“I was able to start my business because I stopped dreaming about starting one. Instead, I made it happen,” says Thabani Dube.
From his Umlazi township home in KwaZulu-Natal emanates tempting scents of fresh-out-the oven pizza, carefully crafted by the hands of this 22-year-old business owner and kasi pizza maker.
To the locals, he is known as “The Pizza Guy”, which is also the name of his business selling close to 150 pizza’s per week. He bakes creamy chicken, chicken and mushroom, chicken and bacon, and peperoni and bacon pizzas in both medium and large sizes, which he sells from his front door.
“Sometimes we are waiting for things to be perfect. If you are doing that then you’re not ready to be in business. Start with what you have and where you are instead of waiting for things to be right or perfect,” he says.
A pizza dream takes flight
According to Dube he has wanted to be in business for a long time, but what finally pushed him to starting up was his mother.
Dube is the last born of three and his mother, Thumani, has been the sole breadwinner of their home for as long as he can remember. Both his older sister and brother are unemployed and his mother is the only one taking care of them.
“I’ve never liked that thing, it has always bothered me. I just feel like we are the ones who should be supporting her. I’m 22 now, so my mom can’t still be looking after me. She should be enjoying life,” he says.
His pizza venture took flight right at the start of this year’s covid-19 lockdown. As a huge pizza lover, Dube wondered when he would ever again have the opportunity to enjoy a pizza with all his favourite toppings, as most restaurants were locked down.
Not willing to find out how long it would take, Dube started experimenting with his own pizzas at home, in his mother’s small kitchen.
What started out as fun afternoon culinary activity soon became so much more.
“My friends and family saw me posting it on social media and they also wanted. Before I knew it, the whole neighborhood was placing their orders. Orders were streaming in,” Dube exclaims.
In an attempt to strike while the iron was hot, Dube used his last R500 to buy the ingredients for his first 20 pizza orders. Those 20 orders soon became 100 and it would not be long after that he would be dubbed Umlazi’s pizza guy.
‘I believe that If something is important to you, you will find a way to do it. But if it’s not, then you will constantly make up excuses.’
“I’ve always wanted to be in business and I always loved being in the kitchen. I really enjoy cooking, but I’ve never completed a food course, or something. I cook from the heart,” he states.
According to Dube, his new pizza business would not have happened if he was not willing to take a risk on something that was important to him.
“I believe that If something is important to you, you will find a way to do it. But if it’s not, then you will constantly make up excuses.”
These days young and old are knocking on Dube’s door for advice on starting their own entrepreneurial journeys. However, he says most people are not ready because they are too afraid.
“Sometimes we are too scared to start because we are afraid that we will fail. I’m not afraid of something I don’t know, I can only be afraid of something I know,” he states.
“I always tell them, ‘It’s either you take a risk and start something, or you work for someone who took that risk that you were afraid to take’.
“If you are afraid, I’m telling you, you are going to work for me because me I’m taking risks,” Dube adds.
Building a township empire
The entrepreneur warns that there will always be challenges. Currently his includes operating from a small space in his mother’s kitchen.
He also has one oven to make his pizza’s, which can be very challenging when orders start streaming in, Dube admits.
Despite this, Dube believes that challenges are nothing but moments of inspiration to help push someone to think outside the box.
He sees himself running the biggest township pizza franchise one day and hopes to employ many young people in his community. “I want my pizza business to be the heart of all townships,” he says.