One of the best ways to find out if entrepreneurial ideas are working is to go out and look for yourself at real businesses in main street, morning markets or shopping centres. Rather than swallow hook, line and sinker the stories you read in small business magazines and newspapers, it’s good to get out there yourself and find out what’s working and what isn’t. It’s not only about the business idea itself but also about merchandising, store location and customer service.
One the small businesses that I find exciting was a part business called Paint Jamming. This business offers its potential customers the opportunity to buy a canvas of any size, put it up on an easel and use the paints that are readily available. You only pay for the canvas. Experience artists are on hand to assist you and help you produce something. This business is big among parents with young children but also the person who aspires to get painting done on canvas. I saw this business behind Cavendish Square in Claremont. It’s easy to see how well this business is doing – the floor was thick with a kaleidoscope of paint. The business concept has been expanded to other areas in Cape Town as well as Johannesburg.
In a small coffee shop/restaurant in that Fish Hoek, near Simon’s Town, I saw an idea for merchandising in an area of the restaurant. This is the simple idea that I’ve been recommending start-up owners to take advantage of when they want to test their product. Basically the shop is offering space to small business people to display their products. It’s a concept that we should see more of because of the high rentals for retail shopping space.
I spent some time walking around the Century City shopping centre that has something like 400 shops. The stores that impressed me most with their merchandising was the surf and skateboard stores especially for their attractive displays of skateboards, clear signage to indicate which items were on sale and by how much and merchandising that entices you to come into the store. In this centre I was surprised how long the shops have to trade – something like up to 8 o’clock in the evening. There doesn’t seem to be enough customers are attracted to the centre in this difficult economic time.
It was a different case in the Somerset Mall in Somerset West where the huge shopping complex was buzzing with customers around lunchtime on Thursday. One store that stood out for me there was Mellisa’s, a restaurant and food store. I was impressed with the quality of the food products ranging from preserves and confectionery to bakery items. The food itself was outstanding and the chicken, leak and mushroom and white wine pie was something to remember. Far better quality food at a reasonable price than you can get in the fast-food chains. Customer service was friendly, fast and helpful. All part of a quality package for potential customers.
These are just a few quick observations among many others on how entrepreneurs are serving the local, competitive market in Cape Town. A 40-minute wait for a table at the Cape Point nature reserve on a Monday at lunchtime shows how strong the tourist attractions still are in the city. If you enjoy walking and getting out and about Cape Town offers many good insights for entrepreneurs on business ideas that are working even in a tight economy.
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