Source: Pexels by Craig Adderley

The impact of the COVID-19 on small businesses has been nothing less than devastating, but as always, out of challenges come opportunities and South African entrepreneurs certainly have not disappointed in taking advantage of the moment.

In the wake of the COVID-19 we have been fortunate to bear witness to the ingenuity, versality and focus on community displayed by local entrepreneurs. They have come up with incredible innovations to meet the challenges of the pandemic.

SME South Africa celebrates and shines the spotlight on 10 of the most innovative business solutions that emerged out of the COVID-19 crisis:

1.  Best  Customer-Focused Solution – UBU International

The impact of the pandemic on small businesses revenues has been damaging with up to 55% of merchants surveyed in Visa’s CEMEA Impact Tracker stating that revenues have been impacted.

To help businesses faced with the challenge of reduced revenues and foot traffic, mobile payment app, UBU International, helps to convert mobile search for products and services into foot traffic for local businesses.

Businesses looking to attract and retain new and existing customers are able to create a storefront listing for their business in the UBU Marketplace, thereby exposing their business to UBU’s ecosystem made up of organisations and individuals with a large audience, following or customer base. 

Consumers who make use of the app get the benefits and convenience of a touchless wallets, cash back and discounts offered through a loyalty programme. 

2. Best Comeback Innovation – SWOP Anything

The SWOP Anything platform is ideal for current times with many people experiencing a drop in income and with a bit extra time at home.

They are South Africa’s first bartering website that allows users to trade everything and anything without any money exchanging hands. An example given on the website is swopping hairdressing skills for a Greek lesson.

The company was founded by OneMinute Technologies chairperson, Edward Bouwer. In an interview with City Press he expresses that there are so many people who have lost their jobs during COVID-19, but they still have certain skills, unique knowledge and life experiences that are highly sought after. 

3. Best Personal Experience Business –Michanic

Founded by Lesetja Dikgale, Michanic is an online car maintenance and repair service trying to change the way people book a car service. They provide customers with transparent pricing as well as qualified mechanics, all from the comfort of their home. 

Dikgale’s business stems from personal experience after experiencing trouble with his local mechanic. He thought of a way to get a trusted mechanics to come to a client’s doorstep and to be able to oversee the fixing process. 

4. Best Student Initiative – Siphamandla

Siphamandla Ntshewula from Khayelitsha came up with an invention that  helps young learners study better at night.

While in high school and living in a one-room house, studying at night was a problem as switching on the light to study meant that the whole household would be disturbed. 

Ntshewula invented a lightbulb that learners with a similar situation at home can use to study without disturbing their family. According to a Sunday Times report, the light bulb, which is made from plastic bottles, can be made for costs R100 and takes less than an hour to make. 

5. Best Retail Solution – Moving Tactics 

Due to COVID-19 social distancing requirements, businesses have to ensure they limit the number of customers in their stores.

Moving Tactic, a digital signage solution company, has come up with a people counting technology suited for the South African market. The solution keeps track of the number of people leaving and entering the store and compares that to the stores’ capacity.

The digital footfall counter electronically monitors the amount of people entering a venue and works together with digital signage which communicates to waiting customers what the store’s capacity is at any given time.

6. Best Family Fun Solution – Drive-by Family Portraits 

Like many small businesses, the national lockdown brought a halt for Cape Town-based photographer, Daniela Zondagh, which meant she had to think of new ways to make money. 

After a friend asked her to take family portraits for her son’s seventh birthday, Zondagh arranged her first drive-by photo shoot.

Zondagh soon realised that she could do the same thing for other people. Clients can arrange for a photoshoot via WhatsApp. Zondagh rings your doorbell and positions herself at a safe distance and takes pictures once you are ready. 

7. Best Community Solution – Cloudy Deliveries 

Cloudy Deliveries was founded by a group of teenage boys from Langa, Cape Town. The teenage boys range in age between 14-19 years. Their mission was to help out their community during the national lockdown.

Cloudy Deliveries delivers food to the community for only R9. Clients can make requests for grocery shopping or takeaways pickups.

Co-founder, Colin Mkosi, told Times Live that the initiative was started to help the elderly who cannot stand in long queues. 

8. Best SME Solution – SMEgo

While SMEs are a critical part of our economy their survival is however most risk because of the COVID-19 crisis. To support SMEs, the SMEgo platform promises to simplify and streamline the funding application process for both SMEs and funders.

SMEgo allows organisations to list available funding opportunities on a single platform and manages the application process online. Funders only receive completed application forms which significantly reduces the administrative burden on these organisations, as each applicant must meet the funds minimum requirements to apply.

SMEgo exposes funders to SMEs that meet their criteria which in turn offers them better leads.

9. Best Collaboration Platform – Signapps

Signapps is a South African app-based platform that provides secure communication and collaboration. It enables teams of healthcare practitioners to collaborate around the care of a patient.

Signapps recently won a contract with Britain’s National Health Services (NHS). They will be providing their software as a service communication platform for the management of clinical communication to NHS Trusts.

The app will help in the treatment of COVID-19 patients, ensuring that only essential workers need to be physically with the patient while other members of the team can collaborate through the app. This will ensure that less people are exposed to patients.

10. Best Money Making Innovation – Rentoza  

A group of four South Africans who were convinced that household items that are not in use but are currently taking up space should be paying rent came up with an idea to make money out of these items without selling them. Their solution: Rentoza, an online rental company that allows you to rent appliances, baby equipment and electronics.

According to their company press release, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, renting offers potential revenue opportunities for businesses that have closed temporarily or might still need to. One of the ways that these business owners can make their existing business assets, like laptops, smartphones and appliances, work for them is through renting these out. These items could be utilised by other businesses that are able to adopt remote working models to keep their companies afloat.

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