We are excited and pleased to announce that the winner of The Retail Capital Comeback Competition is Estratweni Mobile Foods! We were absolutely overwhelmed by each and every one of the entries and are proud to see our local entrepreneurs and small business owners rising above the setbacks and restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Congratulations to Co-Founders Thando “Space” Mavumengwana and Siphumeze “Blax” Ramncwana on winning R15,000 towards their business’ comeback – we are looking forward to seeing the continued growth and innovation that comes out of this brilliant example of dynamism in the face of adversity. We had the opportunity to ask Co-Founder Thando Mavumengwana a few questions about their business, their journey to date and their comeback strategy.
Where did the name Estratweni Mobile Foods come from and what does it mean?
Estratweni literally means “on the street.” The name came about because we started selling muffins and beef burgers door-to-door while walking up and down the street here in the township.
When did you start your business?
We started the business in October/November 2016 – we were just doing it to survive at first. We had no idea what it would eventually become!
What were the challenges you faced when you started and how did you overcome them?
We started our business with literally nothing. We borrowed R200 from Thando’s sister so all the money we made we had to reinvest back into the business. Sometimes when selling on the streets the weather would be bad and we had to sell in the rain. We started selling at local events which worked well because, at that time, masses of people would be gathered in one place.
You have catered for several overseas universities. Please tell us about that?
We got an opportunity to cater for the universities. That built our confidence and our profile and many university students now love coming and having food in our place and learning about the business in the township context.
Did you have to close down completely during the lockdown (and for how long), or were you able to trade through it?
We closed one of our branches in Gugulethu completely and our main branch was open until the 20th of April after the announcement that cooked food wouldn’t be allowed for sale, but from the day the lockdown was announced we started doing deliveries only according to our Essential Services permit in order to keep the business alive.
What impact did COVID have on your business?
We lost 2 big clients for whom we had been providing snacks for their students on a daily basis. Due to this pandemic they had to cancel because schools and universities were forced to close. We had to completely close one of our branches and lay off 5 of our staff. Our business is designed on high volumes, since there were too many restrictions and most of our suppliers were closed – so prices were high and we were opening just to maintain the shop but we did not make profits.
What did you have to do differently to keep going during this difficult time?
We had to start doing deliveries and focussed more on platters and family meals. It was more convenient for our customers because they are indoors and it’s much better to have family-sized meals instead of individual meals.
Did the conditions of COVID present any new opportunities? If so, what were they?
Yes they did. Firstly we tapped into delivery since most of the well established restaurants do not deliver in the township, so that was something new for our community. Our marketing skills improved since we had more people indoors and online. We were also excited to be able to serve people outside of the community who hadn’t previously been able to try our food. Due to this Pandemic lots of people have tasted and loved our food, so this means our customers have increased!
Please tell us about your work in Lower Crossroads?
Lower Crossroads is part of our community in Philippi. Like most of our community, crime is an issue but as a brand that understands the patterns and values of the township, we always make sure we keep a good relationship with everyone and we do a lot of community work. During the Pandemic we gave 150 food parcels to the area because there are lots of informal settlements and this act continues to help us build good relationships with the community.
How many trailers/venues do you have and where do they trade?
We have one takeaway outlet in a shipping container, 2 trailers and a food cart.
One trailer operator in Gugulethu and the second trailer and food cart needs mechanical attention and they are not active.So we are mostly active in Gugulethu and in Phillippi, but we are also mobile to go to events and big gatherings in the future.
How many staff do you employ?
We have 9 full time staff and 3 part-time staff.
What is on your menu?
– Beef burgers with fries
– Quarter chicken with chips and salad
– Sausage rolls with chips and salad
– Cold drinks
Please tell us about your community involvement?
– We always make sure we intentionally make an impact in our community
– We started a Kids Fun Festival which had over 300 kids. We hired jumping castles and face painting for them during their school holidays.
– We do motivational speaking for NGOs, schools, churches.
– We have sponsored 2 boys with their matric dance clothes and transportation.
– We hire employees from the local communities.
– We help promote other small businesses on our platforms.
– We are youth activists and influencers.
– We have inspired lots of people and are helping them to start their own business.
– We have brought tourists to the township. This did not just benefit us but other small businesses.
– We donated 150 food parcels during the level 5 lockdown.
What are your next steps?
– Continue to grow and inspire the community.
– We want to grow the brand to be national but our target now is to first spread to every township.
How did you come to enter the COMEBACK competition?
Came across your post on Facebook and thought this would be a huge benefit for the business.
What will you do with the prize money?
– We want to re-brand our place and buy new uniforms for the team.
– Have enough stock.
– Pay our bills.
– Establish our delivery system.
– Buy more safety equipment for Covid-19.
– Continue to grow and inspire the community.
– Fix our trailers and have more youths employed.
What advice would you give someone who wants to start their own business?
There’s no perfect time to start, just jump, use what you have to get what you need then grow from there.
Get in touch with Estratweni Mobile Foods:
Address: 1688 WESLEY MABUZA NEW CROSSROADS 7750
Tel: +27(73) 691 1902
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/Mobilefoodscc
Email Address: Estratwenimobilefoods@gmail.com