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With a kettle of hot water, utility vest with cups, entrepreneur sells coffee at traffic lights

Gauteng-based entrepreneur, Take Lehubedu Mohlabe. Image: Supplied.

Gauteng-based entrepreneur, Take Lehubedu Mohlabe. Image: Supplied.

Published Jan 23, 2023


A veteran of the hospitality industry who found himself out of work due to the Covid-19 pandemic and harsh lockdowns imposed by the government came up with an innovative way to support his family.

“I’d travel around Joburg, working odd jobs as a cleaner or in retail. Wherever I could find work, I would take it,” entrepreneur Take Lehubedu Mohlabe recalled after losing his job in the hospitality industry.

At a busy intersection along the R55 in Centurion, Mohlabe sells hot coffee to motorists passing by.

While on his way to a job interview, Mohlabe said he felt for a hot cup of coffee on a cold winter morning.

“I got to the traffic light, the same traffic light I run my business from now. I got off the taxi and went to look for some coffee. That exercise alone cost me 20 minutes and when I got on my way again, I questioned why is there no one offering coffee at any traffic light? I thought, selling coffee to motorists at the intersection could be a unique offering helping consumers save time looking for their morning pick-me-up,” Mohlabe said.

That spark ignited the flame that became CoffeeToCar.

Armed with piping hot water, kitted out with a special purpose-built vest that helps him carry cups and instant beverage mixes, Mohlabe now generates an income while fulfilling a consumer need.

As with any start-up, there were many challenges to overcome, with one of the most pressing being how to accept payments quickly from travellers with little time to spare.

There’s also the security issue of having cash on you in a high-crime environment such as South Africa, which is why so many people prefer to make and accept payments by card.

Gauteng-based entrepreneur, Take Lehubedu Mohlabe. Image: Supplied.

Not to forget the challenge of having the right change.

Any delay negatively impacts the customer experience, and reduces the number of clients Mohlabe can serve in any time period.

“Nedbank’s Tap on phone has really played a role in setting my business free to grow. It was easy to set up on my Android phone, and within a matter of minutes I could offer my customers this tap-and-go payment option where they just have to tap their bank card on the back of my phone, and I receive payment to my bank account,” Mohlabe said.

“Customer feedback has been great so far, and I really appreciate the fact that some add a tip to the amount,” Mohlabe said.

Tap on phone can be used by any South African business on a compatible Android phone, with near-field communication functionality.