The idea of starting up a business can be daunting, but starting your own business can be highly rewarding if you are successful. There are a number of things you will need to consider before starting a small business, including what regulations you need to follow, what taxes you will be liable for, and what structure you want your business to take.


Let’s take a look at five things you might not know about starting a small business:


1 – You need four to six months’ working capital

During the start-up phase, a small business owner needs funds for start-up costs related to registering the business, obtaining licences or permits, securing premises, and other related costs.

By making sure that there is sufficient working capital to cover these and other day-to-day expenses for the first four to six months, business owners can reduce the pressure to start earning an income straight away. This will give them time to establish a solid foundation from which they can grow the business.

Think about how you can lower you expenses as much as possible so that you can raise more working capital to effectively start your business.


2 – You need to choose the right business structure

There are a number of ways to structure the legal ownership of a business, depending on the size and nature of the business. In South Africa, different business structures include:

  • sole proprietorships
  • close corporations* – CC
  • private companies – (PTY) LTD
  • personal liability companies – Inc.
  • public companies
  • non-profit companies – NPO
  • partnerships
  • business trusts


Factors that affect the choice of structure include the type of services offered, the number of people involved, the level of management skills within the business, and the future growth that is anticipated for the business. It’s important to choose a suitable structure for a small business, as different laws and regulations apply to the different structures.

In the case of sole proprietorships, for example, the business owner is liable for the debts of the business in his or her own capacity, while in the case of a private company, the business is a legal entity in its own right, and the business owners (shareholders) cannot be held personally liable for the debts of the business.

*In terms of the Companies Act 71 of 2008, it is no longer possible to register a close corporation, or to convert an existing company into a close corporation. However, existing close corporations may continue to exist.


Choose the right structure for your small business


3 – You will have to register for tax

Even small businesses have to pay tax. According to the South African Revenue Service, some small businesses can opt to register for turnover tax, which is a simplified tax system for small businesses with a qualifying turnover of not more than R1 million per annum. It is a tax based on the taxable turnover of a business and is available to sole proprietors (individuals), partnerships, close corporations, companies and co-operatives.

Turnover tax takes the place of VAT, provisional tax, income tax, capital gains tax, secondary tax on companies (STC) and dividends tax. So qualifying businesses pay a single tax instead of various other taxes. It’s elective – so you choose whether you want to be taxed according to this option or not. Click here to find out more about turnover tax.


4 – You will need to be aware of the relevant laws

If you’re planning to employ other people, you will need to be aware of the labour law requirements in terms of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act, the Labour Relations Act, and other legislation. Labour law applies to all types of employers, which means that small businesses cannot simply ignore this legislation.

Other laws that might affect a small business include:

  • Intellectual property law
  • Contract law
  • Consumer protection laws
  • Privacy laws


5 – You will need business management skills>

Running a small business requires a diverse range of skills: from financial management, logistics and HR, to sales, marketing and office administration. Starting out, a small business often doesn’t have the capacity or the resources to employ different people to perform each specialist role.

The small business owners often take responsibility for a wide range of functions, and they need a certain level of skill to perform these functions effectively. It is therefore a good idea for small business owners to work on developing a set of business management skills by studying a relevant business administration or management course before setting out on the journey of starting up a small business.


Also read: One Does Not Simply Start a Business


For more information on how to start or register a small business, visit:


Note: This article was originally published on 11 February 2015, and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.