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Examples of Design Business Ideas Before you launch your own design business idea, you'll first need to see what others are doing in the industry and gain some ideas and insights into how to make your design business competitive.

By Nicole Crampton

You're reading Entrepreneur South Africa, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.


Creating and designing something new, innovative and interesting continues to be exciting in numerous industries. If you're good at creating something from scratch or designing something never before seen, then this could be the business idea for you.

Here are 10 examples of actual design businesses you can learn from to ensure your company has a competitive advantage:

1. Clothing Designer

Do you love to design new types of clothes? Are you always pushing the boundaries of fashion? A clothing designer could be the perfect design business idea for you. Before you officially launch your business, here's an example of a clothing designer you can learn from:

Business Name: AETHER Apparel


Established Date: 2009

About the business:

Palmer West and Jonah Smith wanted to create something they couldn't find for themselves. They had a passion for the outdoors but still wanted to look smart and not like they were standing in a lift line.

Related: Startup Lessons From 22-Year Old Designer, Art Viljoen

They developed the businessman's outdoor wear for themselves and found others were also interested in it.

Innovative business offering

To introduce the public to their brand they launched the AETHERstream, a mobile store established within a completely refurbished Airstream Pan American. They continued to break the mould with their first store designs, in 2013, making them out of shipping crates.

2. Fiverr: Graphic Design

Fiverr is a platform for freelancers that offers everything from writing and translating to graphics and design. If you're a talented graphic designer you could make Fiverr your full-time job and earn money on your time doing projects you want to do.

Before you sign up and get started, here is an example of a design business you can learn from:

Business Name: Joebrise


About the business:

Joe is an artist who live in Tarragona, a coastal town close to Barcelona, Spain. There are very few opportunities for work as a designer in such a small town. Joe discovered Fiverr and offered his first skill set. Today, Fiverr makes up 30% - 40% of his annual income.

Innovative business offering

Joe is always working to grow his business. He responds to buyer requests, constantly updates his skills and what he can offer, and he is active on social media, including his own blog.

3. Website Designer

The demand for eye-catching and cutting-edge website designs continues to grow. Considering how many potential clients check websites before they purchase; businesses want to have an engaging and user-friendly websites.

If this sounds like a design business idea you want to start, here is an example of a website designer you can learn from before launching:

Business Name: Inspired Web


About the business:

Inspired Web's focus is to drive customer engagement leading to increased business awareness and higher sales volumes. Their services aim to optimise their customers' product marketing online. Inspired Web aims to build websites not just to get businesses online but to become a powerful marketing tool to grow their clients' businesses.

Related: Designing Her Destiny

Innovative business offering

Online marketing and search engine optimisation (SEO) go hand-in-hand with increasing sales volumes and traffic to a website, which is why Inspired Web offers these complementary services as well.

4. Envato Market

Envato Market is a platform where designers, developers, photographers, illustrators and producers can sell their products. If you have experience in these industries you can offer your skills on Envato and clients will pay you to take on their project.

Business Name: ThemeFusion


Established Date: 2012

About the business:

Muhammad Haris from Lahore Pakistan develops themes and templates for Word Press. He created his product and started selling on Envato Market. He has made more than $1 million in sales and has assisted more than 484 000 customers in their growing user base.

Innovative business offering

ThemeFusion focused their time and effort on one WordPress theme, ensuring it was powerful and highly customisable. They upgrade the theme regularly to include latest trends and requirements, rather than building numerous new themes from scratch.

Their priority is also their clients, which is why they go above-and-beyond with their customer support.

5. Video Editing

Businesses are using video to reach their customers in an effective and engaging way. If you have experience in video editing you can start your own business to create videos for both personal and professional use. Here is an example of a video editing business you can learn from:

Business Name: Viddedit


About the business:

Viddedit take their customers snippets and convert them into a high-quality video that captures their customers story in their style. They've worked on videos for weddings, holidays, corporate, and family, using drones and GoPro's.

Related: 10 Tips for Web Design That Drives Sales

Innovative business offering

They also add music, titles and effects to ensure their customer has a superior video that they can keep or share on social media. They use advanced techniques to create videos with each customer in mind and have a quick turnaround time to ensure their customers are completely satisfied with their work.

6. Etsy: Digital Prints

Etsy is a global marketplace for homemade and vintage goods. Although South Africans find the delivery fees take a large cut of their profits, you can sell digital prints, which don't need delivery. Before you get started, learn from this designer who started her own digital prints business:

Business Name: The Crown Prints


About the business:

Jenny Kun designed some prints for her new-born daughter and discovered that she could sell her prints on Etsy. She has since sold over 5000 digital downloads of her original art. She has an extensive collection of digital prints that she continuously adds to ensuring customers will keep coming back.

Innovative business offering

For those who aren't comfortable printing it themselves she also offers to professionally print and frame her prints and ship them to her customers. She advises others to use design programmes like Adobe Illustrator because it's a vector-based programme that allows her to resize her designs and saves her time.

7. Etsy: Printables

Printables, unlike Digital Prints, are for organisational purposes. Your customer can still print them, but they're typically templates, clothing patterns, planners and life-management tools, as opposed to art.

Here is an example of a printable design business that you can learn from before launching your own business:

Business Name: Secret Owl Society


Established Date: 2013

About the business:

Michelle Rohr wanted to improve her life, it started at a coffee shop with a few friends working on goals and turned into workshops for hundreds of people. She started to develop personal growth worksheets and goal setting templates to help others improve their lives.

Related: 3 Things You Must Know Before You Start Your Etsy Business

Her Esty store now generates around $2000 a month in almost passive income.

Innovative business offering

She quickly learnt that people are happy to pay more for a package of printables instead of one for less. She markets her products on Pinterest to grow her audience and find new customers. You don't need extensive design knowledge, she designs all of her products using Google Docs.

8. Offer A Graphic Design Training Programme

Are you a talented graphic designer with experience in numerous design programmes? Then you could offer lessons to those looking to improve their graphic designing skills. Here is an example of a design business that started out with two designers who wanted to host a workshop and now they have over 10 million global students:

Business Name: CreativeLive


Established Date: 2009

About the business:

Chase Jarvis and Craig Swanson decided to start a workshop to inspire and support their community. Their first event generated a large amount of interest, so they knew they were onto something. They now offer over 1500 curated classes, with more than 650 world-class instructors and 10 million students strong.

Innovative business offering

They offer all of their classes online but also have two locations for those wanting to learn in-person. CreativeLive also offer photography, video, money, life, art, craft, music and audio classes.

9. Designing and selling t-shirts on Teespring

Teespring is a marketplace where you can sell T-shirt designs. Every campaign has a minimum order requirement and once this is reached the shirts get printed and shipped to your customers. If you think you can come up with interesting T-shirt designs, then this could be the design business idea for you.

Related: This 22-Year-Old Entrepreneur's Business (and Confidence) Got a Major Boost From an Amazing First Customer

Before you get started here is an example of an entrepreneur who eventually made this a success:

Business Name: Teespring


Established Date: 2011

About the business:

You can design your product on Teespring, they also offer marketing tools and partnership-integrating to boost your sales. You'll need to determine how many items need to be sold to cover your printing costs, once you have enough orders Teespring will print and ship the product at no cost to you.

Innovative business offering

Teespring have expanded their offering to include canvas prints, tapestries, pillows, posters, towels, bags, hats as well as all the various sizes and shapes that T-shirts come in.

10. Jewellery Designer

Do you love to design or even craft your own jewellery?If you're good at this, you can start selling your creations online and after a while from a retail store. Before you start, you can learn a few lessons from this jewellery designer:

Business Name: Kirsten Goss


Established Date: 2005

About the business:

Kirsten Goss sells her jewellery design from her 4 physical stores and her online store. She sells to both the South African market and internationally.

Innovative business offering

Considering how unique and valuable jewellery can be, Kirsten Goss offers advice on how to care for the various pieces to ensure they last long and remain undamaged.To create extra value each piece is accompanied by a soft cloth pouch and sturdy box, to ensure its longevity.

Related: How a Local Jewellery Brand Entrepreneur Has Built a Business on Creativity

Nicole Crampton

Entrepreneur Staff

Sales Enablement - Content Developer

Nicole Crampton is an SEO specialist who contributes to She has studied a BA Journalism at Monash South Africa and has continued her studies with a Creative Writing degree from UNISA. Nicole has completed several courses in writing and online marketing, and continues to hone her skills and expertise in digital media, digital marketing and content creation.


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