa (using what you currently have)
  2. Choosing the right Business Idea for You
  3. Writing the Business Plan
  4. Supply Value Logistics Chain – Research and Understand Your Industry
  5. Raw Materials Business
  6. Equipment Business
  7. Skills Business (The labour used to operate the equipment to process the raw material)
  8. Test if Business Idea is right for you

Today we will look at the supply of skills/labour.  Our Value Chain looks like this:

Here we are talking about the skills/labour to produce the product or service. The third part of the triangle to produce products and services. As with everything else its a very loose definition as it does not have to be part of a value chain to manufacture a product.

To use the signage business example. You need to know how to use vector graphics software like CorelDRAW to design the artwork, and then how to (these are both skills) feed the vinyl (raw material) into the vinyl cutter (equipment) in order to produce the product or service.

Within our ecosystem, Skills is a thing, remember Crazy Quilt, if you have skills it is worth something. That’s why we don’t use the term “labour” which is worth about R20 an hour in SA.

One of the ways to start a business with no money is to develop a skill and then either join an existing value chain or start your own. If you have a skill that you are competent at you can ask the client for a 50% deposit which you can use to rent equipment and buy the materials to do the job.

The biggest problem in SA is that most people don’t have any skills.

So the first thing you need to do is get a skill and then use that skill to start a business with.

How to get skills

There are a few ways to get skills, I’m not going to deal with the obvious ones like going to university because if you had the means you wouldn’t be here. You can teach yourself, take a course, or take a job to learn the skill.

Training Course
First and foremost there are theoretical and practical training. Then there are online and physical courses. In some businesses, you don’t even need a course as most information is freely available online. And to me, this is a mindset issue because some people don’t have the confidence to learn on their own.

The first thing you have to ask yourself is can you teach yourself. This will determine whether you can use free tutorials or online courses. If you cannot then you need to find a place to teach you close enough to where you live and you need to pay that place usually thousands of rands.

Work Experience

Work for what you can learn not earn (How I got started)
When I was in school, I read a book by Robert Kiyosaki where he touches on this point: When you are young work for what you can learn, not to earn. I say not just young. Here you offer to work for free in exchange to learn a skill and get work experience. If you thinking “wow! that is exploitation” then you not getting it. This is how I got up when I had no hope and no money and no skills. To me this is another mindset issue, probably entitlement where people believed they are owed something and won’t work to get skills, experience and most importantly connections. This is also why people are begging at the robots with degrees, they want to earn millions right off the bat.

But let’s say you are like me and are willing to. But is it really that simple as walking up to a company and saying “hey I am willing to work for free”?

The answer is no. It might be but it depends on a few factors.

South Africa has a problematic relationship with crime and race. People will automatically assume you have ulterior motives and maybe want to steal. How you present yourself is important if you are “ghetto” you will find that people are reprehensible to give you a chance.

Race is another problem, people may or may not give you a chance to work for what you can learn and not earn based solely on the colour of your skin. We’ve always been divided my colour, and many have an affinity for their own race – some races more than other and they will help that person based solely on the colour of their skin. There is a flip side to this is that people may also help you if they feel sorry for you based on past injustices.

But before you can work for what you can learn you also need to learn the industry, immerse yourself in it, you don’t want to be a burden to the people helping you. Libraries are free, the internet has gotten cheaper and cheaper. Go and learn about your industry, the supply value and logistics chain, particularly the value chain of the business you are interested in.


The more skills you have, the more in-demand skills you have, the more your labour is worth and wiggle room is. A cleaner for example is not worth much as anyone can clean.

So we have equipment, materials and skills in one to produce a product or service. Remember what I said, skills are a “thing”, a commodity no different than equipment or material. If someone has a machine that can make money but they you don’t know how to operate it and have no money to hire someone, they can enter into a partnership with someone with the skills. Skills can be linked with equipment to start a business with no money and the only thing that will prevent that business from succeeding is human nature such as greed or dishonesty.

Skills Business ideas on Khoi Capital (skills only)
Take and Sell Photos of South African Landmarks (you’ll need a camera but maybe you can take with your phone)
Draw Cartoons for Websites
Design and Sell Website Templates
Design Logos For Small Businesses
Make DVD Slideshows of Peoples Photos
Refurbish, Convert and Sell Shipping Containers

 


More Business Ideas
Over 250 Business Ideas