What do a fireman, an employee at a towel factory and a coffee barista have in common? They all make up the Department of Coffee (DOC), a new intimate coffee shop in Khayelitsha.
Officially opened on the second of this month, DOC is situated opposite the train station in Ntlazane Street, at the Violence Prevention through Urban Upgrading building.
Wongama Baleni (23), Vuyile Msaku (25), and Vusumzi Mamile (24) run the coffee shop as partners. All hailing from Town Two, they took a risk by leaving their jobs, even though they were not sure if DOC would see the light of day.
Baleni, a father of a one-year-old boy, was a seasonal fireman for the last two years before leaving his job. He says it all started with a simple meditation and life skills class started by a non-profit company called Connect Community Development (CCD).
“I have always wanted to be a businessman. I met a guy called S’bu from the community project who introduced me to Murray who he worked with. Murray saw how determined we were to start our own business, he then approached his friends who are in business,” Baleni explained.
Baleni entered the programme with Mamile, who lives with his younger sister and worked at a towel making factory.
“Wongs and I have been friends for a while. When he approached me and told me about this business venture, I did not hesitate. I immediately told him let’s do it,” Mamile said.
Sibusiso “S’bu” Momoti from CCD said their organisation offered life skills and training to the Khayelitsha community. “We offered meditation as well, which helps in clearing the mind and helps people focus. Wongama had told me about his business ideas, and when I see them develop in their new business I feel happy and proud.”
Momoti worked together with Murray Ingram who is the one who approached friends and colleagues “to invest in young entrepreneurs”.
DOC is a pilot project of Ministry of Service Delivery (MOSD), which is a concept originated after a group of individuals came together and decided a hands-on approach to job creation was needed in South Africa.
“MOSD loaned the money to start DOC. It is all about bringing the informal sector into the community, but the business must be community owned. I am very proud of the guys and the DOC. I have been there and I love it,” Ingram said.
Baleni and Mamile said they were lucky because their third partner Msaku, was a coffee barista, so he had experience in the business.
“I originally wanted to start a décor business, but when I was told about the coffee idea, I was sold, and I told myself that I would take this risk. We struggled for a while before DOC started because we had quit our jobs and we were unemployed for a year and a few months. But because we were determined, we would sometimes go to town to meet with the MOSD group, and we would wait there for hours, with no transport money to go back home or any money for food. But all of that was worth it,” Msaku said.
It took small business training and hard work to finally open the doors of the coffee shop, with the trading hours being 04:00 to 18:00. They use their own “special” coffee brand, and get about twenty to thirty orders a day, physically delivered themselves. Orders come from the mall, banks, and other businesses around the area.
Their future plans for DOC, which was originally a security office, include getting chairs and tables for customers, music, gas heaters and breakfast specials.
“We are very happy with our business and it will only grow from here,” Baleni said.
With their cappuccinos being R8.50, I took my journalist cap off and ordered myself one. I watched as they quickly prepared it as a team. I took my first sip of the foamy hot drink, with six eyes looking back at me in anticipation. I swear my toes curled. Yes, the cappuccino was that good.
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