Selling Kotas helped this Durban woman pay off her university fees

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Sithembile Zondi started selling kotas after seeing how much people loved it in Johannesburg.
Sithembile Zondi started selling kotas after seeing how much people loved it in Johannesburg.
Sithembile Zondi/Supplied
    • Sithembile Zondi started selling kotas after seeing how much people loved it in Johannesburg.

    • She’s now able to pay for her and her brother to go to university.

    • Her food is so in demand that people have asked her to add burgers and shawarmas to her menu


    Fried chips, eggs, and achar. Russians, cheese, tomatoes. Patties, lettuce, cucumber or onions. No matter what the combination or topping, everyone in the country has fallen in love with a kota at one time or another.

    This is why when Sithembile Zondi (24) needed to make more money to support herself and her family of five, she turned to the tried-and-tested staple. 

    Thembi, as she is affectionately known, lives with her grandfather, two sisters and brother in KwaMashu, Durban. She got the idea while visiting an uncle in Johannesburg. 

    “I saw how much people there loved amakota and this was something I was not familiar with, as back at home this is not a popular business,” she says.  “I then started researching how to make my own kota, looking at how I could make mine different.” 

    When she got back home, she made her own kota and uploaded it on her WhatsApp status.

    Her contacts started asking her where she had bought it and she knew it could work as a business. 

    “And I knew it will help ease the financial constraints we were faced with,” she says. The family of six was solely dependent on their grandfather’s pension and Thembi’s part-time retail work.  

    Read more | From ice-cream, sneakers and farming - these 5 black entrepreneurs under 30 will inspire you

    She started her business, Fatty Fingers Fast Food, at the beginning of the year using her R300 savings.

    “I bought six loaves of bread, a bag of potatoes and the sides. I started very small and each time I made a profit I would top-up on the ingredients.” 

    The community has been very supportive, not only in buying her food but also spreading the word. 

    Abantu bayakuthanda ukudla kwami [People love my food] and have been sharing on social media about my business.”

    Now she’s makes more than just bunny chows.

     “There are other types of food that people wanted me to include, so I started making shawarmas and burgers,” she says. 

    “The food business has really helped us as a family, including the little that I make at the retail shop I work for at Gateway Mall.”

    thembi
    Sithembile started selling kotas after seeing how much people loved it in Johannesburg.
    thembi
    Sithembile says she has received overwhelming support from her community.
    thembi
    Her food is so in demand that people have asked her to add burgers and shawarmas to her menu

    Living her dream

    It’s given her a chance to make one of her dreams come true. After matric, she didn’t have money to go to university but now, thanks to her kota business, she’s a forensic investigations student at Unisa. 

    “I just like investigating people,” Thembi laughs.  She says juggling all these things has not been easy, yet she is not planning on giving up.

    “Working while studying and running a business has been a lot. I never have time to rest. But I don’t want to quit working because the money I make there really does help us a lot, and the business money is helping send my younger brother to school as well since he started university this year,” Thembi tells us.

    When she is at work, her brother, Njabulo Zondi (22), runs the business.  “I trained Njabulo on how to make everything.”

    On her off days, Thembi then oversees the operation. 

    “Since lockdown, I work one full week and I am off for another week. I don’t want to lie, there is no time to rest.”

    When the country went into under lockdown, Thembi stopped making food but picked up in level 3 and now Fatty Fingers Fast Food is thriving. 

    “Before lockdown, the business was slow as I was still new and didn’t have a lot of customers,” she says. “But since we opened at the beginning of June, we have had a lot of customers.”

    Read more | Tzaneen farmer on how she has kept afloat during lockdown - and her advice to aspiring farmers

    With lockdown taking several jobs and people looking for alternative methods to make money, Thembi says when opening a business, be patient. 

    Things do not always go according to plan. 

    “We all need to start somewhere. You must expect anything. There will be slow days and at times you will make a loss, I also go through those days. But you must carry on and don’t lose hope.” 

    The most important part of it all is building a loyal clientele, which takes time. But once it gets going, your business could change your life, she says.  “Use your talent and skills to sustain yourself.”

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