Im ready to start – what now

Your business is on the brink of opening. Everything is in place, or nearly in place.

You’re asking me: “Where do I get my clients from?”

These days it is much easier than 25 years ago. When I started up the only way of advertising was through newpapers – we had to advertise in the local papers, as well as national. Today you don’t have to go that route to advertise.

  1. Start marketing your business by telling everybody you know by telling them about your new journey. Litterally, from the neighbour to the people at the church.
  2. Use social media – at a small cost you can place an ad on facebook. You can choose
  • your audience ;
  • your location;
  • age ;
  • gender;
  • languages;
  • detailed targetting
  • through demographics;
  • interests;
  • behaviours;
  • and other categories
  • Connections eg.
    • Facebook
    • Apps
    • People who respond on events that you’ve created on facebook.

I mentioned before about my Women’s Ministry, where I offer Christian Lifeskill Courses and host women’s conferences. Facebook is my main source of getting women to attend this courses and workshops. There is no better way to advertise.

  1. When your business is on the go, the best referrals will be ‘by word of mouth’. It happen frequently that the phone ring and on the other side there is someone who says: “I’ve been referred by mr X – they are good friends of mine.

Here I want to add something extra. Wherever you go, take business cards with. You never know what opportunities you’re going to have to market your business. This was one of the first principles I have learned in business.

Smithland started it’s journey in 1992. In 1995 I was nominated as “Business Woman of the Year”, by the SA Council for Business Women. Not long after this, me and my husband decide to do a marketing trip to Namibia, in order to find new clients for the business. Remember, that was at a time when social marketing was something we never thought would happen.

About two hours after we left Cape Town, there was a talk on RSG, the South African Afrikaans radio station. The radio presenter welcomed the previous president of the SA Council for Business Women, Retha Rossouw, on the program and specifically asked Retha about how to market a business. This very useful advice came from Retha. My husband looked at me and said: do you want to turn back home. I think this advise is worth much more than all the potential clients you are going to see on your road to NA. Up to today, I believed I should have done it!

Two months later, I had to take my father to a family member’s funeral in the countryside. At this funeral, I spoke to my father’s niece and she mentioned that they visit Cape Town frequently and asked me if I can recommend any affordable and excellent accommodation. My hand immediately went for my handbag. They made use of our accommodation until their son educated and bought his own apartment.

  1. People, do not estimate the ‘BY word of mouth’ referrals. We travel a lot and due to our business interests in Gauteng, this is one of our main points to visit in SA. My husband grown up in Pretoria. At once, we where invited to an old school friend of Pieter (my husband). At the braai (barbeque) there were other friends of them, also attending the occasion. Someone asked me what my profession is and I obviously made use of the opportunity to advertise my business. The man looked at me and said: “Are you the owner of Smithland. We booked there for the coming school holidays. We were recommended by Mr and Mrs A.”

What if this man’s friend, Mr A had a bad experience at my accommodation establishment and he would tell me: “Oh, a friend of mine, Mr A stayed at your apartments and they were very disappointed with the service level of your business.” Therefor I want to emphasize it – and I will talk on that again – “ by word of mouth your business can be ruined or it can be built up”.

 You had done your marketing and you’ve taken your first orders or bookings. Make sure that you are ready when your clients arrive. Don’t disappoint your clients by being not on time to perform. My first apartment was ready a week before the first clients arrived. The second one was finished just in time – about two hours – before the clients arrived.

Above principle is part of your success story – I will call it Excellence.

Excellence is a subject very near to my heart. Today after 25 years in the hospitality industry I am still thankful for this principle that I invested into my staff.

Lack of excellence can cause you your business. After I started Smithland, many others (people whom I know personally) also decided to get onto the wagon, also having self-catering apartments. Many of them left the industry and I am sure in most cases it was because of a lack of excellence they showed towards their clients.

When I was interviewed for the Business Women of the Year Award, one of the questions the judges asked me was: “What is the most important factors that helped you to make a success of your business.” My immediate answer was the following:

  • I appointed God as the CEO of my business. I therefore ask His advice before I make any decisions regarding my business;
  • Secondly I believe in giving tithes. Here I refer back to the book that Im reading at the moment. Hobby Lobby, the USA’s biggest Hobby Chain Shops, owner David Green totally believe in this principle.
    While I am writing this post, I am in NY. Last night my husband went to show me where the Hudson Valley’s Hobby Lobby is situated – wow – what a big shop – it look like a Hypermarket.   I’m honest to say that I would love to have a cup of coffee together with this man. He inspires me so much.
  • Thirdly I believe in Service, Service, Service and what else is service than Excellence?

If you like more teaching about Excellence you are welcome to ask me for notes on this subject.

The last point for today is: STAFF. In the beginning you will probably employ a small amount of staff. After 25 years, I can tell you lot of stories about staff.

  • When you advertise for staff and someone apply for the position get as

much references as possible. For many years I didn’t worry to do this, but unfortunately there are too many crooks outside, looking for job opportunities and they are clever! In one case, it take me two years before we realised that the employee is an experienced thief.

  • If you feel comfortable in employing the applicant, I will still advise you

to get them on the premises for two days training, before finally signing up a contract with them.

  • Make sure that your contract is clear and understandable. Go through it

with the applicant. Make sure that the applicant understand it.

  • Make sure that all cons and pro’s are written into the contract, eg.

Annual leave, sick leave, rules regarding working hours, public holidays.

See that you add your rules, regarding the use of cellphones during working hours, visitors, etc. Rather have too many info in the contract than too little.

  • Register you staff with the Department of Labour. Don’t take changes.

Changes can cost you money at the end of the day.

  • In case of dismissal, make sure that you have followed the rules

regarding this matter. You can’t dismiss a staff member without them having three written warnings regarding the same violation. Thereafter you still have to arrange for a hearing, done by a impartial person from outside the company.

Any questions regarding the above can be addressed to me at

For today:

Tell everybody you know about your new journey


Do you climb a ladder from the top or from the bottom

You have done your homework – you are ready to start your own business. Unfortunately, too many people want to start their business on a very high level, opening a state-of-the-art bakery or guesthouse, whatever. The best appliances are bought and the most luxury finishes are used to decorate the premises.

Ok, if you want to start a game lodge, somewhere in the bush, there can be a need for a luxury resort. On the other hand, some guys staying in the city is so used to their luxury lifestyle that they will long for a bush experience with just enough amenities to survive, while others would like to have extreme luxuries, the same kind that they are used to at home.

Point is, when you start a business, start on a small scale and expand as the business grows. Never ever start with something which you can’t really afford – I believe that you much actually grow into the business and the business must grow on you.

I started my business with one small self catering apartment. It was not long, before I had to show clients away. Within six months,  after we originally started up, we decided to change one wing of our house into another luxury apartment – one with a fantastic view over the Cape Peninsula. We even made our en-suite guest room, which had a separate entrance,  available. Today we own half of a complex with apartments, as well as a couple of townhouses, a total of 30 units.

When starting up, I did not have a lot of capital to start my business. I therefor had to be very careful to over spend. The first apartment was furnished with some extra furniture we had available, so I did not have major expenses. The second apartment was already furnished, we just had to furnish the kitchen, same with the guest room.

Do not make any unneccessary debt to start a business. You do not know if it is going to be a success. The first couple of months, you will probably just cover your expenses, for example stock to sell in your shop or linen and utensils for a guest house, or parts for your workshop.

My suggestion is that you must first have some savings available to start up. Banks are also more willing to help with start up capital if you have some savings available to add to the startup.

In the beginning I even made my own bedding and curtains. For many years, after starting up, I kept on making my own curtains. Today, after 25 years in the industry, I’m honest to say that I hate it if one of the staff tell me that there is some alterations to be done to linen. I rather rent someone to do it for me, but in the beginning I just had to do it myself to save on costs. Interior decorating can be very expensive, therefor I did not had an option. Fortunately, I am very talented in many different skills and could therefor save a lot on costs, regarding above.

Do not overstock your business. In the beginning, rather buy in small quantities, untill you have the necessary cash flow to afford bigger quantities. At that point, you will be able to buy bulk and safe a lot of money. Even here, you will have to be careful.

I’m also involved in women’s ministry, but have been involved with a children’s feeding scheme and chreche in a small countryside villlage in the Eastern Cape. At one stage I went to visit the scheme and also bought some stock for the feeding scheme. The lady who was in charge of the project told me that we must go  to an Asian shop in the nearest town, 50 km from where the project was located. She told me that she normally buy bulk at this shop and that it worked out cheaper. To her amazement, I pointed it out to her that if she buy a box full of tins at this shop and divide the cost through the amount of tins, it cost her 20c per tin more than at the chain food store in town. Make sure that bulk buys is not expensive buys.

Something else to take note of is that you must be careful to be too cheap with your service. Experienced customers see the particular service as cheap quality, if the price is too low. On the other hand, also be careful to be too expensive, missing potential clients. While doing your homework, get an idea of what your competition’s prices are and stay just below their markup. Alternatively, you can ask the same price than your opposition, but rather offer the client extra value for their money. Your opposition might sell their bread for the same price you’re selling yours for, but you can perhaps add two small rolls or something similar, just to get your foot into the market.

For today:

  1. start on a small scale and expand as the business grows;
  2. be very careful to over spend;
  3. Do not make any unneccessary debt to start a business.
  4. Do not overstock your business.
  5. Make sure that bulk buys is not expensive buys.
  6. be careful to be too cheap with your service.
  7. On the other hand, also be careful to be too expensive, missing potential clients.



So where do you start? Do your homework

I remembered the day so well when my domestic girl came into my sewing room, asking me what the possibility will be to stay in the apartment at our building yard, situated on a plot outside the city. She longed to have her children with her, who was at that stage still in their home town, 400km away from Cape Town. She wanted permission to bring them down to Cape Town, stay on the plot and commute to work by train every day. I brought her case before my husband who agreed to this.

Earlier that morning, while sewing, I had a request to God. At that stage the building industry was in a recess. The last year Pieter did not sign up building contracts for new properties, only here and there he got a small job. We had to cut on our daily expenses. Unfortunately school fees went up, food costs exploded and I could fell the urgency of the fact that I was not bringing any income in.

My request to God was that He must help me to find something to do to help providing for our family’s expenses in general. After Mitzi left the room, I suddenly experienced a mind blowing incidence. God gave me a word and it just came up my mind: “Why not changing the outside cottage into a self-catering apartment, renting it out to visitors attending the hospitals in our area.”

Our house was five minutes walk from a very known hospital in the Northern Suburbs of Cape Town, equipped with a heart unit , an ideal stay-over for patients and visitors visiting these facilities.   At that time, 25 years ago, self-catering apartment accommodation, as well as guest houses, was still something new in the hospitality industry. The only other available accommodation was hotels which was very expensive, specially for the middle-man. Therefor this would be the ideal type of business for me to start with.

Here I must stop for a while and help you identifying your needs, regarding starting your own business.

Firstly, you have to make sure that the kind of business you plan to start is something sustainable. If there would have been a lot of selfcatering accommodation establishments in my area at the time I started my business, it would probably never been a success. It’s no use starting up something, which are already over-established in the area and at the end of the day you don’t get any clients.

If you want to start a bakery, first find out how many bakeries already excist in your area. The same applies for any other kind of businesses. It is no use starting a convenient shop in your area, if there is a convenient shop on every corner of the township you are staying in. You will have to find a product that is unique in your community, something that’s in command.

 Secondly you must ask yourself: “Must I start my business at my house, or must I immediately occupy premises in town.” My honest advise is: Start your business from home. Built it out, till the point where you don’t have any more space to expand the business anymore, then move to premises which is suitable for this purpose. Even then, make sure that you occupy the appropriate premises for this purpose. It’s no use, occupying a place in the industrial area, from where you want to run a bakery, if there is no feet in the area. Pick a spot which are accessable for everybody in town to be able to reach you.

In my case, I would never started with this kind of business if I had to go and rent an apartment in a complex to rent out to guests. The rental amount would immediately broke my ability to be successful.

If you decide that you definitely want to rent premises in town, do not sign up a contract that will bind you for more than a year.  In a year’s time, you will know if the business is a success.  Signing up a contract for longer than that, can put you under tremendous stress, if you have to close down or even better, move on to bigger premises.  Property owners will not release you from a binding contract, unless you can find them another qualifying tenant.

I personally signed up a contract for office premises when we started the estate agency in 1984. I desperately wanted that particular premises but the owner was not prepared to sign up a contract for less than five years.  My balloon bursted within 6 months because of a very serious operation I had to go for.  The buyers who bought the business from us, decided to work from home and just cancelled the contract which was signed up in my husband’s name and we had tremendous problems reversing that contract. If we rather started up, running the estate agency from home, it would be so much easier just to close down the business, as a result of my sickness and no ill feelings would come in between.

The second time it happened, it was not a very pleasant one at all.  We rented premises opposite our apartment business’ offices for laundry purposes.  The owner was liquadated and when the new owner take over, the rent went up with R5000 per month.  I could’nt afford it at that time and we had to look for another tenant to take over.  When I wanted to rent a property from this guy three years later,  he refused to sign up a contract with me, as he was scared that I will do the same as three years before.   So, what actually happened is that my name was affected by the cancellation of the previous rental contract.

When you start your own business, there is a lot of initial capital involved. I can assure you, you will probably think that you have everything you need to start the business and then suddenly something pop up which you never thought of.

Starting at home, safe you a lot on overhead costs. Only when you can see that your business is profitable enough to cover expenses for renting premises, you can consider it to move to a location in town.

If you decide to rent premises, take in mind that before you can count on an income for yourself, you first have to pay rent to your landlord. Im not going to discuss Biblical principles right now, but I believe that before you can take anything for yourself, you first have to pay your tithes and secondly your rent. No, no monies for luxuries, ect!! Debts first. Don’t forget about cashflow – it is no use making some money and then spent everything on yourself, without having money to buy stock again.

Thirdly,  rather settle for smaller equipment in the beginning.  Do not sign up contracts to rent appliances.  Back in ’84, starting up with the estate agency, we made the fault to sign up a contract for a copier/fax machine.  The manager whom we appointed for the job – this is another subject that I will deal with in my next post – insisted that we get the latest technology for the office.  Another contract, that had to be cancelled in six months time.  We had to pay the rental company for breach of contract.  Later on, we heard that someone very near to us in the business, take advantage of this and take the photocopier over almost for free.

Fourthly, If you decide to work from home, make sure that the local municipality will not have a problem if you run a business from home. Make sure that you know all the no’s and pro’s. Don’t cry later on, rather prepare yourself before hand to put all the paperwork in place.

Im presently reading a book from David Green with Bill High “Giving it all away and getting it all back again.”   David start telling the reader about his family’s personal experiences in establishing their own business from home. He said that he started an after hour project in his garage, trying to bring extra funds in to uphold his family’s needs. Later his wife and small boys had to keep this project ongoing, as a result of the many orders that came in, while he still had a full time job during the day. At a later stage he had to quit his job to run this suddenly, expanding business. Later on, they had to move into some premises in their home town. Today Hobby Lobby is the greatest hobby chain shop in the USA and they support Evangelical projects all over the world.

So for today:

  1. Make sure that the kind of business you plan to start is something sustainable.
  2. Ask yourself: “Must I start my business at my house, or must I immediately occupy premises in town.”
  3. Settle for smaller equipment in the beginning.  Do not sign up contracts to rent appliances.
  4. Make sure that the local municipality will not have a problem if you run a business from home if you decide to do so.




Why StreetWise?


When I was 18 years old, my dream was to become a successful writer and journalist. I never had the opportunity to fulfill this dream and landed up in the corporate world as an office secretary. Time passes by, I got married and became the proud mother of two beautiful children, Pieter and Arlene.

At the young age of 22, I saw a gap in the Real Estate Industry and registered as an estate agent with the EEAB. I launched my own Estate Agency in 1984, when I was 27. At that stage of my life I had a lot of self-confidence, thinking that it will be very easy, there cannot be any obstacles in making a success of this business.

Six months later I was diagnosed with servical cancer and landed up in hospital, having a very big operation. The medical specialists advised me to settle for less, staying home for at least a year to recover as I was very weak. We had to sell the business. It was only then that I realised how many pittfalls there can be, if you do not have the necessary expertise in a certain field. We never received the settlement amount for this transaction. There where too many red tape we never attended too while selling property and the buyer made use of every loophole not to pay over the monies they owned us.

It take me eight years, before I got enough self-confidence to start something new again. I changed my profession and established an award winning accomodation establishment in the northern suburbs of Cape Town. We started the business with one small selfcatering unit at our house. Today we run 30 units, variating from a studio (one room) apartment, up to a six-bedroom house.

Being business woman of the year for 1995, finalist for Sanlam and Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year 2016, an award for The AA’s Best Selfcatering Accommodation in SA, Tripadvisor’s Best Selfcatering Accommodation in our area, as well as several others definitely speak of the long road to excellence we travelled.

Through above, I met many other potential entrepreneurs in South Africa who have a dream of starting their own business, but because of all the pitfalls in the different industries, are scared to take up the step to financial freedom.

Two years ago, I wrote my life story, which is definitely not about the hospitality industry and business. It is rather based on the road which I had to travel because of the fact that I am 50% hearing impaired, having lymphoedemia in my left leg, as a result of the cancer I had and many more. obstacles I faced on my road to independence. A mere two pages was dedicated to the road I had to walk in business.

I hereby realised that I could still start living my dream of being a writer and journalist. I love to write and communicate and sometimes friends will comment that I am quite quirky!! This caused that my posts on social media draw attention and then the question came up: “Whereby do you measure the success of your business. Please tell us what to do and not to do. Please write another book regarding the journey you travelled, starting your own business up to the point where you are today.

So here I am. Streetwise vs Business Wise will took you on a journey of starting your own business, the pitfalls, the up and downs and also some success stories of other entrepreneurs who dared to start living their dream.

If you have a dream, start living it now – don’t wait till tomorrow.
“Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.” – Johann von Goethe

Nerina Truter Smith
Author of “Reis na Oorwinning” Available from the writer at Tel. Office +27-21-939-0009; Cell +27-82-499-8547

Above book is in the process of being translated, as well as updated with add-ons and more stories about other women Nerina met during her “Road to Victory”.