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Sushi’s Secret Sauce: Vusi Kunene of The Blackanese

Home-grown sushi chef embraces Japan with an African twist.

Nadine Todd

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Sushi at heart

Vusi Kunene has a secret. He adores sushi. Years spent in the restaurant industry as a teenager fostered a love of food and cooking, but it was sushi that really won his heart. Strange for a young, black South African male, he knows, but who can deny their passion? “I loved the freshness of the ingredients and the art of sushi,” he says.

The secret sauce

By 2008, Vusi decided he was ready to launch his own catering business, focusing on functions and events. His secret sauce? A mobile sushi bar. “I used the sushi bar to draw attention to the business. I set up at food markets and events, prospective customers could taste the sushi, and of course if they booked me I would bring the sushi bar to them. It was a great marketing tool.”

Building momentum

The strategy worked well. Vusi had secured contracts at the Sandton Convention Centre, Africa Bike Week, the Soweto Wine Festival as well as with a number of corporate clients. In each case, it was the mix of great catering and fresh sushi that sealed the deal. “The mobile catering business was doing well, but I had always planned to open a sit-down restaurant as well. I just hadn’t found a location yet.”

Read Next: Telling Untold Stories – Ek Sê Tours

Laying roots

It was at the Market on Main food market that Jonathan Liebmann, the developer of Maboneng Precinct, approached Vusi about his sushi bar. Was he interested in perhaps opening a small restaurant in the precinct?

“Jonathan had heard about what I did from other patrons and visitors to the market, and he had a space for me. I still do the market because it’s a great feature of the Maboneng Precinct, but now you can find us six days a week on Kruger Street as well.”

Opened with money saved from those weekend markets, the restaurant is a testament to Vusi’s determination and passion.

What’s in a name?

The business’s name started as a joke. “I’m a black man making sushi, and it often confused my patrons — particularly after they had tasted the sushi,” says Vusi.

“They would ask me what part of Japan I was from. I always answered, I’m not Japanese, I’m Blackenese, this is Blackenese. The name just stuck, and I thought it was perfect for my first restaurant.”

A firm fixture in the Maboneng Precinct, Vusi has also joined the Awethu Project, which is helping him develop his business acumen. The restaurant’s offering has also extended to sushi classes — South African style!

Vital stats

  • Player: Vusi Kunene
  • Company: The Blackanese Sushi and Wine Bar
  • Launched: 2012
  • Concept: Homegrown sushi experience
  • Contact: +27 (0)78 210 9671 ; www.theblackanese.co.za

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Zankewuu Extreamist Ngubane

    Sep 12, 2013 at 18:23

    Wiskhokho son get m connected

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Snapshots

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.

CEOwise

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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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Vital Stats

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.

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“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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