Owners of the Department of Coffee in Cape Town have proven that townships are capable of competing in the coffee industry
PROPHETS of doom laughed off their idea of starting the first-ever coffee shop in their township and dismissed it as a “pipe dream”. And, had they listened and be discouraged by all the naysayers, they wouldn’t be the successful entrepreneurs they’ve become today. Meet Wongama Baleni (32), Vusumzi Mamile (30) and Vuyile Msaku (31) all proud owners of Khayelitsha’s very first coffee shop called the Department of Coffee.
Growing up in the poverty-stricken Khayelitsha in Cape Town, the childhood friends all dreamt of becoming successful business owners one day and escape poverty. The realisation of those dreams came in July 2012 when they opened doors to their shop. Today they are proud that some of the very same critics are their biggest customers.
“Our success has shown us that nothing is impossible in life and perseverance is key. We wouldn’t be where we are today if we had listened to all the naysayers,” says Wongama.
TALK OF THE TOWN
They may be riding the crest of a wave in their business but the trio admit that starting the business wasn’t plain sailing. “When we did our research, the majority of people said a coffee shop would never succeed in Khayelitsha. People were more interested in the meat and liquor business,” says Wongama.
But this didn’t dampen their spirits and instead they wanted to cater for the minority who believed that there was a gap in the market for a coffee shop business in the township.
“We wanted to impress those that believed in our dream. We believed that if they could taste our coffee and be impressed, they would keep coming back for more and also spread the word to the naysayers. And, indeed that’s exactly what happened,” says Vusumzi.
Five years later, Department of Coffee is the talk of the town and both local and international tourists flock to the establishment daily.
After getting start-up funding from a job creation organisation called the Ministry of Service Delivery, the trio were well on their way to realising their dreams. Vuyile, who had previously worked as a barista for various coffee shops in Cape Town, imparted his coffee-making prowess to the others and soon customers were lining up. Soon the guys were making deliveries to Khayelistha Magistrates Court, Khayelitsha Mall and Khayelitsha Hospital.
“It all happened so quickly and even we were surprised by the overwhelming response,” says Vuyile.
The trio has employed 10 youths from Khayelistha and surrounding townships after expanding their coffee business to Observatory and Cape Town’s busiest business hub, Long Street.
“We pride ourselves in having assisted where we can in terms of job creation,” says Vuyile.