In this time of Coronavirus lockdown, just when many small business owners in the Overstrand are living in fear of having to close down, William Chiwara, a Kleinmond coffee shop owner, decided to open a second business. It is in the nature of the true entrepreneur to see opportunities where no one else does, to be willing to take a calculated risk and then to put in the hard yards to make it succeed. That, together with a warm and sunny disposition, is an accurate description of William.
When he, his wife, Florence and little girl first arrived in Kleinmond almost exactly three years ago, it was after an epic journey starting in 2008 that took them from Mutare in Zimbabwe, where William was a coffin maker, through Botswana, to Johannesburg, and then Cape Town. Everywhere they stopped, Florence and William enthusiastically plunged into a proliferation of different jobs, learning new skills and never giving up on their hopes for a better life.
By the time they arrived in Kleinmond, William’s dream was to open a coffee and health drink shop of his own. By then he had become a qualified barista and a self-taught specialist in super foods.
The only premises he could find for his business was a shop tucked away in the so-called industrial area. With his never-say-die attitude, he took it anyway. Serendipitously, it was the best thing he could have done. Located right next door to the only gym in town, it wasn’t long before the fitness fanatics discovered his delicious super-food smoothies. His outgoing, friendly personality soon earned him not only a fan club of devoted customers, but a circle of loyal friends.
However, being the shrewd businessman he was, he realised he had little chance of attracting passing trade where he was, and six months later he was able to find new premises right on the Main Road in the same block as the police station and the Primary School, across the road from a petrol station and diagonally opposite a supermarket and small shopping centre. This was a bold move in a small tight-knit, traditional community like Kleinmond with an inbuilt suspicion of strangers, especially those from across our borders.
Totally undaunted, William set up shop, assisted by Florence who by then was pregnant with their second child. And after a few exploratory test runs, teachers from the school, policemen from down the road and eventually many ordinary citizens joined his loyal customer base from the gym and beat a path to his tiny shop. It was also ideally placed for drive-by travellers from out of town. William brought all his produce locally and his family, which now included a baby boy, attended a local church. Everybody in town knew William.
So when Hurricane Idai struck Mozambique and Zimbabwe in 2019, devastating many rural communities, and William called for contributions of clothing and household goods to distribute to the victims, piles of stuff arrived on the doorstep of his little shop in a matter of days. On his own initiative and at his own expense, William personally took two loads of clothing, food, medical items like bandages and anti-cholera medication, pots, pans and blankets to hand out in the Chimanimani region of Zimbabwe.
Now firmly ensconced in the Kleinmond landscape, William continued to keep a weather eye open for new business opportunities in the area. So when the Red Disa restaurant in the Harold Porter Nature Reserve closed its doors just before the 2019 holiday season, William managed to negotiate a 6-month contract with the reserve to serve coffee there. Giving his young brother, Archmore a crash coffee-making course and installing a spare coffee machine, they made a killing, until lockdown put an end to both that and William’s Natural Health Coffee Shop.
But while Archmore was slaving away over a hot coffee machine in Betty’s Bay, William had not been idle. Across the road from him was an Halaal restaurant, the owner of which was also a tour guide. Eventually, finding that his tourism job was clashing too often with his responsibilities at the restaurant, he decided to sell it. He was delighted to find a willing buyer in William, who had money available from the Red Disa coffee sales.
He was thrilled. The restaurant could seat about 50 people, but the main attraction was the beautiful wood-fired pizza oven in the kitchen. During their pre-Kleinmond travels, William had worked in a steakhouse and Florence had been employed at a franchise pizza outlet. “Perfect.” (His favourite word.) And thus was William’s Pizza and Grill born. It opened its doors for a test run for five days; then lockdown closed them again for over five weeks.
“It was fine,” says the ever-optimistic new owner. “It gave us time to organise everything inside, to try out recipes and to plan for the future with Florence and my two new employees, Jovan Peters and Nomakhosazana Shoba.” William says he was absolutely clear that if he was going to take on assistants in the restaurant they should be locals. “I want to create jobs for people who live in the town that has been good to us,” he emphasises, “and I also want them to know that all sections of the community are welcome in my restaurant; there will even be a play area for the children.”
They plan to start small with just six pizza types, in three sizes, on the menu, as well as a variety of extra toppings and William’s Bullet Proof Coffee. They will add steaks, side dishes and desserts along the line. “We want to get the pizzas right first and build up our clientele before we add anything else. And we’re inviting our customers to tell us what we’re doing right and what can be improved.”
In the meantime, as their new customer base steadily grows, they’re all involved in offering a delivery service, often on foot. When the Natural Health Coffee Shop is allowed to open again, Florence will run that, Archmore will go back to Harold Porter, if that’s still an option, and William, the super-entrepreneur will manage his new venture. Perfect!
William can be contacted on 078 492 5175.