Started from the bottom … now I am here!

Posted on February 10, 2014

Second year of University my father died. His estate was frozen. Instantly, I became broke.

With my costs of living unchanged, and a depleting cash flow I had to find creative means to earn money. It was in the obvious opportunities that my business started. With no-one selling food after-hours on campus, I took my last R 20; bought a few basic sandwich ingredients; placed them in a snackwich and made my first R 120. Years later, the guy who stood alone and money-less in a random corner of his university’s campus, now owns two burgeoning restaurants.

A frustrating challenge at the heart of the service business is recruiting people to represent you – to do what you would do in a similar situation. However regardless of what you share, people have their own interpretation of doing things. It is important therefore to prioritize human resources, as the interaction that your customers have with your employees becomes the interaction that they have with your business as a brand. When see a shortfall between the service that you expect and the one delivered, as the entrepreneur you need to discover if the cause is a result of a lack of training, or an inability. If the former, train them and give them a second chance. If the latter, fire them. 

From the early days of the sandwich corner of a University, to the Sticky Fingers brand, I have experienced failures: moments of feeling hopeless with a bitter concern for the next income stream. In that time I have learnt of the cost of chasing dreams (even on a personal level) yet flirted with the satisfaction of great success. I moved from an informal successful business which turned bad after I later opened up a burger joint on the same campus; to entering the corporate world. But the security of finance couldn’t keep the entrepreneurial imprints which had already been established. I loved selling food! I enjoyed the concern of making 120 a day to completely selling out. So, at least to me, it was almost expected when on one New Years’ Eve I turned to my brother I said: “screw this, I am going to start my own restaurant – with an American diner theme.” In response, my brother turned to me and said: “that’s OK! I’ll back you.”

The secret to my success is the relationship I have built with my customers. They rely on me for a fun experience. The concept behind the brand is that Sticky Fingers is the restaurant that your friend would open. It is place to come, relax, and enjoy food that tastes good – but that is probably bad for you.

I learnt a while ago that the only person who can stop me from trying is myself. That’s how I went from broke, to a bit more successful. The question then becomes … what’s stopping you?



Bongani Tungamirai is the founder of Sticky Fingers: an American diner themed restaurant brand  based in trendy Cape Town.