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Life, Served In Two Slices




Born in Zimbabwe to British parents, Sally J’Arlette-Joy moved to London at the age of 16, during the years of political unrest in Zimbabwe. In London, she worked as a legal secretary and DJ, and met her comedian husband. The pair soon moved to South Africa after falling in love with the country during a visit.

Thereafter, they opened an entertainment restaurant called Stars but J’Arlette-Joy sold it after her husband took off with a young waitress. She had had enough of the food industry, and decided to take a year off work.

As life happens, she was forced out of retirement in 1996, when she realized she only had R5,000 ($420) left in her bank account. Sandwiches seemed the obvious choice to her as she had stopped to grab one every day on the way to work, while living in London. She remembers occasionally treating herself to a crispy French bread stuffed with tuna, mayonnaise and fresh salad.

Using R1,000 ($84), she worked from home, typing up a small menu and distributing it. It wasn’t long until she got her first call. With word of mouth working for her, she couldn’t cope on her own and hired her first employee, two weeks into the business.

With success comes scrutiny. Someone tipped off the health inspector and she was told she could no longer sell food from home. With no other choice, J’Arlette-Joy rented a shop using the money she had left. It had nothing but a table, fridge, desk and telephone. Using her credit card she bought an old Honda motorbike for deliveries.

“Whoever reported me helped me because my business more than doubled,” says J’Arlette-Joy.

After a year in business, a woman approached J’Arlette-Joy looking to buy a franchise. She was turned away but more followed, at this point J’Arlette-Joy had three stores.

Eventually intrigued by the franchising idea, J’Arlette-Joy got reading material from the Franchise Association of South Africa but admits she put the idea on the back burner when the books didn’t make any sense to her. With growing demand and constant enquiries in the next couple of years, J’Arlette-Joy had to dig in and read so she could write her operating manual.

It was in 2002 that she sold her store in Germiston as the first franchise. Nineteen years and more than 50 stores later, her business, Sandwich Baron, is booming, and J’Arlette-Joy says she never thought she would have so many stores.

Her business strategy was simple, stressing quality and freshness. All the ingredients are cut to order. There are regular check-ups on the stores to maintain quality control. J’Arlette-Joy interviews potential franchisees personally, preferring owner-run stores, where the owners risk their own money. The franchise also goes against what is considered the norm, shying away from large malls because of the higher rent.

Thirty percent of the business comes from functions, about 10% from the stores leaving the rest to delivery orders. This is why it’s not uncommon for a large store to have 14 drivers.

J’Arlette-Joy admits she has never felt any competition in her particular market. The initial cost of a franchise is R575,000 ($48,345), excluding VAT, and returns are said to be R21,000 ($1,765) per R100,000 ($8,407). J’Arlette-Joy is up for expansion but trying a couple of new things. She has sold a master license for 45 stores in Soweto and funded the first one herself.

“We’re more of a sandwich factory than shop,” she says.

“Once the Soweto store is established, I will look into opening more in the townships.”

J’Arlette-Joy is hands-on with her business, personally owning two stores in the franchises’ top five.

The company is also launching a new tuck-shop initiative using staff members that have been around for five to six years. Each shop will take R100,000 ($8,407) to set up. The key is convincing the schools to allow it.

“I already have two successful tuck shops in private schools and have empowered a manager of mine who has worked for me for eight years into one of them,” says J’Arlette-Joy.

“She takes very good care of her franchisees; she believes in true partnership with them and she doesn’t try to be a dictator,” Jacques Taljaard, now former development manager at Sandwich Baron, once told CNBC Africa.

J’Arlette-Joy is not looking to retire anytime soon. She has two sons waiting to take over but says they must learn to run their own shops first and even then they may not be ready.

Her parting words to aspiring entrepreneurs are clear: “To be successful you have to really believe in your business.  If you think you will fail, you surely will.”


IN PICTURES | Truck Entrepreneur Drives Style Movement




Collaborations are key for the development of Africa’s sports economy

On a busy road in Soweto, in the southwest of Johannesburg, taxis go about their daily drill, stopping to pick up passengers outside the apartment-tenements of Chiawelo. Here, a truck of a different kind is stationed next to an old container and a car wash.

It’s owned by Siyabulela Ndzonga, a small entrepreneur dabbling in fashion, who has turned it into a concept store, on wheels.

Ndzonga,who brands himself Siya Fonds (S/F) – after a nickname his mother gave him as a baby, has been associated with the South African Fashion Week and with reputed designers such as Ole Ledimo, the founder of House of Olé, and stylist and fashion guru Felipe Mazibuko.

I didn’t even study fashion but it’s interesting how I’m actually making an impact and contributing a lot in the fashion industry, says Ndzonga. 

It was around 2011, when he sold second-hand clothes on the trendy streets of Braamfontein in Johannesburg, where only the cool kids would hang out.

“I was big on thrifting; selling second-hand clothes. I would thrift, resell,thrift, resell.”

His hard work earned him a stall at one of the flea markets in Johannesburg. At this point, Ndzonga was still employed at a retail store. After work and on weekends, he would be hustling on Johannesburg’s streets, all for the love of fashion and because people loved his work.

Ndzonga saw a business opportunity, quit his retail job and registered his brand in 2013. Later that year, Toe Porn socks contacted him and requested he consult for them.

“Brand consulting means that I come in and take their clothes and use them to translate the current fashion trends, translate them to how I think [people]should be dressing in terms of fashion. I actually became a designer because I set trends before they would trend. I would set the tone, narrative and navigate where fashion should go in the whole world, not just in South Africa,” he says.

His fame slowly grew and he started making clothes for others, traveling by taxi to CMT (cut, make and trim) factories in Germiston, 42kms from his hometown. 

“In 2015, that’s when I really saw that I am growing as a brand and that’s when I started consulting for international brands like Palladium Shoes, Fila and Ben Sherman.”

The business grew but he had to travel to others parts of country and that exercise was taxing.

He stopped making clothes and paused his business.

“The whole of 2016, I focused on consulting and saved money to set up a truck. I needed a store so people could come in and purchase Siya Fonds from the truck. This whole thing of delivering is not me, I can’t do it,” says Ndzonga.

“I initially wanted a container, but the truck was a better, fresher alternative. I’m not the first to do it, but I’m the first in Soweto. I set it up and people love it because it’s bringing popular culture to Soweto. I had to trust myself that’s it’s going to work and it did.”

The truck had been lying unused when Ndzonga purchased it, and he overhauled it with a lick of paint and an infusion of color and character.

I got another truck to pick it up and bring it to the current location in 2016.

In March 2017, the truck was launched as a concept store and he called it Block 88, as it encompasses other brands as well.

“Business was not so great after the launch. It only picked up after a few months of selling a few international brands that I consult for. We had seven brands in the store.”

He sells t-shirts, caps, jackets and jumpsuits. A two-piece suit sells for R1,400 ($97).

The next step for Ndzonga is to have stores in all the neighborhoods in Soweto and major South African cities.

Since the inception of his truck, he has also injected some vibrancy into the community.

He organizes art development programs and conversations around social issues on Fridays outside the truck, gathering youth and children.

“Conversation Fridays is like TED-talks. It’s bringing conversations to the township instead of having them in the city or suburbs and speak about what creatives are facing in the creative space and industry,” he says.

Now, he works as a consultant with a consumer agency and collaborates on a number of brands, also doing research for them. As the hustle and bustle quietens down at sunset in Soweto, Ndzonga’s trendy truck shuts shop. Tomorrow will be another day as a beacon of hope and vibrancy on a Soweto street.

Siyabulela Ndzonga of Siya Fonds. Picture: 
Motlabana Monnakgotla

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