From being a barista, working for a top coffee manufacturing company and eventually owning his own brand, Sihle Magubane owes his success to being patient while waiting for the best brew of coffee. Magubane now owns Sihle’s Brew, which is the first black-owned coffee brand in South Africa. The business employs 18 people and three more staffers are set to join the team soon.
Magubane, who is from iNkandla in KwaZulu-Natal, started his business in 2012. He currently has two coffee shops – Barista Lovers – in Northriding and Woodmead in Johannesburg.
Magubane also supplies his coffee brand to large retailers like Spar and Food Lover’s Market. The coffee expert manufactures his own ground coffee with beans he sources from Central America, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Guatemala and Brazil. With these, he produces five signature blends of 100% arabica, including the Original (light chocolate toffee with a hint of tropical fruit) and the Signature (dark chocolate hazelnut with a spicy note) blends.
Magubane told Vutivi News that his journey started in 2003 when he was employed in Durban.
“While working as a barista for different shops, I was trained by Roberto Monterrage, who taught me all I know about coffee,” he said. “I also worked as a product specialist in coffee in the retail sector before joining Ciro Coffee. I also studied various courses in the coffee industry and received certification and accreditation.”
Magubane said that after he was sufficiently armed with the necessary experience and knowledge, he decided to start his own business. “I opened my first coffee shop in Northriding, and in 2018 I received funding for manufacturing equipment from the Small Enterprise Development Agency, which helped me penetrate the retail market,” he said.
“We currently supply 32 Food Lover’s Market stores and seven Spar stores nationwide. We have also just received a contract with Pick n Pay to manufacture No Name Brand coffee and to sell our own brand through them.” Magubane said that breaking into the retail market took a lot of patience and perseverance.
“It took us three years to get listed for the Pick n P contract and four years to secure the Food Lover’s Market deal,” he said. “To secure the Spar deal was easy because they have buyers all over who will decide if they will take the product or not.”
Magubane believed that complying with industry standards was the reason for his success.
“Compliance helped the business. Even though it took me a while, it was worth it because it opened doors for me,” he told Vutivi News. “I also learned to be patient especially when trying to compete in the retail market. It’s not easy competing with big coffee brands, and without hard work, it is difficult to succeed on faith alone.”
Magubane said his businesses had been so successful that many companies have offered to buy them. But he has turned all of them down.
“The amounts of money companies were offering were tempting, but I asked myself if I want to cash up or build a company that will sustain my family,” he explained. “I decided to keep my faith and to push on through the journey. If I fail, I would have failed to try.”