How Sphiwe Giba founded Wolf and Co Café

Historically, entrepreneurship in townships has been limited to tuckshops, taverns and the obligatory fruit and vegetable stand, but a new generation of black businessmen are elevating the term, “township entrepreneur”

When Giba bought a shipping container, he wasn’t entirely sure what he’d use it for, but he knew one thing for sure: it wouldn’t be used to house a typical kota outlet.

But before even establishing Wolf and Co. Café in Tsakane, Ekurhuleni, he found out that starting a unique business in the ‘hood is not as easy it seems.

“I wanted a space to educate our people about coffee, a facility where entrepreneurs could meet, a home where live artists could showcase their talents and a kitchen where the best light meals would be served,” says Giba.

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“For all of this to happen, I had to endure a lot of red tape as – believe it or not – townships still have to abide by apartheid-style bylaws that were never revisited. For instance, they allow for tuckshops and taverns, but it’s way more difficult to start a place where the entire community can learn something. I had to jump through hoops in order to operate a place that would host book clubs, outdoor movie screenings, informal art lessons and lifestyle festivals that would benefit local producers and artists,” says Giba, who recently travelled to Japan to research the latest trends in coffee culture.

He’s adamant that in the year since opening the café’s doors, it has proven to be an alternative space where those who desire to mix with like-minded people are not disappointed.

“It is not yet another club,” Giba explains. “Entrepreneurship teaches you that an idea is just that: an idea. You have to implement it and, when you do this, only then do you really see if it works. By simply starting Wolf, I’ve learnt that a business has to be more than just about money, which is a constant variable. But what’s more important is the impact it has on you as the owner and the community in which you operate – if it motivates you and whether it makes you a better and happier individual. Many people who understand this and practise it with their own companies gather at Wolf – I am happy with that,” he concludes.