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Flying solo doesn't mean you're alone

Opening a small business in stable economic times is daunting. In uncertain times, even more so. Yet South Africa is home to startups and entrepreneurs alike who are pursuing their dreams, participating in the country's growing small business economy.
Flying solo doesn't mean you're alone

Contrary to predictions of a post-Covid economy, many startups have achieved success, with a number of them identifying new and innovative ways to deliver products and services which cater to the needs of a more fluid and dynamic approach to everyday life.

One of these startups is Clean Paws, a mobile pet grooming service based in Johannesburg, which has enjoyed significant success since its inception in August 2021, thanks to a savvy and agile growth approach, which has allowed co-owners Trevlin and Lauren Govindasamy to roll with the punches and overcome the challenges posed by soaring overheads and ever-changing consumer habits.

"Clean Paws started as a passion project in the wake of Covid, as we encountered an increasing demand for home-based services due to more people working from home, coupled with a general reluctance to be in crowded spaces," says Lauren Govindasamy, who has managed to take the business from strength to strength despite myriad problems that might have derailed a less determined entrepreneur.

"It's been one of my life's greatest learning experiences," she explains. "We've had to adapt to survive. For example, we've equipped our mobile grooming units with generators and water tanks so as to avoid service disruptions, and to calibrate our pricing in line with increased overheads linked to fuel and electricity. We’re learning and growing as we go."

For Govindasamy, like many fellow entrepreneurs, risk management wasn't necessarily factored into initial equations, and she and her husband had to learn the hard way when it came to finding an insurance solution that met their needs.

"Coming from a corporate background, we were able to make adequate provisions from a financial perspective, but we didn't really understand the potential risk factors until we had to face them head on," she continues. "For instance, we didn't foresee the possibility of suppliers being scratched or bitten by pets, and thus had to pay out of our pockets as we didn't have adequate business insurance in place."

This is one of the aspects that often undermines potentially successful enterprises, says Jason Mellow, MiWay's head of Business Insurance. "While South Africa is full of entrepreneurially-minded individuals with great ideas and insight, these business owners often simply aren't equipped with the skills to assess the risks their operations might face in the short- and long-term," says Mellow. "As such, businesses can run into trouble if they aren't equipped with an insurance policy tailored to their individual needs, which is why it's crucial that they consult with a broker or insurer so as to better understand their needs and reduce the possibility of unexpected financial losses that could prove crippling."

Stories like Lauren and Trevlin’s serve to highlight the importance of support and mentorship within the small business community. Whilst many entrepreneurs tend to focus primarily on the financial feasibility of their startups, they aren't necessarily able to see the big picture in a way that others with years of experience in the industry might be able to.

"To truly succeed in business, it's absolutely critical to develop a strong support network," explains Mellow. "Entrepreneurs can use various avenues like social media groups and business networking events to foster connections within the industry, which could prove critical to their success. Collaboration is incredibly important for startups and SMEs, and the most successful ones are typically those who aren't afraid to ask for help and advice."

The entrepreneurial journey is by no means an easy one, but business owners like Lauren and Trevlin are living proof that where there's a will there's a way.

"It's encouraging to see a new generation of entrepreneurs emerging, undeterred by the challenges of the current economic environment, and stories like these serve to further highlight the agility and ingenuity of South Africans, who have always managed to find a way to overcome obstacles by working together and supporting one another," concludes Mellow.

MiWay is a licensed non-life insurer and Financial Services Provider (FSP 33970).

30 Sep 2022 11:47