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.


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.

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