Bongani Kubheka | Peppered Peach Cuisine
I got into the catering industry because I love cooking. I started out as a chef in the corporate industry and later worked at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Sandton. After a while, I felt that it was time to start my own business. I offered a rent-a-chef service to anyone who was willing to pay me – mainly career mothers and wives who didn’t have time to cook – but it didn’t quite work out. The big challenge was access to market. You have this idea and you have your craft, but you also have to be able to sell that idea to clients. Financially, I had some savings for stock and petrol and, because it was just me working from my mom’s kitchen, I didn’t have massive overheads so I managed to get by.
I started associating with like-minded people in the industry; a few of us wanted to operate a canteen for a corporate call centre but, as it turned out, I would have had to do 80% of the work with only 15% of the reward. While I was undecided, I received a phone call from Kagiso Tiso Holdings (KTH) asking if I’d be interested in taking over their canteen. It was a small space but it was a great opportunity. I’d saved up all the money I’d made from my one big client and used it to buy stock and some extra equipment. That’s when Peppered Peach really took off.
KTH asked how they could help me grow my business and I told them I wanted to learn how to manage my books better. It turned out that they sponsored a Raizcorp business-development programme and invited me to apply.
Since being on the programme, I have become a lot more confident in who we are as a business and who I am as a chef. One of my personal challenges has always been trying to sell myself, but now I can do that. I also know how to separate myself from the business so, if we don’t get a particular job, I know that it’s not a personal failure. I’ve learned to put myself out there more.
At the beginning of my second year on the programme, my canteen contract with KTH came to an end. I’d already started my own kitchen so we went from having two income streams to having just one. It was probably the hardest time in my career, but also the time that I learned the most. I had four employees and needed to find enough business to pay them, pay the rent and buy stock. What I learned at Raizcorp was what I needed to turn the business around, and I was able to hit the ground running and find the clients I needed to stay in business. My drive, determination and passion got me through that challenging year, and the fact that we’re still standing is a testament to what I’ve learned and been able to implement.
We’re now targeting a niche market – corporate catering. We’re positioning ourselves as a gourmet food service specialising in private and corporate clients, and we’re also trying to break into the wedding market. I’m also pushing a new chef’s table concept which is a fine-dining experience for around 30 people to which we also invite wine companies to showcase their products.
If any aspiring entrepreneur asked for my advice, I’d tell them to just do it. A lot of us have great ideas but, because we’re scared of the unknown or of losing our income, we keep putting it off. Also, remember that your passion will only get you half way; the rest is determination and the will to succeed. You also need support structures, like family or a mentor, because it’s a lonely road and it takes a strong character to travel it.
I’d like to thank KTH for giving me my chance. I’ll be forever grateful to them for their financial and business support, and for believing in us. In particular, I’d like to say thank you to Theresa Griffiths, who has become my friend and mentor. She has believed in me more than I believed in myself. She pushed me to be better than I ever thought I could be, and I have no words to express how much she means to me.
Finally, to Raizcorp, I didn’t understand where the programme was going initially because there was such a focus on personal development. Now I know it’s because being an entrepreneur starts with me and, if I don’t understand who I am, the chances of my business succeeding are lower. Thank you for rediscovering the entrepreneur in me and for continuing to support my business. You have been a crucial fixture in my business growth and we continue to grow thanks to the education you gave me.