More than just a java spot: Bloom Coffee's building future entrepreneurs

This 'coffice' in Parkhurst, Johannesburg, trains baristas and helps them set up their own businesses

09 May 2019 - 09:48 By CATHERINE BLACK
Once Bloom Coffee employees have been trained, the company helps them set up their own coffee shops.
Once Bloom Coffee employees have been trained, the company helps them set up their own coffee shops.
Image: Supplied

Bloom Coffee is the latest “third space” to pop up on Parkhurst’s 4th Avenue – that space between your home and your office that’s perfect for enjoying good coffee while working on your laptop, holding business meetings – there’s a separate boardroom you can book by the hour – or having breakfast or lunch with friends during the work day.

But Bloom is much more than just the latest hip coffee spot to hit the Parkhurst strip. Here, owner Alan Gibson explains how the shop is also an entrepreneurial incubator, where employees are being trained to be future Bloom Coffee shop owners as the brand expands into new locations.

Tell us about Bloom’s entrepreneurship angle?

Bloom is the latest venture from our company, Oko Vusa, whose goal it is to enable entrepreneurship in South Africa. We take small businesses and we help them to become more profitable by looking at things like sales, marketing, strategy, finance and personal development.

With Bloom, we’re teaching our employees what it means to run a business, with the ultimate goal of them opening up their own premises. So, once they’re ready to graduate from here, we find a space for them and help them set it up, and they then own it outright.

How did the idea for Bloom come about?

We get startup funds from corporates who want to do enterprise development, and one of our clients liked the work we were doing for other companies. They wanted us to take their funds and use it in the public space to make a sustainable venture in its own right. From my perspective, I’m not chasing money – I’m chasing opportunity and sustainability.

What gap are you filling in the enterprise development space?

A coffee machine like the one we have in our store costs R200k. How do we expect a newly trained barista to have the money to buy a machine like this and start his own coffee shop? I think that’s the lesson: We have all these wonderful skills development programmes available for people – like barista training – but after they’ve been trained, there’s no real way for them to progress, besides working as an employee in a coffee shop owned by someone else.

Where do you source your coffee?

We’ve partnered with Father Coffee, and they’ve been amazing. They love coffee – it’s their thing – and I needed a partner who knew their stuff and who could plug in and make it work from the start. They also trained all our staff, so the product is consistently of a high quality, independent from our entrepreneurship goals.

How has the team worked together so far?

Everyone has bought into the concept, so the camaraderie is unbelievable. Everyone is performing at the highest level;t hey’re not just going in to get their tips and wages everyday. There’s a bigger picture behind it.

Image: Supplied

This article was originally published in the Sunday Times Neighbourhood: Property and Lifestyle guide. Visit