Jack-of-all-trades Derek Harrison from Fish Hoek says that what fuels his tank is driving around in Sally, his mobile coffee shop, and giving people their caffeine kick – along with tasty treats.
I’ve been a teacher, tour guide, guesthouse manager, salesman, restaurant owner twice, coffeeshop owner twice, and even developed a children’s nature awareness programme. Needless to say, I love reinventing myself, and have been fortunate enough to be fairly successful in some ventures and excellent in others.
I loved the restaurant and coffee-shop businesses, but the hours and rentals are tiresome and prohibitive; so when I started ZA Café Mobile, I was looking for fun and an adventure that could generate the lifestyle I wanted. It would be a mobile eatery and coffee stop that could also double as a travelling marketing vehicle. This means I can stop outside a barber or design emporium or small material shop, and in exchange for electricity and water, I can help promote the business via the van’s social media channels, such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.
I found Sally about three years ago. She looked a little sad and rough around the edges; but on the upside, she was in running order, so I purchased her for a mere R10 000. Sally is a 1974 Volkswagen Jurgens Autovilla – basically the lovechild of two South African favourites, the Kombi and the Jurgens caravan – making the ideal family weekender.
I had very little capital to start the business with, so friends with carpentry skills and tools helped cut a hatch and set up a counter. I borrowed an espresso machine and a grinder, and began trading even before Sally received her first new lick of paint.
Apart from the standard services, I’ve only spent R25 000 so far on various mechanical repairs and upgrades, and that included having the engine reconditioned after more than 30 000 km of my own mileage. She’s paid her way through all the upgrades by selling cups of liquid gold to people all over the greater Cape Town region. But one of the biggest challenges of working at the coast is managing the rust!
So far we’ve been as far as Melkbos, Cape Point, Franschhoek and Wellington, as well as the occasional venture into the CBD and the Deep South. Long-distance trips are limited until I can get the mechanicals to a level at which I’m fairly confident of everything. Our regular haunts are Muizenberg main road from Mondays to Fridays, the Range Market in Constantia on Friday nights, the Kommetjie Market fortnightly; and we also do events such as weddings, sports days, birthdays and corporate functions.
In addition to americanos, espressos, chai lattes, red cappuccinos, mochas and tea, we also sell vegan rotis and croissants.
Instead of upgrading to a more modern vehicle or adding vehicles to the business, I’d rather focus on my five Cs of Coffee: Connection, Community, Collaboration, Creation and Celebration. My dream is to travel all across South Africa.