Interviews

Interview With Kofi Kulcha Founder And CEO, Thabiso Mnguni!

Interview With Kofi Kulcha Founder And CEO, Thabiso Mnguni! Kofi Kulcha is a young, black owned coffee and aligned beverages company which offers a premium 100% freeze dried instant coffee.

We recently had a chat with Kofi Kulcha founder and CEO, Thabiso Mnguni to learn more about his start up business, his entrepreneurial journey and more. Check it out below.

Q: Why “Kofi” and what’s in the name?

A: The idea behind the word coffee was to have an Africanized version of the word coffee. It’s a grammatical rendition of my most beloved beverage, coffee. The most urgent realization at concept stage was to enforce a reclamation of African identity and pride through every facet and context of the brand. The word ‘Kofi’ in itself has Ghanaian roots specifically within the Akan tribe, where male children born on a
Friday are given the name.
In addition, the word ‘Kulcha’, also a grammatical and stylized rendition of the original word Culture was inspired by the pioneering streetwear brand – Loxion kulca – founded by Wandi Nzimande in the late 90s. I want my brand to be a brand that redefines culture in a nuanced and contemporary format.

Q: What inspired you to start your business?

A: Coffee, my first love. I fell in love with coffee at the age of 15 when my mother bought me a jar of Nescafe, she has been the biggest influence in my love for and journey with coffee. Later on when I left KZN, Pietermaritzburg for Johannesburg to study at UJ she would buy me a jar of coffee to go back to school with whenever I’d visit home during school holidays and that tradition continued even when I started working. My mother was and still is an early bird, so every morning when I woke up for school I’d find her in the kitchen with a cup of coffee and the exquisite smell engulfed my young and impressionable self. At the age of 12, I already knew that I wanted to be a businessman when I grow up and so when I fell in love with coffee, I already knew what business I’d be in. It was that simple and organic. I started doing my research and reading up on coffee that same year in 2008 and I haven’t stopped since.

Q: What experience are you aiming to create for Kofi lovers?

A: Our slogan is “It’s not just Coffee, It’s Art”. The focal point of our objectives is to fuse a premium coffee experience with the world of contemporary and post modern art. What you will see in the coming months is us engaging in collaborations with individuals in different disciplines of the arts. Our kofi lovers can expect a high end and tailored coffee experience from us. We aim to create a tribe of like-minded individuals from all walks of life as this brand does not just stop at the doorstep of being a consumer brand but is more so a lifestyle brand. We’re not only bringing together kofi lovers but we’re also bringing together ideas and ideals, respecting perspectives and sharpening perceptions.

Q: What are some of the challenges you have faced launching your business in the middle of a pandemic?

A: Amongst the challenges that I faced launching my business during the pandemic was streamlining the necessary paperwork to be able to focus on my core as a business as most companies and regulatory authorities were either completely shut or employees of the companies and regulatory authorities were working remotely. The type of paperwork and administrative hurdles include import and export licensing and trading permits which had to be approved before I started trading. Another challenge that I faced was studying and gauging out the general consumer sentiment during such an unprecedented historic global event which had so many consequences on the local and international economy. Nonetheless, with all these challenges facing me, I chose to take the risk and remain the optimist that I have always been.

Q: What is your differential?

A: Our differential is extracted from the personalized experience that we provide to our customers. An important part of positioning oneself as a business is having the ability to be honest about the character as well as the phase that your business is in. In order for us to be able to set ourselves apart from our larger and internationally established competitors, we have to provide a personalized touch to our shopping experience. We also differentiate ourselves by the collaborations that we engage in with individuals across all disciplines of the arts as well as social justice groups advocating for the eradication of violence against women and children – thus showing that we’re not just a brand that cares only about money but we care about making a positive impact and being a part of the fabric of society at large.

Q: Has your business started making profits yet and how are you generating income?

A: In the space of the 3 weeks that we have been operating we are already on track to break even in the next 60 days given our average daily revenue. I have been overwhelmed by the positive and keen support that I have received in the past few weeks. So far we have sold 63% of our launch stock which is an amazing achievement for such an infant company.

Q: What do you wish you had known before starting your business. Would you do anything differently?

I wish I had known to start earlier and to start with whatever I have. I know many entrepreneurs always throw that advice around and it sounds cliché but in all honesty, if a year ago I knew what I know now – I would have started with whatever resources were available and chase perfection over time and chase perfection through experiences.

Q: What are you most proud of so far as the founder and CEO of Kofi Kulcha?

A: What I am most proud of besides materializing and actualizing a lifelong dream and vision I have always had is the effect that my business and I have had on aspiring entrepreneurs that I have interacted with. There are friends, family as well as people I have never met before who have expressed how inspired they are by what I have achieved so far. Some individuals mentioned how scared and anxious they have been to start the particular ideas or projects they have in mind, especially during a pandemic but after seeing what I have been able to achieve they were more compelled to let go of their fears and take the plunge – which is something very gratifying to hear.

Q. Where do you see yourself and your business in the next five years?

A: In the next 5 years, I see myself as an experienced and influential business figure impacting the lives of tens of thousands of South Africans for the better. I see Kofi Kulcha being an internationally recognised coffee brand selling coffee in every continent and with coffee shops in every metropolitan city in Africa. My hope is that we employ at least 500 people by the year 2025. In the next 5 years we will be pushing the envelope in every aspect of the coffee industry and beyond.

Q: Are there any prospects of expansion in the near future?

A: Of course, albeit not always true however expansion is usually the signal of a burgeoning business therefore in order to expand our footprint and take advantage of new markets expansion definitely is on the cards.

Q: What advice would you like to give young people who want to start their own businesses?

A: Once you’ve done your research and have made up your mind about the business that you’re entering into, just start. The most important factor is starting, too many talented entrepreneurs end up being stifled by fear or anxiety and end up veering off the path or never trying at all because they simply don’t take the important step of starting. Whether you start big or small, dark or blue, just start somewhere – you will thank yourself later. Another important factor is to bet on yourself, do not be afraid to bet on yourself.

Q: How can potential customers reach your business?

A: Customers can check out our website at www.kofikulcha.co.za or via email at info@kofikulcha.co.za for any queries. Our social media pages are @kofikulcha on Twitter and @kofikulchaSA on Instagram and Facebook.

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