Entrepreneurs are individuals who identify business opportunities and decide to create a business venture of their own. Entrepreneurs are found in every industry and at every level in society, from the hawker on the side of the road to the owner of a large corporation who started from a small business in a back room.

What all entrepreneurs have in common is that they are making a living through a venture over which they have direct control.

There are people who may be considered entrepreneurial by nature and can even be identified from a young age, collecting and swapping goods after school, making deals and arrangements with other children, buying and selling. These individuals have an eye for identifying a business opportunity, they enjoy seeking out new ways of conducting business, and they are often very determined individuals who are open to testing new ideas. These individuals often become the pioneers of one or a number of new businesses.

Some people become entrepreneurs because they are ambitious and want to better themselves, for instance, they may have been working for an organisation in a specialised field for many years and decide that they would like to open their own business in this field. Other people are forced to set up their own business because they have lost their jobs or cannot find work.

In South Africa, entrepreneurial skills are becoming more and more essential. Every individual should develop basic bookkeeping and customer service skills, draw up a business plan and identify their strengths, weaknesses and interests in order to develop themselves as potential entrepreneurs.

Many entrepreneurs start out as small business owners who run their own business, selling products or providing a service. Small business owners need to know how to prepare sales plans and annual budgets and how to assess credit worthiness of customers or clients. They need to keep records of sales and orders and monitor cash flow and debts. Before embarking on new projects, they would be wise to analyse the market to decide whether and when to introduce new products or services.

To be successful they need to ensure that their prices are competitive and the service provided is good. They may hire and train staff; market and promote their business; order stock and replace equipment; and pay government taxes and levies. 

Thus, small business owners need to have a broad range of business, management and administrative skills. They also need planning, sales forecasting, budgeting, accounting and organisational skills.

Small business owners need to know about current market values and trends, budgeting and business management, taxation and accounting systems. They also need to know about costing methods, customer relations, and the legal requirements for business owners including health and safety, employment, and government regulations.

Small business owners should draw up a business plan, and have good financial backing and knowledge of the industry they intend to work in.

Small business owners work to their own timetable. Their hours may be long and flexible, and they may also work evenings and weekends. Earnings for small business owners depend on the success of their business. They deal directly with clients or customers. They may also consult lawyers, accountants, suppliers and discuss their finances with a bank manager.

Personal Requirements

  • lots of common sense
  • enjoy a challenge, sense of adventure and risk-taking
  • interest in and knowledge of business
  • willing to acquire a wide range of business skills
  • good communication and interpersonal skills
  • organised and practical
  • able to make good judgements
  • quick-thinking and adaptable
  • hard-working, dedicated and determined
  • generally fit

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

  • National Senior Certificate meeting degree requirements for a degree course
  • National Senior Certificate meeting diploma requirements for a diploma course

Each institution has its own entry requirements.


What to Study

A business degree, diploma, or certificate is extremely useful, although many entrepreneurs are too impatient to study, which could lead to failure in some cases. Many skilled artisans, such as automotive electricians, motor mechanics, plumbers and electricians, start their own businesses.

Degree: BCom - most universities offer business degrees.

Diploma: a course in Entrepreneurship is offered by CPUT, CUT, DUT, UJ, TUT and NMMU.

Small business owners may attend business seminars, short courses and industry conferences. Regular re-training in current market or business trends may also be useful.


Entrepreneurs may begin their careers by working for someone else in order to gain experience before starting their own business.

Further Information

South African Institute for Entrepreneurship
Collingwood Place
11 Drake Street
Observatory, 7925
Tel: (021) 447-2023

Small Business Development Agency
The Fields, Office Block A, 1066 Burnett 
Tel: (012) 441-1000

Getting Started

  • useful experience for small business owners includes business management, sales and marketing, buying and selling
  • try to get any work that does not require supervision
  • speak to as many entrepreneurs and small business owners as possible to find out more about this field

Programmes by Study Institutions

Related Occupations

Entrepreneurs build the country

A PACE Career Centre Product. © All rights reserved | Developed by Netgen (Pty) Ltd. Disclaimer: Please see disclaimer