Soweto’s first sip of Kofi

Updated on 28 July 2016

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This year Soweto got a new premium coffee bar, Kofi Afrika, courtesy of two entrepreneurs Mpumelelo Zulu (36) and Lawrence Murothela (35).

The shop offers all the perks of a modern day coffee shop from frothy coffee beverages made from exotic Ethiopian and Tanzanian coffee beans to complementary Wi-fi, all with a view of the historic township. Other hot beverages on the menu are homegrown Rooibos and other teas.

They also serve cold beverages, like frozen smoothies, including the cheekily named, Yellow Bone, which Zulu says has quickly become a crowd pleaser; as well as typical coffee shop eats such as sandwiches, salads and muffins.

Well-versed coffee enthusiasts

While venturing into the coffee industry may seem like an odd choice for some, for Zulu and Murothela it was a natural choice.

Zulu has extensive experience in the coffee industry having served as a coffee master, barista and an assistant store manager at the international coffee chain, Starbucks, in the United Kingdom.

On his return, he worked for the coffee shop franchise Motherland Coffee Company in Rosebank as a barista and later as the manager before launching Kofi. Similarly his partner Murothela has over 15 years of experience in the coffee service industry and has experience running a small business in Venda.

Both Zulu and Murothela are passionate coffee enthuasists.The pair say they tasted over 60 different beverages from various coffee shops before settling on the Ethiopian and Tanzanian bean pairing.

Tapping into the Soweto market

Soweto has a population of over 1 million residents and contributes approximately R30 billion a year to Gauteng’s economy, with a consumer spending power of approximately R5 billion a year, according to a Mail & Guardian 2013 report.

The decision to open a coffee shop in Soweto was a no-brainer, say the co-founders. While the township is home to many restaurants and cafes, including some well known ones such as Wandie’s Place and Sakhumzi – there haven’t been many traditional coffee shops, which means Kofi stands to benefit from a largely untapped market.

The two founders also expect to benefit from South Africa’s growing coffee consumption. Statistics South Africa’s 2016 research shows that restaurants and coffee shops have seen an increase of 5.3% compared to the previous year.

Kofi Afrika is located on one of the township’s most popular tourist hot spots, Vilakazi Street in Orlando, which since efforts to upgrade the area for the 2010 Soccer World Cup, has seen a number of retail and lifestyle outlets pop up resulting in the street being an eclectic mix of restaurants, clothing stores and flea markets.

The coffee shop is also part of the Box Shop, an urban lifestyle retail initiative that houses various outlets such as Casanyumba, an African home-ware and custom-made furniture store, and Yivani, a skin care range made with indigenous South African herbs such as impepho and umhlonyane. The hub’s fashion and accessory brands include Skinny Sbu Socks, Lucky Me, Seasons and Green Button.

In addition to being a retail hub, the Box Shop serves as an incubator for local entrepreneurs in the area.

Zulu and Murothela say the Box Shop has played an important role in the development of the coffee shop, with Zulu describing it as “God-sent”.

“Our dream is very big, but it needed to have a place to start. The Box Shop has been that catalyst to our journey,” he adds.

Eagerly embraced by customers

Zulu says they get, on average, between 40 and 50 customers each day, the majority of which are locals, and with 10 to 15 being new customers.

Zulu says they are grateful for the support from the locals and hope to double this traffic as they continue to grow.

To get more customers through the store, the brand has been utilising social media as a marketing tool. Most of their new customers find out about the coffee shop through social media, Zulu adds.

They have also been hosting events such as coffee tastings, book clubs and weekly game nights, which Zulu says have proven to be fruitful.

The co-founders also collaborate with other entrepreneurs with the intention of sharing markets and clients in order to increase their customer base and to help their fellow business owners do the same.

Zulu says he and his partner have plans to build and grow the Kofi brand to a national level and to, in the future, operate the brand as a franchise, with an eye towards eventually expanding to the rest of the African continent in the next five years.

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