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South African Idioms For The Budding Entrepreneur

28 July 2018 | 0 comments | Posted by Che Kohler in nichemarket Advice

South African idioms

Its been around 2 years since we started this business blog and while growth was pretty slow in the beginning its begun to really pick up now and we're reaching literally 1000s of users per day. What began as a fun way to document and share our findings on business, digital marketing, marketing tech, marketing trends and how to's has grown into something much more valuable.

Each week we receive a few emails asking for advice on marketing online, what tools businesses should consider and just general outreach looking for advice. Since we blog about a rather technical side of marketing our requests not only come from within South Africa but from around the world and its great to see that our insights have helped so many people from all over the planet.

Who knew I'd be this excited to receive an email from The USA, Romania or Australia with people asking me how to set up their Google Analytics, where they are going wrong with their tracking to something as simple as how to put together a Facebook ad. You'd think you'd get used to it but the power of content and SEO still surprises me each and every day.

Having that kind of reach is also the reason why we normally stick to producing that type of content and hardly enter the realm of the puff piece. But I've had this idea festering in my mind and I thought I'd put it out there and see if it resonates with anyone, well, I'm pretty sure it will!

speak my language

As a South African business, we face unique challenges the rest of the world doesn't have, our economy, political climate, our history and many other influences. When you're an entrepreneur certain days are a bit tougher than others and this is where you need to search for a little motivation.

I personally turn to guys like Gary Vaynerchuk, Elon Musk and Chamath Palihapitiya and while these guys do a great job of delivering their message I realised something. None of them really speak directly to me, in my language, use my turn of phrase and embody each and every value I hold dear.

As a born and raised Capetonian I've grown up in a cultural melting pot and source my ideas from a range of influences and I thought well damn, there really isn't anyone here at home I can look up to or aspire to. Like oh, that dudes just like me and his doing it big, there's simply no one I can relate to. So I thought why not give this a go and see if anyone can relate to me.

South African idioms that embody our journey thus far

As I'm sure you already know every entrepreneur has a few principles they hold near and dear to them, their mantra if you will. These may change over time but it's what they fall back to and what keeps them going. I decided to put a South African twist on mine and I thought I'd share them with you. (I'll give you the context for our non-South African readers don't worry)

Dala what you must

It directly translates to do what you must, but it actually means Do what you need to do. This is a fundamental principle when it comes to entrepreneurship and cannot be discounted. I'm going, to be frank here, during your journey you're not always going to be able to do things you like, you're going to need to grind, pay your dues and "dala what you must" in order to get to a place where you can actually do exactly what you want to do. Like Gary Vaynerchuk says "You need to eat shit for a few years".

To which I have to add when life hands you a plate of shit, hand it back a clean plate. Learn to enjoy eating shit, there is no shortage of it, people will feed it to you by the truckload. What you need to do is learn to use that as sustenance, digest it, receive the proper nutritional value out of it and trust me you'll come out it, unharmed, stronger and hungry for more.


This term essentially means hustle but has a rather negative connotation to it. While the world over hustle has become a word with a positive inference, smokkel hasn't and that's kind of what's made it so endearing to me. When you become an entrepreneur you'll quickly learn that what you're trying to do is unpopular, it goes against the grain, you're challenging conventions and you'll quickly find out very few people will be supportive of your choice.

Entrepreneurs are disruptive, they are troublemakers, misfits, their whole aim is to shake things up and you're going to have to take flack for it, so "smokkel my bru", own it and don't let anyone knock your hustle.


Koppeling is essentially networking and probably one of the most powerful tools in any entrepreneur's arsenal. Growing your network is a vital part of success in business. Making new connections becomes invaluable over time. You can connect two people in your network, you can find ways to collaborate, you could offer them a service and instead of payment, you bank that trade exchange for a favour you call in later.

Not everything has to be about your bottom line when trying to grow your network. You're trying to create connections that will support you in the long term. Make sure you koppel major feelings of goodwill as your network expands. If you can successfully do this, you'll be surprised how far word of mouth marketing will take your business.

Don't let them kyk you by the gevriet

When you're starting out as a startup, you're a nobody with an idea. No one is going to take you seriously and why should they? You have no track record, you have little or no sales and frankly, there are other options for clients so what makes you so special. Don't let them look at you and judge you on face value. Perhaps you don't have the expertise right now but you make up for it with passion and drive.

You can always teach yourself skills and as an entrepreneur, you will have to learn a range of new skills but drive, ambition and attitude are what is going to win over your first client and the next. If you can outwork everyone else no one is going to argue with you!

Don't give krag weg

What this one translates to is don't give away your strength, do not give away ground. When you have an idea that you believe in, you need to plant your roots. Don't move an inch until you've grown that seed into something you can either sell off or you can start to pick off the fruit. As soon as you uproot your business too early for some or other reason, it won't last very long.

There are cases when you will need to pivot but this will be more about branching out rather than starting a new. Once you create that solid foundation, every other venture will be smoother than the next.

Share your favourites

Did any of these principles resonate with you? What are your favourite South African phrases and why? What do they mean to you? Feel free to share them with me in the comments.

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Tags: Startup story, quotes

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