Mzwandile Thabethe is the co-founder of Ko’Spotong and Sophiatown Bar Lounge – both inspired by the heritage of black residences and life; and that comes through from the themes of both establishments. Ko’Spotong is a sister company to Sophiatown. Ko’Spotong was established and launched in 2008, in Newton. It then expanded to Melville which later was closed, after, which; one was opened in Ghandhi Square. Another one was opened in Braamfontein; that was later closed only to comeback recently.
At the moment there is a Ko’Spotong in Braamfontein and Ghandhi square, “but now the calling is to come back home, so now we are in the processes of opening one in Soweto,” Mzwandile told us. That will help with market expansion, “bit by bit – you don’t go into flying by flying,” he said, “nevertheless, we are in the process of learning; and we have time that we’ve put in to understand and develop the business; and in the years of operating the business we have garnered valuable experience”.
“We now feel like we can go further and take proudly African brands forward to the same level as any other brands in the world. What we are committed to is a heritage that is proudly African, a heritage that talks to us as a people. And we don’t compromise on that. We are a multi-cultured people but we also have a unique heritage and we do not want to lose that. Self-preservation is important; some things we evolve with.
“As a person that grew up in Soweto, I have been cut from a lot of my heritage and roots, but I know that at least le eyasekasi sisayiqinile, the little that I have got I must hold on to and avoid being completely washed. Even with these many elements that have diluted our places of residence I strive to protect and promote what I can that makes me an African.”
The Ko’Spotong and Sophiatown theme is about an environment where one can identify with and be comfortable. The theme is about comfort. “When you are about heritage you are creating a zone of comfort to say when I walk in there I will get a sense of self and when you’re in a sense of self you’re in a sense of comfort,” he said, “so these things must marry each other especially when you in the business of entertainment.” One need not be out of place, because when you out of place you most likely to act a fool; to act dumb. The environment we created is to say to people relax you at home when you in Ko’Spotong and Sophiatown.”
Whether you are pushing an agenda of heritage, or anything else for that matter, it is important to acknowledge that people who come to your establishment or your brand are deserving of respect. “That is what we are constantly working on perfecting, because people respect us and are supporting our business. Customer service is a way of showing our customers that we treat them like family; that we appreciate them, so that tomorrow every customer acknowledges that we respect and appreciate they are support which comes from the money they work hard for.”
It is always nice to evolve as a person with and in business; and the brand has since inception opened and closed some branches of the business. “One must be able to judge when the time has come to fly the nest or go setup new grounds because grounds sometimes become fertile and sometimes you exhaust them to a point where there are no more nutrients in the ground then you go and look for greener pastures. Things do and must change, and hence we have moved Ko’Spotong to Braamfontein and Sophiatown Newton to Midrand, but we are planning on planting the brand in all kasis, in all towns, all over the cities. But we understand that will take time.”
“For one to learn and master any art or skill, like riding a bicycle, one must fall a couple of times, the problem is that many people quit on the first turn. And honestly and realistically speaking most of the successful guys who have done well in life will tell you about they are hard falls, but then it is how you tell yourself to be tough and strong and how you push yourself. It is a process, there are ups and downs and you take them with a punch and tell yourself to soldier on.”
He concluded by saying, “Business can be very lonely, it is not easy. You must be prepared to accept failure and be prepared to get up and try again; you must be well researched in what you want to do, constantly evolve with the processes, and read the market. Like we have had to do as in the case of moving to Braamfontein, after we had noticed that Braamfontein was getting a new leash of life and Midrand has a lot of people who leave there who could communicate with the Sophiatown brand. Business is like a journey like anything one has to do in life. Nothing worth having comes easy; it comes in stages.”
By Khulani Sikhosana