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Sweetening the Business of Hospitality

Mpumi Xaba

Business woman, Mpumi Xaba shares what inspired her to leave her job as an industrial engineer to start her coffee shop in the bustling Sandton City.

What sparked your interest in the business field, have you always been entrepreneurial?

I feel business gives you a different lifestyle compared to being in the corporate world. As a business person you are able to determine how wealthy you want to be and also all my hard work is for my legacy. I have always been entrepreneurial from a very age. I was raised by my grandmother who ran multiple businesses and she allowed me to be involved in the business from a young age.

  Where did you work before starting Sukre Cafe, and what did your job entail?

I am Industrial engineer by profession. I have just over 10 years’ experience in the corporate world. My last job was an Investment Analyst for Sasol and I left in April 2015.

Why did you decide to start your own company and when was it launched?

I decided to start my own company because I believe I can make the money that I want as compared to being in the corporate world. Being employed means I am credit worthy and that’s all. In business I contribute my talents to building someone else’s dream instead of working on my own dream and creating a lasting legacy for the next generation. I also started my company because I want to end the chain of poverty and dependability on government. I want to be a generation that changes the economic situation whereby the minority are the ones who have multi billion Rand Company. My coffee shop was launched in November 2015.

What is the story behind your company name?

SUCRE means sugar, but I decided to use “K” instead of “C” because I wanted to trademark the name and I can’t do that with a generic name like sugar by law it’s not allowed. I used to be addicted to a series called “Prison Break” and there was a guy who used to call his girlfriend SUCRE which he meant my sugar….So I loved the name but not necessarily for a coffee shop. However when I wrote my proposal for the space in Sandton I didn’t know which name to use and that’s the only name I thought sounded nice.

  What sets your coffee shop apart from your competitors?

I offer basic grab and go small meals which fits in with the area, the Sandton Gautrain station. My customers are always in a hurry to go to work, so I prepare most of the food with my stuff at the shop fresh in the morning.

What are your short term and long term goals for your business?

Short term: I want to build SUKRE Café to be a well-known brand. And I want to make it successful in Gauteng.

Long Term: I want to open other SUKRE Cafés in Airports, other stations and big shopping Malls

What have been your challenges and highlights?

My challenges have been unable to breakeven in the first year. I also struggled with maintaining my market share due to completion and other economic factors like the cost of living for customers to spend money on the café. Some people opt to have free coffee at work and bring their own to work instead of spending money on takeaways.

My highlights have been being able to learn a lot in this hospitality field and the opportunity to run my own business.

If you could, what would you change about entrepreneurship in South Africa?

I would offer free mentorship to entrepreneurs especially start-ups, I would offer training on basic business principles, assist entrepreneurs to package their proposal/application for funding. And instead of declining the application offer I would advise on how an idea could be a viable business.

How many employees do you have and what is your leadership style?

I have 2 employees, I am very easy and laid back in terms of my leadership style. I want my employees to be comfortable around me and be able to approach me. I encourage my staff to think of themselves beyond their current jobs and to dream big. They need to believe in their potential and pursue their dreams

What is your advice to other young people who want to start successful businesses? 

Write a plan with timelines. Research on the industry you want to venture into. Network with like-minded people. Get inspired with business magazines and stories of other entrepreneurs. And believe in yourself. -Entrepreneurship is not an easy journey, one needs resilience and determination. Seek support and don’t suffer alone.

Makgotso M. St Pretorius

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