Three young friends woke up and smelt the coffee – and realized it was time to bring the culture of lattes, cappuccinos and Americanos to the Cape’s townships.
Thus, the Department of Coffee was born in July last year, Khayelitsha’s first coffee shop, run by Wongama Baleni, Vusumzi Mamile and Vuyile Msaku – a former fireman, employee at a towel factory and a coffee barista respectively.
All three risked their stable incomes by leaving their jobs to start the business – but it seems to be a gamble which has paid off. A year later, Department of Coffee has been selected as one of the businesses given free advertising by Hansa Pilsener’s Cheers to the Dreamers campaign, which seeks to celebrate entrepreneurs who are hustling and achieving against the odds.
Mamile, 25, had to drop out of school in grade nine to look for a job to help his single mother put food on the table. “My mother was always an entrepreneur, selling chips and chicken feet.”
“We were inspired by wanting to see the young generation owning businesses. I told myself I needed to push the business ideas I had inside my head and make my life better as a young entrepreneur. We wanted to bring coffee culture to eKasi and upgrade local facilities to grow the local economy.”
Business hurdles included convincing the target market that coffee was not only to warm you up when cold, and cutting down on heavy sugar users. “There are customers who take seven or eight teaspoons of sugar in one cup. I try to educate everyone about how nice the taste of coffee is with less sugar or no sugar.” The shop was also burgled earlier this year, and equipment stolen and damaged had to be replaced at around R10 000. Despite this, the trio have soldiered on, gathering fans one coffee at a time.
“Being recognised by Hansa means we are on the right track and it is going to be fantastic to have extra exposure in the form of advertising to get a chance to market Department of Coffee to a bigger audience.”
The trio dream of opening Department of Coffee shops around the country as well as overseas. “We dream of being proper businessmen, able to take care of our whole families.”
Khensani Nobanda, Hansa General Manager, said Department of Coffee would be featuring in a radio advert that would air on Umhlobo Wenene. “Hansa is celebrating real people with the Cheers to the Dreamers campaign and we hope that the adverts will help grow their businesses.”