How to start a business without any money (or products) in South Africa

You want your own business but you don’t have any money to start it, nor do you have your own products’ to sell. So how do you now start your own business. The simplest solution is obviously to sell someone else’s products. And since you have no money, you’ll have to sell them before you start paying for them yourself. How is this even possible? It’s actually quite simple and I’ll give you 2 different ways to do this.

But before you jump in, I did find this article on Forbes that offers some really good advice for BEFORE you leap.

How to start a business with no money or products

The first suggestion is that you find restaurants, fast food kitchens and similar businesses in your area that have products that you can sell. Then go have a chat to them. Ask them if they want their own web shop to get started. If they are not interested in their own web shop, ask them if you can sell their products on your website.

If you find a restaurant that wants a web shop you can actually build it for them (and charge for this) or get it built for them (and charge for this). The easiest and simplest way to do this is to use a 3rd party service that supplies instant web shops, like Resto. They offer a 2 month free trial which is more than enough time to actually setup the shop and start selling before you need to pay for the digital shop! The great thing about Resto is that they do not take any revenue, they simply charge a very reasonable, flat hosting fee for their shops.

What’s more, Resto shops will connect to local payment gateways. That means that when someone buys something from you, the money goes directly to your own account!

How to deliver the products

In terms of delivery you can either let the restaurant be responsible for this themselves OR you could start another business’ of deliveries. First you’ll need to find some delivery people in your area. Then you can connect your Resto shops to another service called Shipday. Resto will then automatically send your new orders to Shipday via API. Shipday has an admin portal which you can use to assign (or auto-assign) orders to delivery people. It also has an app for the delivery people to use to ‘accept’ the delivery order and update the order status as they go. And, of course, the end user can track the delivery right to their house. You can find out more about this here.

The best part is that Shipday is free for up to 300 deliveries a month. So you can easily get started with no money at all. By the time you are getting more than 300 orders a month, you should be making money already.

How else to start a business (or expand the idea above)

My second suggestion is that you do not limit the products’ you can resell. What that means is that if you are going around your area, speaking to companies about selling their products on a web shop, there are many more digital products you can sell to them. For example web site URL’s (domains), email and hosting. Just get an account with Xneelo or Afrihost (local hosting suppliers) and you can resell these added digital services.

You can even make and sell simple mobile apps for local companies. You just use another 3rd party services called UPstart apps. They allow you to completely build the mobile app without paying anything. You only need to start paying when you want to publish the app. So you can get your client to pay BEFORE you have to publish it. The best part is that you do not need to know how to code to build apps on their service. It uses a simple drag and drop interface to build apps. It even includes unlimited push notifications with the hosting fees once you are published.

You can even sell complete websites without knowing how to make one. This one is simple, if you find a business in your area that wants a complete website, you can speak to us here at The Internet UPstart. We will happily quote you to design and build any kind of website you can imagine. From simple pamphlet sites to complex content systems or intricate web shops, we can do it all! Just send us your client’s requirements and we will quote you. You can then add your markup and go back to your client with an offer. Here you get the client to supply the full deposit so you do not have to use your own money to do this!

How to expand and grow this type of business

What you will find, once you have your first few client’s using some of the above services, is that they will start asking about more, related type services. For example they might be looking for social media account creation and management. Or they might be looking for someone to write blog articles to go on their website. Or they might want someone to do search engine marketing for them. All of these are things that you can outsource.

When an existing client says to you “can you help me with this”, always say “yes, I can!” Even if you don’t know exactly how you are going to help you client, say yes! Just tell your client you don’t have all the info available at the moment but let me take down your requirements, then I’ll speak to my team and get back to you ASAP… Then write down what your client wants and when you get back to the office, use Google to find someone to do it for you. Find out what it will cost, add on some mark-up and go back to sell to your client, easy peasy!


To easiest way to start your own business without any money is to resell other people’s products or services. And then to sell a bunch of value added products and services to these clients in the process. The trick is to make sure that your client either pays in full or enough of a deposit, so that you do not have to use any of your own capital in the process. What you will find with most development projects is that they require a 50% deposit. If that is the case, you need to ensure your client pays that 50% (plus your markup) before any work starts. And this is how you start without using your own money!

Photo by Thirdman


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