The tuck shop: A crucial start-up

by Mihle Mapoma
25 August 2023
25 August 2023

Savings groups members are well known for using share-outs and loans to build their homes and start business, chief among them being tuck shops. Also known as ‘spaza shops’, these stores have proved to be quite a lucrative business venture for a lot of our members.

Since SaveAct started tracking savings groups start-ups in 2019, we have had thousands of entrepreneurs start business, with 527 of those being tuck shops. Nearly 500 of them are in KZN —­ spread throughout Estcourt, Limehill, Margate, Msinga, Pietermaritzburg, Table Mountain and Underberg. The second-biggest area is the Eastern Cape – spread between Matatiele, Bizana and a couple in Mt Ayliff.

The other few tuck shops are evenly spread in our other regions, such as QwaQwa in the Free State, Northern Cape, and Gauteng. There are also those that are under our partner, Siyakhula Sonke, coming in at double digits.

Entrepreneurship has long been seen as something mostly men do, as, historically, they have had the resources and capital support to start businesses. However, as society evolves and the archaic practice of only men being allowed to earn for the household dissipates, women have come to the forefront of entrepreneurship. We see this in no better place than tuck shops – where 516 of the 527 were started and are run by women, with the median age of those starting businesses being 42. “Every time I drive past here, her tuck shop is better than before. It’s amazing what she’s done,” exclaimed staff member Claudia Taylor, when talking about one of her Table Mountain savings group members.

A lot of the times, tuck shops were started as a matter of necessity for the women. This could’ve been due to them being widowed, finding themselves having to provide for a family; or those seeing that one income wasn’t enough, and seeing an income stream possible. Some of the most successful tuck shops funnily enough though, stemmed from women asking themselves “how hard could that be?”. This attitude is a cornerstone of so many successful women, who never doubt themselves and their abilities. These women truly live out the Japanese proverb of “fall seven times, get up eight”, as their go-getter attitude is not always rewarded, but that never deters them from chasing their next dream.

There are also business owners who have had tuck shops before joining SaveAct. These savings members used savings groups’ loans and share-outs to expand their businesses. An example of this is Mrs Buyelane Jiyane, who started her business 20 years ago. After joining SaveAct in 2018, she poured her share-puts and loans into her business; buying equipment and the like. The tuck shop grew from strength to strength and became so successful it could support her whole family. After her son lost his job at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mrs Jiyane bequeathed the business to him, then started her passion project business of making and selling pillows. That business has also now skyrocketed, but she explains, “I wouldn’t have been able to do that if the tuck shop wasn’t doing well. I knew I could step away and do this (pillow making) because we have that back-up.”

Some have ‘travelling’ tuck shops. There is no place that this is more prevalent than Msinga – where savings members attend training sessions provided by SaveAct and bring a few best-sellers from their respective tuck shop to sell to other savings members during the training session breaks. This has turned out to be quite lucrative for each entrepreneur, and works towards bringing forth an even deeper camaraderie amongst the SaveAct members.

“I started my business after attending Enterprise Development training, and seeing how passionate everyone was, talking about their businesses,” savings member Ms Sithembile Khoza said of this practice. “ I also got so many great tips from what we were taught about how to run a successful business. I started my business selling to the women here. They were my target market, my market trend reader, my first customers,” she said.,

Training tools from training sessions like Awakening Enterprise, ABCD and Enterprise Development help the members to become more successful in their business. They learn about the importance of developing a business plan; how to identify what business their particular community needs most – and fill that gap. SaveAct staff members also received training on how to help businesses succeed and thrive, for example by being trained on how to teach members how to successfully keep records or apply for CIPC. The staff members then apply this expertise to their respective member businesses, as sounding board and teacher for them. After the staff member steps away from the mentorship role, the savings member is left with business acumen and knowledge on how to properly apply everything learnt to their specific business.



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