Whilst working as a technician in a bank, Sakhumzi Maqubela became aware of the high numbers of tourists visiting Soweto and decided to investigate the possibility of converting a section of his house into a restaurant. His home in Orlando West was on the same street as Nelson Mandela’s first house, Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s home and the Hector Pieterson Memorial.
Armed with market research, he resigned from his job, cashed out his provident fund and transformed part of his house into a small restaurant. He enlisted the help of his wife to train staff and spent his time marketing the business to tour operators, corporates and locals. Today Sakhumzi Restaurant seats 120 guests indoors and 250 outside, and specialises in African cuisine. His staff complement has grown from four to twenty five.
Find the right people
Maqubela lists HR and bookkeeping as his biggest challenges. “It is very difficult to find the right people and to then put them in the right positions. As a small business owner, you have to do everything yourself and normally you don’t have these skills. My advice to anybody considering starting a food business is to be sure you are passionate enough about it – especially if you have no experience.”
Maqubela is passionate about his business and the possibilities in Soweto and South Africa. “My biggest achievement so far is securing contracts with tour operators who bring guests regularly. Another highlight is seeing our guest profile evolving to include more South Africans. Some of them are tourists from KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape and Botswana, but others are people from Hillbrow, Yeoville and Berea.
“People across the board are pleasantly surprised at life in Soweto. The perception has always been that Soweto is made up of shacks and that hijackings take place every minute. I love opening people’s eyes to what in my mind is the birthplace of South Africa’s democracy.”