Sihle building brand of his brew
Sihle Magubane is brewing a coffee empire and steadily putting South Africa on the map when it comes to the brew. You have most likely seen packets of his roasted coffee beans with Sihle's Brew written in bold letters.
We meet at Northview Shopping Centre in North Riding, Johannesburg, where the former Nkandla resident has opened a coffee shop and where his product is roasted as well as packaged to be distributed.
The soft-spoken entrepreneur has worked hard all his life and he aims to leave a legacy. Orphaned at 16 years old, he worked as a gardener after school hours and at a pizza outlet on the weekends to support himself and his two siblings. At 18 he was offered the opportunity to work at an arts festival in Hilton, KwaZulu-Natal. That's when he fell in love with coffee.
"Over those four days of working, I drank so much coffee to keep me awake throughout the night. So, I asked the gentleman we were working for if there was any opportunity to be trained as a barista," Magubane said.
Magubane relocated to Johannesburg through the help of a friend, to begin his barista training. He's been in the coffee industry for 15 years. He has trained people as baristas while employed by Pick n Pay and at Ciro as the barista trainer for Africa.
"I was given an opportunity to be trained as a barista, it is my responsibility to give it back to people. Because, if I didn't get that opportunity, I wouldn't know coffee, I wouldn't know the people I am exposed to today," he said.
He registered his business in 2012. It's been tough going but he has persevered. He said when he started he had to work twice as hard because he was an unknown. Another challenge befell him when he wrote off his car and had to use taxis to deliver his coffee.
"Passion is not enough, you need to make sure you actually go to school and learn about the importance of how to handle money," Magubane said.
"I used to make money and money would go into my account and money would come out."
In 2014, he took a break from his business and decided to empower himself by attending Gordon Institute of Business Science school.
Armed with more knowledge, Magubane applied for funding from the government and was approved. He was then able to buy the machine he uses to roast the beans.
He sources his beans from all over the world, then roasts, blends and packages them at his facility. Blending means mixing various beans from different countries.
The obverse is a single origin coffee where the beans are all sourced from the same country.
Magubane wants the black community to change its attitude towards coffee. He said instant coffee can make someone sick because of the chemicals found in it but that filter coffee has many health benefits.
Mindful of the help he has received along the way, his biggest passion is giving back. In fact, Magubane had hopes of becoming a social worker when he was young.
He trains aspirational baristas for free. He is also open to mentoring young people who visit his establishments.
"I will spend time and I will mentor that person step by step," he told Sowetan.
People have offered to buy into his business but the 35-year-old refused. He felt that having a board to answer to would limit his ability to give back and erase his imprint.
"I said it's not for sale because I wanted to grow something that is started in South Africa and able to be managed by myself."
He revealed that he was currently not making any money because he's re-investing everything he makes into the business. He has plans of franchising.
"I'm not making money, I'm building a brand."
You can find his products at selected Pick n Pay, Food Lovers Market and Spar grocers.