Connect with us


Sophia Town Bar Lounge: Ziggy And Mzwa Thabethe

Two former waiters open their own restaurant in one of Jozi’s hippest centres

Juliet Pitman



Ziggy And Mzwa Thabethe of Sophiatown Bar and Lounge

When brothers Ziggy and Mzwa Thabethe started waitering in restaurants, they, like many other youngsters, were simply hoping to earn some extra cash. But where these entrepreneurs differ is that they used the experience to learn all they could about the restaurant business– and today own one of the hottest spots on the Newtown bar and restaurant scene.

“The man we worked for at Ocean Basket was a fantastic person to learn from, he was very hands-on and very inspiring. We were waitering at his new branch, so we had exposure to the full set-up process of a restaurant from scratch. It gave us a good feeling for what it takes to set up an operation properly under considerable time pressures and make it work,” recalls Ziggy.

The pair fell in love with the energy and buzz of the restaurant trade and vowed that one day they’d own their own spot. 

In the meantime, however, they set about gaining experience. “Mzwa headed overseas where he worked in a number of different bars and restaurants, all the while gathering information about different processes and ways of doing things, while I managed a call centre at Dimension Data overseeing about 30 people, which gave me invaluable experience in managing, motivating and interacting with staff.

It was a sophisticated corporate environment where customer service was everything,” relates Ziggy. In many ways, however, the brothers were destined for entrepreneurship. “Our father was a hawker and as young boys we worked hard helping him buy, repackage and distribute vegetables to informal settlement dwellers.

At the end of each day, we had to make sure that the money balanced otherwise there’d be hell to pay!” Ziggy laughs.

Each new thing they learned, the brothers added to a growing repertoire of business knowledge, which was to prove invaluable when it came to opening Sophiatown Bar Lounge in the heart of Newtown. They explain the drivers behind the brand:

“We wanted to create a place that would unite people under one roof, something that would have an energy and vibe and a personality of its own. Sophiatown is close to the heart of so many South Africans and was a place that reflected the kind of individualistic, cosmopolitan energy we were looking for.

It’s about culture and heritage and we also knew that the theme would attract not only locals, but the tourist trade as well.”

What they hadn’t planned for was the amount of media attraction the venue would generate. “To be honest our marketing was initially not great but the media just loved the idea and we got loads of free exposure, which was a good sign that the place had the kind of attraction we were looking for” says Ziggy.

There can be no doubt that the media hype and market response are partially the result of the fact that Ziggy and Mzwa understand their market intimately. The reason they believe that Sophiatown Bar Lounge is so successful is that it reflects the vibrant buzz of the young, hip, Newtown scene, and offers a menu that’s an eclectic mix of local South African dishes with a twist of sophistication as well as regular live music and DJ events.

“On any given Friday, the place is pumping from 4 pm,” they explain. 

But early windfalls were balanced by some significant challenges. The brothers experienced tremendous difficulties in getting finance from one of the country’s leading banks. “It was a nightmare,”relates Ziggy, “We had to have a signed lease in order to get funding but once the lease was signed we waited months for the money we’d been promised to come through. This meant that in total we paid R180 000 in rent over those months,without any money coming in from the restaurant because we needed the capital to set it up. If we hadn’t had our other construction and plumbing business to support us and provide the rent money, the whole venture would have folded.”

Assistance came in the form of intervention by Khula Enterprise Finance, an independent agency of the Department of Trade and Industry. They got the funding they needed, but their experience highlights the many difficulties entrepreneurs face in accessing funding through traditional channels.

However, the future looks bright and Ziggy and Mzwa are in consultation with the Franchise Association of South Africa and the Gauteng Enterprise Propeller to franchise the Sophiatown Bar Lounge concept. “We want to be the biggest black-owned franchise in this market in the next five years and although it appears to be earlier than we had anticipated that’s only because the demand has been so great.

Our customers want this venue in Cape Town, in Soweto, all over South Africa and we already have a list of 15 prospective franchisees,” says Ziggy. Just goes to show what hard work, vision and passion can achieve in a little over a year.

Contact: +27 11 836 5999,

Juliet Pitman is a features writer at Entrepreneur Magazine.


27 Of The Richest People In South Africa

Here are 27 of South Africa’s richest people, but how did they achieve this level of wealth? Find out here.

Nicole Crampton



Prev1 of 28


Learn the secrets of SA’s most successful business people, here is the list of the 27 richest people in South Africa:

In a world with growing entrepreneurship success stories, victory is often measured in terms of money. The feat of achieving a place on this list is, however, years of hard work, determination and persistence. “One has to set high standards… I can never be happy with mediocre performance,” advises Patrice Motsepe.

From the individuals that made the 27 of the richest people in South Africa list, actual entrepreneurs and self-made business people dominate the list; while those who inherited their fortunes have gone on to do even bigger and better things with their wealth. Over the years, some have slipped off the list, while others continue to climb higher and higher each year.

  1. Elisabeth Bradley
  2. Sharon Wapnick
  3. Bridgette Radebe
  4. Irene Charnley
  5. Wendy Ackerman
  6. Paul Harris
  7. Wendy Appelbaum
  8. Mark Shuttleworth
  9. Desmond Sacco
  10. Giovanni Ravazzotti
  11. Markus Jooste
  12. Gus Attridge
  13. Gerrit Thomas Ferreira
  14. Cyril Ramaphosa
  15. Adrian Gore
  16. Raymond Ackerman
  17. Michiel Le Roux
  18. Lauritz Dippenaar
  19. Jannie Mouton
  20. Stephen Saad
  21. Patrice Motsepe
  22. Allan Gray
  23. Koos Bekker
  24. Ivan Glasenberg
  25. Christoffel Wiese
  26. Johann Rupert
  27. Nicky Oppenheimer
Prev1 of 28

Continue Reading


Watch List: 50 Top SA Black Entrepreneurs To Watch

South Africa needs more entrepreneurs to build businesses that can make a positive impact on the economy. These up-and-coming black entrepreneurs are showing how it can be done.

Nicole Crampton



Prev1 of 51


Early-stage South African entrepreneurial activity is at an all-time high of 11%, according to Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, and entrepreneurial intentions have also increased to 11.7%. With both activity and intentions growing significantly year-on-year, there are more businesses opening up around South Africa than ever before.

The increase in entrepreneurship has seen the rise of more black entrepreneurs across numerous sectors. From beauty brands to legal services and even tech start-ups, these are 50 top black entrepreneurs to watch:

Prev1 of 51

Continue Reading


Watch List: 50 Top SA Small Businesses To Watch

Keep your finger on the pulse of the start-up space by using our comprehensive list of SA small business to watch.

Nicole Crampton



Prev1 of 51


Entrepreneurship in South Africa is at an all-time high. According to Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), total early-stage entrepreneurial activity has increased by 4.1% to 11% in 2017/2018. This means numerous new, exciting and promising small businesses are launching and growing.

To ensure you know who the innovative trailblazers are in the start-up and small business space, here are 50 of South Africa’s top establishing companies to watch, in no particular order:

  1. Livestock Wealth
  2. The Lazy Makoti
  3. Aerobuddies
  4. Mimi Women
  5. i-Pay
  6. AfriTorch Digital
  7. Akili Labs
  8. Native Décor
  9. Aerobotics
  10. Quality Solutions
  11. EM Guidance
  12. Kahvé Road
  13. HSE Matters
  14. VA Virtual Assistant
  15. Famram Solutions and Famram Foundation
  16. BioTech Africa
  17. Brand LAIKI
  18. Plus Fab
  19. LifeQ
  20. Organico
  21. 10dot
  22. Lenoma Legal
  23. Nkukhu-Box
  24. Benji + Moon
  25. Beonics
  26. Brett Naicker Wines
  27. Khalala
  28. Legal Legends
  29. The Power Woman Project
  30. Aviro Health
  31. AnaStellar Brands
  32. Data Innovator
  33. Fo-Sho
  34. Oolala Collection Club
  35. Recomed
  36. VoiceMap
  37. ClockWork
  38. Empty Trips
  39. Vula Mobile
  40. SwiitchBeauty
  41. Pineapple
  42. The Katy Valentine Collection
  43. OfferZen
  44. KHULA
  45. Incitech
  46. Pimp my Book
  47. ART Technologies and ART Call Management
  48. Prosperiprop
  49. WAXIT
  50. The Sun Exchange
Prev1 of 51

Continue Reading



Recent Posts

Follow Us

We respect your privacy. 
* indicates required.