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New report outlines the learning needs of South African e-commerce entrepreneurs

Starting your own e-commerce business can be tough - and learning the ins and outs even tougher. A new report identifies the challenges and skills gaps faced by South African e-commerce entrepreneurs, and outlines areas where the industry can offer assistance.
New report outlines the learning needs of South African e-commerce entrepreneurs

Heavy Chef, through its nonprofit the Heavy Chef Foundation, partnered with the team at Xneelo to launch the Heavy Chef E-commerce Entrepreneur Education report, a research study focusing on the learning needs of e-commerce entrepreneurs.

The report draws on the first-hand experiences of 298 e-commerce founders and details the demands of running an online business. The research employed a mix of quantitative and qualitative methodologies, including the results of an electronic survey, which underwent comprehensive statistical analysis.

The strict statistical procedures enabled researchers to outline key group norms as well as individual experiences. The result – valuable and reliable data from a range of South Africa’s e-commerce entrepreneurs on the ground.

What is the state of entrepreneur education in South Africa?

According to Heavy Chef Foundation CEO Louis Janse van Rensburg, the state of entrepreneur education is disparate at best, yet entrepreneurs still manage to organise themselves into peer learning networks.

“Generally, entrepreneurs don’t feel that entrepreneur education – as it currently stands – is good enough. In response to that, entrepreneurs are generally self-organising as a community – they're meeting with each other, organising meet-ups, events and learning sessions. They set up one-on-one coffee sessions to speak about their businesses.”

According to the report, 72% of entrepreneurs believe their peers have had the biggest positive impact on their business.

What are some of the barriers to learning?

According to the Heavy Chef Foundation, the biggest challenge for small e-commerce entrepreneurs is to come together to form these learning groups. Not only does the report offer recommendations for solving this challenge, but also shares valuable peer learnings from e-commerce founders who have faced many of the challenges up-and-coming entrepreneurs are yet to encounter.

“There is a need for us to fast-track the growth of e-commerce in Africa in a way that allows for the participation and benefit of many more individuals and companies,” says Heavy Chef Foundation chairperson Lukhanyo Neer. “The Foundation is particularly excited about this research because it details the learning needs of e-commerce entrepreneurs. The insights from this research are integral to creating solutions that level the e-commerce playing field in South Africa.”

What are the key findings of the report?

  • 72% of South African e-commerce businesses have an annual turnover of less than R500,000, with 59% of these less than two years old.
  • 64% of micro to small online shops operate full-time and 36% are side hustles.
  • 71% of entrepreneurs are older than 30 years old.
  • 63% of e-commerce businesses were founded by women.
  • 85% of entrepreneurs find it difficult to attract new clients.
  • 46% rate their marketing and sales skills as poor to average.
  • 52% wished they had invested earlier in digital marketing tools.
  • 62% consider their knowledge of running a business to be poor to average.
  • 52% of the e-commerce business owners say access to operational and funding partners is a priority.
  • 68% had no prior exposure to other e-commerce entrepreneurs when they started out.
  • 71% still have limited access to networking opportunities.

How did xneelo become involved?

Xneelo is a long-standing partner of Heavy Chef and the Heavy Chef Foundation, as both brands see themselves as champions of the South African digital entrepreneur.

“Entrepreneurs solve societal problems innovatively and create purposeful employment. This is especially true of South African entrepreneurs. At Xneelo, we’re proud to do what we can to support, grow and sustain such tremendous resourcefulness and potential,” says Athena Turner, Xneelo brand manager.

Over the course of the next few weeks, we’ll be going into more detail about the report and unpacking some of the key findings on the xneelo Insights blog.

The Heavy Chef E-commerce Entrepreneur Education report was created by the Heavy Chef Foundation and Xneelo to map out the learning needs of e-commerce entrepreneurs in South Africa.

“Xneelo is passionate about enabling South African entrepreneurs with the tools and knowledge they need to create and grow their businesses. We’re proud to be associated with Heavy Chef and their community of entrepreneurs. We believe that every successful business creates a multiplier effect for society to thrive,” says Xneelo CEO, Philip Delport.

To download a copy of the report visit

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