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Café del Sol: Ryan Viljoen, Luciana Traccani and Chiara Viljoen

Family team seek to make the world a better place through inspirational dining.

Monique Verduyn




It has been said that cooking is like love – it should be entered into with abandon or not at all. It’s a philosophy that Luciana Traccani lives by. She and her son and daughter, Ryan and Chiara Viljoen, opened Café del Sol in Olivedale, Johannesburg in 2007.

“I have always loved cooking and after I got divorced, my children persuaded me to open a restaurant as our family has a passion for authentic Italian cuisine,” says Luciana.

This is not your typical trattoria. Instead, this somewhat esoteric family has taken a completely different approach to Italian food.

“We wanted to create a contemporary space that would give busy people a break from the world and inspire them to live consciously,” says Chiara. That explains the writing on the walls of this stylish eatery, which features the words of some of the world’s greatest thinkers. Beyond the décor, however, it’s the quality and freshness of the food and how it’s presented that has made Café del Sol one of Joburg’s most popular restaurants. That’s also won it a place as a finalist in the 702 Small Business Awards.

In setting up, the family put their existing skills to use. Luciana had years of experience in catering, Chiara was a seasoned marketer and Ryan an IT systems developer. Because Luciana’s food was so popular with friends and family, the restaurant was packed from day one. But be warned, this business is not for sissies.

“We started to make a profit only in year three,” says Ryan. “That’s been the result of hard and long hours. Don’t be fooled into thinking that the restaurant business is glamorous.”

To get the place off the ground, Luciana extended her bond. The family’s passion was so evident, however, that an angel investor came on board too. “He was a member of the extended family, and when he saw the energy we had, he decided to lend us money which we paid back quickly,” says Luciana.

Some of the early challenges included controlling the size of the portions, and training staff to prepare and serve food according to Luciana’s exacting standards. The business was forced to up its prices when the recession hit, but thanks to the quality, loyal customers were happy to pay extra.

“We are not a franchise, so the emphasis here is on buying the very best ingredients and experimenting from time to time so that the menu is always fresh and interesting,” says Chiara.

Vital stats

Players: Ryan Viljoen, Luciana Traccani and Chiara Viljoen

Company: Café del Sol

Launched: 2007

Contact: +27 (0)11 704 6493

Monique Verduyn is a freelance writer. She has more than 12 years’ experience in writing for the corporate, SME, IT and entertainment sectors, and has interviewed many of South Africa’s most prominent business leaders and thinkers. Find her on Google+.

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25 Of The Most Successful Business Ideas In South Africa

Find out who’s making waves in numerous industries and how they managed to differentiate themselves in local and international industries.

Nicole Crampton



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“Disruption is all about risk-taking, trusting your intuition, and rejecting the way things are supposed to be. Disruption goes way beyond advertising, it forces you to think about where you want your brand to go and how to get there,” says Richard Branson.

South Africa has its fair share of innovative and disruptive businesses taking both local and international industries by storm. From cutting edge space technology to reimagined logistics, and innovative business models, here are 25 of the most successful business ideas in South Africa:

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Colin Timmis Says ‘Position Yourself For Success By Starting With The Numbers’

People pay first who they feel pressure from, so people will pay you when they feel pressure from you.






Entrepreneur Colin Timmis founded South Africa’s first cloud accounting practice in 2011, Real Time Accounting. Then, a few years after being appointed as South Africa’s first Xero partner Colin became Xero Country Manager South Africa. Xero is the emerging global leader of online accounting software that connects small businesses to their advisors and other services.

Related: Pat Pillai On How He’s Helped Over 5000 Entrepreneurs Using 3 Key Steps

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Two 20 Year Olds Reshape Entrepreneur Landscape With New Social Investment Platform

The Merge vision is to become the ‘go to’, digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors, and to truly make a difference in the world.

Merge Connect




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It’s no secret that finding the right investor for your venture is a challenge that most entrepreneurs face. The current process of finding investment is one that is outdated, and limits entrepreneurs due to a lack of time, and network that is needed to find the right investor. But, this doesn’t have to be the case in today’s digital society, says Zander Matthee and Brandon Bate, co-founders of Merge.

“By making the Internet the middleman, we are able to connect with each other much simpler and faster than before” was Zander’s response. “We have taken advantage of this, and have created a digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors” added Brandon.

Merge is a social platform that connects entrepreneurs and investors. It aims to simplify, refine and accelerate the process of finding investment for entrepreneurs, and the process of finding investment opportunities for investors. From idea to developed, the platform allows entrepreneurs to present a brief outline of their venture to a network of all investor types. While doing this, entrepreneurs are able to browse through, and connect with investor profiles that suit their requirements.

Related: 8 Codes Of Success That Helped Priven Reddy of Kagiso Interactive Media Achieve A Networth Of Over R4 Billion

From Private Investors to Venture Capital, and everything in between, Merge allows all investor types to join. Investors have the opportunity to personalise their feed to suit their investment preferences, and will be able to connect with innovative businesses – that are looking for investment – at their fingertips. Only once there is a mutual interest in each other, are users able to enter a secure private chat where they can discuss further and share documents under the protection of a digital NDA.

The two boys became good friends during their time in high school at St Stithians Boys College. However, it was only in their last year, 2016, that they decided to pursue their dreams and create the platform. They didn’t know how to code, so rather ironically, they needed some form of investment to get the platform off the ground.


“We knew we had a mountain to climb, but we believed in our vision and that we were really trying to make a difference, and if we could get others to see that, they would be onboard.” said Zander.

Related: Lessons From The Rich And Famous: Manage Your Money Like Oprah To Avoid Going Into Debt Like Nicholas Cage

Chris Peters is one of these individuals that bought into their vision, and became Merge’s first investor. As a successful entrepreneur and part time investor , Chris saw how much value the platform could bring to all entrepreneurs and investors alike. His marketing and strategic background gave him insight into how Merge could play a vital role in a lucrative space, Brand involvement.

“Entrepreneurship and SME development are two key factors that drive economic growth in developing countries like South Africa. That is why brands are currently getting involved, and looking to support entrepreneurs through various means. We have built a platform that allows these brands to successfully market, and execute on the programmes they have created to assist entrepreneurs.” said Chris

Merge was created to assist all entrepreneurs and investors in finding exactly what they are looking for, regardless of age, race, sex, financial position or social status. That is why anybody can sign-up as an entrepreneur. As long as you are determined and willing to work for your dreams. For too long has the investor space been seen as an “elite club for the select few”, and Merge is here to change that. Whether you’ve gotten your bonus at the end of the year and looking for new investment opportunities, or are an active investor, you can sign-up. Whether you’re currently working, or a retired industry leader, you can join as a mentor.

Their vision is to become the ‘go to’, digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors, and to truly make a difference in the world.

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