“At the back of our minds, we knew what was going on. We had opened *Meneer’s eyes to the ‘chow’ income. He couldn’t stand to see two young fellows come into his vicinity and make a killing”

I have tried many endeavours in my life. From washing neighbourhood waste bins, hosting events, selling merch and various other things. The other day I was reflecting on my journey as a Young Black Man eMzansi and TKZee’s ‘Masimbela’ started playing in my head. I’m an avid music fanatic and for every situation I encounter in life, I always have a soundtrack queued up in my head; my mental music algorithm is genius like that. So, for those who might not know, this TKZee song was a diss track directed at the legendary MDU Masilela; whom the gents accused of cheating them out of their monetary dues back in the day. Le ngoma triggered flashbacks of how I have also been been swindled out of my money and swayed out of my own intellectual property; not once, not twice but countless times. 

For the purpose of this article, I’ll only figuratively narrate one particular incident of this nature. 

The hustling game isn’t child’s play and sometimes you get blindsided by the possibilities of making it big, thus letting loose of your guard and trusting more than you should. When you have ideas but no capital or little means to make your visions come alive; you’re likely to encounter salivating wolves, who disguise themselves as Meek sheep that want to lend a helping hand.  

THE BIG IDEA

The year was 2019, I had relocated to one of my favourite Kasis, Alexandra. I have always had a deep-seated love for my hood Alex, most of my noteworthy memories were created there; although I’m a gent from eSoweto, having family in the East, South and North of Gauteng, helped shape me into the man that I am today. Having been removed from Alex for close to a decade, I had to reconnect with the fellows that side in a major way. So, I linked with a close friend of mine by the name of *Gee. We had so much in common with this broer of mine in the sense that apart from us practically growing up together, we had the same vision, also like-minded and suffered the same fate in 2017(both lost our cushy jobs). 

Before my return to Gomorrah (as Alexandra is popularly known), *Gee was steady pushing his own grind, selling smoked meat and had moderate success…until he had a fall out with his then business partner. As my brother relayed the story to me, I could tell that he was really touched by how things between him and the other broer played out; but I assured him that now that I had returned, things were going to change… and indeed they did!

THE MAKING OF A BUSINESS

We started structuring our takeover one pivotal step at a time. Attending local business seminars for networking purposes, hitting up events to check the vibes and how we could add or come up with something different. It was all calculated, we wanted to revive the food business whilst introducing a lifestyle element to it (music, drinks, etc). With all this ‘go big or go home’ attitude that we possessed, two things hindered us; business headquarters and capital. Phela we were both unemployed so the money was a foreign language to us and we were in desperate need of an interpreter (an investor). 

Being the streetwise gents that we are, we went around the neighbourhood, scouting locations and how to manoeuvre our way inside of those potential working spaces. One day, while on our prowl for our business location, we came across the PERFECT spot. A local sit in bar/tavern located in Tsutsumani. That place was like the holy Mecca that sprung out of nowhere; like a water fountain in the desert; we’ll get to how it turned out to be a mirage later… excited by this discovery, *Gee informed me that the owner was his former high school teacher and that it wouldn’t be hard to convince him to give us a shot. We proceeded to meet up with the owner *Meneer, a lanky, slim Timer in his mid-50s. After proposing our idea and pointing out where exactly we’d like to operate from, *Meneer assured us that he’d run the proposition by his wife and he’ll get back to us. We exchanged numbers and after 3 days we got a call that we should come for a second meeting. *Gee and I were way ahead with everything that we had planned for this meeting and went for the jugular with our presentation. *Meneer and his wife were appeased with our proposal and gave us the greenlight as well as offering to build the mini café where we had suggested. Finally, our plan was in motion. 

WE ARE  WINNING NOW 

As a way to generate buzz for our business, myself and *Gee decided to host an event. There was a big Pirates vs Chiefs game coming up and we executed nicely on that day. We set up the projector for the match and also organised the sound system for the nighttime vibe; we had struck gold, people showed up in droves, bought drinks and we spread the word that in a few weeks we’d be open for business. *Meneer seemed pleased by our efforts and affirmed to us that our working relationship was set in stone. 

After the hype and dust settled from the successful event, we began working tirelessly, making sure that our establishment was ready. Painting, cleaning our equipment, organising the seating and gearing up for our big day; unaware that we were in for a rude awakening! 

THEN THE WORST HAPPENS

The structure was built, painted, set up mnandi, we were ready and then we were called in for a meeting by *Meneer. He told us he had to go to a high school in Mpumalanga for exam paper marking and that we need to delay opening until he returns. As suggested, we held off on the grand opening for weeks without getting a response from *Meneer. Being the stand-up guys we are, we then decided to follow up by going to the premises; guess who’s car we found parked right in the yard? *Meneer’s! After being informed that he wasn’t around, our gut started to tell us that something was foul but as hopeful as we were, we disregarded our instincts. Another week passed and I told *Gee that we needed to go find out what’s the hold-up. As we got there, we were met with droopy and seemingly sad eyes from *Meneer. He sat us down and told us that culinary inspectors came and asked him to create a Zoning space for patrons and a whole bunch of stuff that weren’t making any sense to us. He also told us ukuthi the Zoning was going to cost him a lot of money, the man appeared to be stressed; even Denzel Washington couldn’t portray that role with such conviction. 

At the back of our minds, we knew what was going on. We had opened *Meneer’s eyes to the ‘chow’ income. He couldn’t stand to see two young fellows come into his vicinity and make a killing…No…he had to have the whole pie to himself! And like that, we were hustled out of our own ambitions of ukuthengisa igawulo. Hardly a week after our last (and final) meeting with this Timer, there were ‘tenants’ operating  in our space. The question everybody asked us was: “What happened? We thought you guys were opening up a food joint…” It was a really mentally taxing period in our lives. We took the L sa Knockheka kanjalo but the invaluable lesson was to never count your chickens before they hatch and that people can switch up on you at any point in time; especially in business. With all that said, that shouldn’t discourage people from continuing to hustle, it’s only to highlight that these things happen and if they do; take it with a pinch of salt and keep it moving. 

Ngiyema lapho

Writer: Tebogo Kawawa

About Rewo Banele

administrator
Before we can educate the youth about business, we need to confront the challenges that are constantly destroying the youth before they even begin looking towards trying entrepreneurship. I was once a young man who needed someone to show me the potential I possessed as a young man growing up in the township. Today I am an Entrepreneur, Author and Executive Producer with a passion to educate young people in the township about their potential and challenges through entrepreneurial and substance abuse content. This is why I have dedicated part of this website to address issues of substance abuse and crime. Only after addressing these can we have hope to inspire young people into entrepreneurship.

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