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Entrepreneur with a Taste for Life:Part 1

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It’s a Friday morning in the Maboneng Precinct, I am well prepared and equipped to interview one of the most popular young entrepreneurs in Joburg, Ziggy Rasta Thabethe. This young man is the owner of well renowned restaurant Pata Pata situated in the heart of Johannesburg CBD. A mutual friend recommended I have a sit down with him as I could learn a lot from him with regards to business, entrepreneurship and the influence he has on young aspiring entrepreneurs like myself. This is the journey of young Rasta on his long and bumpy road to what we now know as Pata Pata. This is only the beginning…

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Tell me about your background: education, where you’re from…that sort of thing

Ok, roots ummm..ok let’start all over again (I think he was nervous)

It doesn’t matter just go for it

Rasta Thabethe, born in Swaziland. Grew up in Soweto. Matriculated at Wits, No, Varsity was at Wits (See I told you he was nervous). Dropped out of Wits.

What were you studying at Wits?

Accounting. Left accounting, went to go and pursue marketing. Dropped out of marketing then started working, I couldn’t do this school thing.

Where did you do your marketing?

IMM, I couldn’t do the school thing, it was too much for me because at the time I had a call centre job and I needed to pay bills. So I decided to drop out and started working full time. I was working for a global IT company at the time. I ran a couple of businesses while working at this company. I was a loan shark. I had a combi which transported all the consultants. I pitched a business deal to my employers at the time because it was a call centre and introduced sanitary wipes for consultants to sanitise their keyboards because there were a numerous amounts of germs. They bought into it, I ran it for a couple of months, then they decided mmmmhhh not for us we’re losing too much cash. I was also transporting students at the time and I was selling clothes to consultants. I used to go to Meltz, and stock up on new trendy clothes. I worked for this IT Company for about two years. I left and opened up a business in Southgate selling boerewors rolls. I did exceptionally well with that.

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Where about in Southgate was your business situated?

Mondeo Crossing. Just a block away from Southgate. It was in a shopping complex, just outside Pick n Pay. It was a little space so guys used to come hang out, buy boerewors rolls and meat. So it was a little shisanyama. The precinct said no we can’t have this, it’s getting too rowdy. I had to stop that, I was still working at the IT Company, it was my last year there. My brother was based in London he’d been doing odd jobs, we were speaking and he was like “hey dude I’m sick and tired of London I want to come back to Joburg, let’s start up a business” and I was like “Geez I want to wrap this thing up as well”. So we gave each other a couple of months to wrap up what we were doing. We wrapped up, and started a plumbing business called Rastamania. So we were a plumbing, electrical and general maintenance business. We did exceptionally well at the time because the market wasn’t saturated with everybody doing plumbing and all that type of stuff. So we were contracted to one of the banks and a lot of the insurance companies. So if you were an insurer with a bank and anything happened in your house like a geyser bursts and messes up the carpet or whatever, we’d be called in to come do an assessment, we’d have a team come in and do the maintenance work. We were contracted to South African Police, so we did a lot of the SAPS barracks and all their properties. So we did exceptionally well at the time, with that business. But obviously it was a very boring business. I mean we had a lot of ambitions and a lot of plans that we had in place. So we said to ourselves what’s the next best business to do? But we need to network. So we said ok networking mmmhhh. Why not try a restaurant that’s going to touch people’s souls. Not just a 6th sense but 7 senses, touch the soul as well. We then opened up Sophiatown in Newtown. At the time Newtown was still very patchy. Cappello was still setting up. We set up a Sophiatown in Newtown, wow what an overwhelming response, business just flourished like mad, we did exceptionally well with our first restaurant which was Sophiatown. The crave for food then kicked in, we set up a younger bar because a lot of students were demanding that, so we set up Kospotong. Kospotong was next door to Sophiatown. At the time we had very minimal experience with the restaurant business so a lot of the stuff was just based on…a lot of…Ok here’s the thing.

We grew up in a business oriented family. My dad’s never been employed, ever. He used to be an informal business person, doing bits and ends like selling vegetables, doing Wendy shacks and all that type of stuff. We were introduced to the family business from a very young age. My mom was a bookkeeper. But we learned a lot of the business acumen from my dad you know because we’d have to go work with him etc. So we got the touch and the feel for it because from a very young age we had to manage the entire team that worked for him, a team of about 20/30 people under him at the time. So ja, based on that experience I think we were able to keep that boat afloat. And obviously with every single day coming with challenges, we were able to you know, figure things out. We both then took a course with Wits Business School, MAP Programme and I mean that came in handy because it was like a little mini bridging course to an MBA. So you do majority of the courses you do in an MBA but in an MBA they’re a little more detailed. Whereas with MAP they were just bridging courses. So yeah we did Sophiatown, we then opened up Kospotong, we then opened up Kospotong Braamfontein, we then opened up Kospotong Ghandi Square, and then we did Sophiatown Melville. Then after Melville we thought, you know what this is getting a bit much now, we’re two bulls in one kraal. So we decided you know what, let’s split operations, that’s when we were setting up Pata Pata. I said to him ok you run Sophiatown and Kospotong and I’ll run Shikisha and Pata Pata. Pata Pata was born in 2010 before the world cup and from the day we opened our doors man its been overwhelming. From the day that we opened our doors there’s never been a time that we had less than 300 people in a week.

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