Is it pos­si­ble that there could be such a thing as a non­cap­i­tal­ist yuppie? Of course it is, writes They’re called the yuc­cies – young ur­ban cre­atives – and they’re com­ing to a city near you

CityPress - - Voices -

t used to be that when you told your friends you got a pro­mo­tion at work, they’d con­grat­u­late you and maybe pop some Cham­pagne to celebrate your as­cent up the cor­po­rate lad­der. These days, that’s not al­ways the case. While some of your work­ing friends will give you a high five, it’s likely that many of the oth­ers will mum­ble an awk­ward “well done”, while won­der­ing why you al­low your­self to be trapped by “the man”. Af­ter all, these days, you can op­er­ate off the grid, out­side the 9-to-5 cor­po­rate shuf­fle and make money do­ing it. It’s the era of the start-up.

The terms “hipster” and “yuppie” may come to mind, but we’ve moved on, and there are new dy­nam­ics at play. Braam­fontein-dwelling twen­tysome­things aren’t just sport­ing beards, rid­ing skate­boards to work and drink­ing craft beer any more. In­stead, we’ve got a new crop of cre­atively in­clined but eco­nom­i­cally driven in­di­vid­u­als who want to make it on their own.

En­ter the yuc­cie

These are, ac­cord­ing to the witty David In­fante of Mash­able, young ur­ban cre­atives. Yuc­cie is an un­for­tu­nate word, but there you have it.

While these young peo­ple were cer­tainly part of the thrift­shop­ping and ware­house-party crazes, they’ve grown up, started pay­ing their own rent and re­alise the happy-go-lucky ide­al­ism of the hipster is at best over­hyped and at worst im­ma­ture.

And I speak for my­self here too. I went through (read: am go­ing through) a pe­riod of wear­ing lum­ber­jack shirts and mak­ing my own head­bands be­cause I wanted to dif­fer­en­ti­ate my­self from my well-off par­ents and, sub­con­sciously, also prove I was unique – not just another cookie-cut­ter out­put with a nice back­ground and de­gree.

But new trends are show­ing us that unique­ness is as much an eco­nomic as­set as it is a so­cial one.

Profit with a con­science

Around the world, and in­creas­ingly in Africa, we’re see­ing young peo­ple swap­ping salary slips for ar­ti­sanal cof­fee shops, mo­bile bou­tiques, net­work hubs-cum-of­fices and re­tail out­lets that ben­e­fit the home­less – busi­nesses that are both prof­itable and so­cially con­scious.

So they only use fair trade sources, hold dis­cus­sions about gen­tri­fi­ca­tion and make so­cial is­sues rel­e­vant to a gen­er­a­tion glued to their iPhones.

Cloth­ing brand The­sis Lifestyle, well known for the iconic bucket hat, cel­e­brated its 10th an­niver­sary this year. It has built its look around kasi pop cul­ture, and although it could move into a fancy Mel­rose bou­tique, it has kept its flag­ship store in Soweto. Co-owner Wandile Zondo still mod­els the clothes him­self, and is part of the day-to-day run­ning of the busi­ness. The la­bel is not just about be­ing trendy, but re­tain­ing pride in where the brand started and of­fer­ing em­ploy­ment to lo­cals. This is where the new en­tre­pre­neur­ial con­scious­ness is go­ing.

Spa­ces such as Braam­fontein in Joburg, Wood­stock in Cape Town and River­town in Dur­ban are pop­u­lated by start-up busi­nesses that have re­tained their cool by keep­ing it real.

But it’s not all sun­shine and roses – de­spite what your cool blog­ger friend posts on In­sta­gram. Be­tween the yuc­cie’s short at­ten­tion span, mag­pie-like aware­ness of the next big ven­ture and the slew of cre­ative job op­tions avail­able, peo­ple get burnt. That is, burnt out from the fi­nan­cial im­pli­ca­tions of be­ing self-em­ployed, the psy­cho­log­i­cal toll of still hav­ing to rely on the cor­po­rate world (which you still need to mar­ket and buy your new prod­uct) and the re­al­i­sa­tion that your main­stream friends trapped in their 9-to-5s can easily af­ford to pay rent while you are still try­ing to get on your feet.

In Johannesburg es­pe­cially, where cool is an in­cred­i­bly lu­cra­tive but fleet­ing cur­rency, there are brand strate­gists and dig­i­tal mar­keters and as­pir­ing DJs on ev­ery cor­ner – and as more peo­ple buy into the yuc­cie dream, the harder it is to stand out. A re­port by the Kenya Youth Busi­ness Trust sug­gests that many po­ten­tially vi­able and lu­cra­tive busi­nesses run by young peo­ple are squashed be­cause of in­vestor fears.

Es­tab­lished busi­nesses do not want to hire a new-age advertising agency and banks are wary of giv­ing loans to the latest bant­ing res­tau­rant be­cause of un­cer­tainty about the re­turns.

But there is some­thing to be said for the shift in mind-set of the pre­vi­ously utopian out­look of the young cre­ative pro­fes­sional. And for ev­ery hor­ror story of a DJ go­ing into a job in IT, there are more sto­ries of suc­cess­ful young peo­ple carv­ing out a fi­nan­cially se­cure and cre­atively ful­fill­ing fu­ture. And that’s a con­scious­ness worth sup­port­ing and be­liev­ing in.


The­sis Lifestyle fo­cuses on kasi pop cul­ture

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