'My phone rang non-stop': Thando Makhubu used R350 grant to start gourmet ice cream business in Soweto
Makhubu was mentioned by the president during the state of the nation address
It all started with an image of an ice cream that caught his eye on Pinterest.
Now, 18 months later, Thando Makhubu of Jabulani in Soweto owns a booming gourmet ice cream business he kick-started by saving up his social relief of distress (SRD) grant.
SA went into lockdown in 2020 and the R350 grant was introduced for unemployed citizens and qualifying foreign citizens in distress.
Makhubu got a mention during the state of the nation address on Thursday when President Cyril Ramaphosa said he had used his R350 grant to start an ice-cream shop which now employs four people.
Mr Thando Makhubu from Soweto received the R350 grant for 7 months last year, and saved it to open an ice-cream store that now employs four people.— Cyril Ramaphosa 🇿🇦 (@CyrilRamaphosa) February 10, 2022
“Mindful of the benefits of the grant, we will extend the R350 SRD grant for one year to the end of March 2023,” said Ramaphosa.
Makhubu said he started the business in August 2020 and used R700 — two months' grant savings.
“With my first [grant] payment, I assisted at home with groceries, but while sitting before receiving the second payment, I told myself that I need to do something sustainable with the money,” Makhubu told TimesLIVE on Friday. He saved up his second and third payments.
He had no idea that he would be mentioned by the president. He was not even watching the address because he was at gym.
“I was surprised when friends and family started calling me, telling me that the president is speaking about me. My phone rang non-stop, it was screenshots from Twitter, some sent me the video. It was just crazy.”
He was humbled having his story mentioned in the president's address and hopes it will inspire other young people to find a way to start their own businesses with the R350 grant.
Asked how he managed to save the money, Makhubu said he told himself to find a way to survive those two months without it and acted as if the money was not there.
“I still stay at home and we have been relying on my mom’s social grant for survival, so I don’t have that many expenses. I negotiated with my family and let them know that I will be saving my R350 for a business I want to start so they shouldn’t expect any contributions from me.”
After two months of saving he returned to that interesting ice cream spotted on Pinterest and thought it was time to make his project a reality.
Makhubu, 30, a qualified fashion designer and photographer, said his income was affected by the Covid-19 lockdown. He has always had a love for entrepreneurship.
“No events were taking place so people didn’t need my services and one thing I saw is that I need to start a business that people would need, no matter what happens.”
While you might expect that ice cream is a seasonal product, Makhubu said it did not appear to work that way.
He is busy throughout the year, even during the winter months.
“One thing I realised is that my aggressive marketing strategy is working, so I have to keep on reminding people that I’m here, and they forget about the weather and come for the treats.”
He uses social media platforms to advertise his business.
His first client was socialite Mohale Motaung.
“I’ve known Mohale for a while and sometimes he uses my services as his photographer, so after creating my first ice cream I invited him to come to taste it. He posted a photo of himself with the ice cream on social media to thousands of his followers. The rest is history.”
With load-shedding a reality, Makhubu said early in his business he invested in a generator from his profits.
“I had to buy it to make sure my stock is protected and I’m able to trade when we don’t have power.”
Makhubu has employed three family members to assist in the business and employed a neighbour as a car guard and marshal to direct customers where to park.
“For now I’m keeping it in the family, because they share the same vision and are invested as much as I am.”
Makhubu runs the business from his home in Soweto, but hopes to expand. He wants to find property in Soweto to maintain his business's identity, which he has named Soweto Creamery. His ice creams are priced from R70 to R390.
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