Empowering an Entrepreneur: Big Business Fuels Small Coffee Dreams:
Photo Cred: Harry Mohlala

A big business is supporting an entrepreneur in realising his dream and helping a small business grow in the community.

 

Johannesburg, South Africa (15 May 2024) – Through its support of Coffee on Grayston, Jacobs Coffee is helping entrepreneur Harry Mohlala make his dream come true.

That’s because Harry used to have a recurring dream where he had set up a coffee kiosk at the Department of Home Affairs near his Alexandra home. The dream was so vivid that he could see the tent that housed his kiosk, which is why he felt it was not to be ignored. The fact that he had this dream only when he napped during the day – which he seldom does – made him even more convinced that he was receiving a message that should not be ignored.

Harry was only too happy to act on that message.

“I started working straight after school, without studying, and I’ve spent time at many different companies – from an indoor trampoline park to a logistics firm, an indoor golf company, and retailers,” Harry says.

But, while the experience gleaned in these different environments and industries has been enormously beneficial, he admits that he wanted to stop job hopping and start his own business.

Thus, he handed in his resignation in November 2023 and set up the first iteration of Coffee on Grayston three months later. Although some might question the decision to establish a new business in mid-January, Harry’s timing had been deliberately considered: he knew that people would be feeling far from flush at this time of year while they were still recovering from the excesses of the festive season and new year financial obligations – and he wanted to know if he would be able to manage during such a downtime, rather than being lulled into a false sense of security by starting shortly after payday.

The trolley cart he set up to sell his cups of coffee, tea and Rooibos was met with curiosity and interest by commuters entering the M1 onramp from Grayston – but the day was not without mishaps, he reports.

“I had not yet worked out the timing of the robots, so two of my first customers were given half-empty cups of Rooibos! I had to hand them over before the lights changed.” He made amends by giving these customers a complimentary cuppa as soon as possible, he adds. “Customer service has always been very important to me.”

Harry’s business started gaining traction when it received notice from people who were eager to help him further his entrepreneurial ambitions – the team from Jacobs included. It started when he was noticed by a member of the Chefs Association of South Africa, who put him in touch with Johnson Sehoro of Sonwaro, a coffee roastery and training provider. In turn, Johnson helped him complete barista training to up his professionalism. Harry says that this is when his interest in coffee was truly sparked: up until then, he confesses, he wasn’t much of a coffee drinker.

“But learning about where coffee comes from and where it can take you helped me appreciate coffee culture – especially when I learned that coffee is the second most traded commodity, after oil.”

Harry’s second big break came in October, when a video showing him selling his coffee was posted on TikTok – and went viral.

“I didn’t even have a TikTok account at the time!” he laughs.

One of the many people who viewed the account invited him to discuss ways to grow the business and suggested reaching out to Jacobs – which is how the brand’s involvement in Coffee on Grayston came about.

“We realised this was a great opportunity to extend our reach and impact in the traditional trade segment – and, of course, to play a role in bolstering local entrepreneurship,” comments Domaine Rautenbach, senior brand manager for Jacobs.

The company has provided a branded backpack which Harry uses to pour his coffee and has provided training to ensure he has a full understanding of the full product range and can cater to customers’ different tastes. Domaine Rautenbach, senior brand manager for Jacobsacobs Coffee has also created links between the Coffee on Grayston team and various sub-distributors, paving the way for further growth while also mitigating risks.

Empowering an Entrepreneur: Big Business Fuels Small Coffee Dreams:
Photo Cred: Harry Mohlala

Harry currently sells around 20 to 25 cups of coffee every day during the four hours Coffee on Grayston operates (6 am-10 am). Customers aren’t only interested in beverages, however: many have requested a snack to go along with their morning drink. In response, Harry has introduced a range of freshly baked scones (prepared daily in a kitchen made available through Engen and has plans to launch more treats, such as biscuits and muffins.

Having hired his first employee, Phineas Mamadi, in July last year, Harry is looking forward to creating jobs for more people and establishing more sites.

Ultimately, though, he would like to create a ‘hustle hub’ to help more people who, like him, dream of becoming self-employed.

“I’m not just here for the coin; I see myself as a vessel who can help others who want to start their own business.”

Jacobs is primed to play a role in this area, too, by introducing branded bicycles that serve as mobile coffee stations. The brand is, furthermore, planning to establish Coffee on the Go stations in Spaza shops.

“This is a wonderful opportunity: on the one hand, we’re able to broaden our audience and ensure our products are more recognisable and accessible to a growing market, while on the other, we are fostering the growth of small businesses—a crucial investment in South Africa’s future.”


Sources: Jacobs Coffee | Harry Mohlala 
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Brent Lindeque is the founder and editor in charge at Good Things Guy.

Recognised as one of the Mail and Guardian’s Top 200 Young South African’s as well as a Primedia LeadSA Hero, Brent is a change maker, thought leader, radio host, foodie, vlogger, writer and all round good guy.

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