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Trading A Cup Of Coffee For A Day At School

Jaco De Witt, Founder of coffee shop Roast Republic, on how to stay relevant.

Standard Bank




Vital Stats

At first sight it’s hard to imagine that Jaco De Witt has been anything other than a barista. But, as they say, you can’t judge a book by its cover.

Wearing jeans, chequered shirt and standing at the counter of the Roast Republic coffee shop, he is obviously happy and totally at home in his surroundings. His welcoming smile and open personality speak of a person who is exactly where he wants to be, doing exactly what he wants with his life.

It is only when he begins to speak that you realise his passion for coffee is driven by something far deeper than just being a maker and purveyor of coffee. His conversation is peppered with phrases that soon make you realise that he is far from being your average young entrepreneur.

He talks about ‘capitalism with a conscience’ and the need for entrepreneurs to have an approach to business that speaks to social obligations as well as a contribution to the corporate ‘triple bottom line.’ It soon becomes obvious that he is also a man who literally ‘puts his money where he mouth is.’

Related: Female-Power Getting On With The Business Of Building The Nation

This entrepreneur, the founder of Roast Republic is both dedicated to the art of coffee making and making a difference by ensuring that 50% of gross profits made by the business are funnelled into educational development projects in South Africa.

“Social entrepreneurship is about challenging the way that people do business, challenging capitalism that is just about the bottom line. It is about challenging the way that you make a living. It is really about the triple bottom line of people, planet and profit, and making a sustainable difference in life and helping others.

“I believe that you can have a profitable business and a social conscience at the same time. You can make a difference by doing what you love and what you are good at,” says Jaco with a conviction that recalls his days as a pastor.

Entrepreneurs must know how to bounce back – watch the Roast Republic interview here.


Putting his passion for people and business into the same ‘basket’ began about five years ago when his interest in coffee led him to study the art of coffee roasting. His business persona saw the high profit margins available in coffee, his social conscience the chance to base the business on a ‘shared profit model.’ The concept of ‘social franchises ‘ was born and took root.

“The idea was that we should access enterprise development funding from large corporations that are legally obliged to funnel one percent of their profits into enterprise development and use the money to create opportunities for young, qualifying individuals to own a business. “

Related: What Tradesmen Should Consider Before Starting their Own SME

The vision has translated itself into three shops that operate as coffee shops and also market the various coffees roasted by the business. Located in office parks the businesses meet the growing need for office workers to have a steady supply of quality coffee close at hand during working hours.

The next step in the Roast Republic concept, the ‘coffee shop in a box’ was born from Jaco’s conviction that a coffee shop needed to be small, movable and able to get to coffee drinkers where they were, rather than have the customers come to a shop.

After toying with the idea for a while, Jaco brought together some friends in the shipping container industry and architects to help design a mobile coffee shop.

“It is a self-contained unit that is fully equipped. It just opens up and is ready for business. It is a plug and play solution that can be operational within 45 minutes of being placed on site. For an entrepreneur entering the franchise, the advantage is that a site for the business, which requires a minimal infrastructure, can be identified and the business can then be placed in situ ready to serve the public.

“Where the social franchise concept comes in is that we realised that people within the coffee industry were working in an enterprise where their upward mobility was restricted. Unless they received assistance, they would never be able to own a business,” says Jaco.

“We began looking at enterprise development and finding ways that we could help people working at Roast Republic become their own bosses.”

A partnership with Standard Bank has helped find a way forward. The coffee shop accelerator programme will involves the bank and Roast Republic in developing business training to help young entrepreneurs. Following this with hospitality industry and franchise training sees the emergence of people ready to compete in the coffee industry. The first intake of potential barista’s will kick off the programme later this year after all applications have been assessed.

The final component is access to corporate enterprise development funding to open the business. The keys to a Roast Republic franchise are then ready to be handed over.

Running a business that has social involvement as its key element requires being committed to openness. It is this quality that Jacob most values and advocates for people entering business.

“Having an open attitude means that you are always ready to expose yourself to different things and learn from anyone. There is so much to learn from so many people and so many ways to grow.

“My first mentor said; ‘In life always say yes’. Many times we have opportunities and we say ‘no’-mainly because the opportunities are difficult or look like long shots. Rather say ‘yes’ and follow the road to see where it leads.

“Being open means stumbling across things that you would otherwise not have experienced. Standing still means falling behind. It is up to you alone to decide whether you want to be relevant 10 or 20 years from now.”

Related: There’s No Better Time than Now to Start Innovating

Staying relevant is the mantra of Roast Republic. The way it sees itself being pertinent is through being an active agent for social change. To quote the Roast Republic website:

“Not only do we pride ourselves in sourcing & roasting the finest coffee beans on the planet, but we also have a huge passion for South Africa and her beautifully diverse people. We have a dream for our country, and that dream is a republic in which education is accessible for all.

Coffee is our currency, education our priority.

We trade a cup of coffee for a day at school.



Standard Bank SA is the largest operating entity of Standard Bank Group, Africa’s largest bank by assets. Standard Bank SA provides the full spectrum of financial services, with more than 720 branches and over 7 100 ATMs. Independent surveys of customer satisfaction consistently place Standard Bank at or near the top of their rankings. The personal and business banking unit offers banking and other financial services to individuals and small-to-medium enterprises. For further information, go to


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The Alfa Romeo Stelvio – More Than An SUV

The All-New Alfa Romeo Stelvio draws inspiration from the legendary mountain pass linking Italy to Switzerland, with 48 hairpins in quick succession.

Alfa Romeo



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The All-New Alfa Romeo Stelvio draws inspiration from the legendary mountain pass linking Italy to Switzerland, with 48 hairpins in quick succession. The Stelvio pass is widely seen as one of the most beautiful and engaging roads on the planet.

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Enhance Your Entrepreneurial Flair With An Online Postgraduate Diploma From The University Of Pretoria

The Department of Business Management at the University of Pretoria, a leader in business management education, will be offering an Online Postgraduate Diploma in Entrepreneurship for the 2018 academic year with some seminars to enrich your action learning experience.

Dr Alex Antonites




The Department of Business Management at the University of Pretoria, a leader in business management education, will be offering an Online Postgraduate Diploma in Entrepreneurship for the 2018 academic year with some seminars to enrich your action learning experience.

The programme content focuses on the start-up processes, creativity and opportunity recognition, business planning and marketing as well as financial management. Furthermore, the programme emphasises entrepreneurial growth and small business policy development with relevance to the enabling environment.

Who should enrol?

The programme is designed for pre-, nascent and start-up entrepreneurs who want to attain an advanced degree in entrepreneurship. It is also intended for individuals who work in an entrepreneurial environment and are involved with small business policy development. Although many students in the programme have academic credentials in entrepreneurship or business management, the programme is also appropriate if your education and/or experience may be in other disciplines (e.g. engineering or medicine).

Admission requirements

A relevant bachelor’s degree.

Related: This Enterprises UP Expert Explains Why Start-Ups Really Fail

Additional programme information

The duration of the course is one year. The language of tuition is English and the course will be presented in two blocks by means of the blended learning method (70% online and 30% contact sessions). Students need continuous access to the internet to complete the course.

Course Contents

Overview of modules for Block A

  • Ideation-to-market: Starting up
  • International Business Venturing
  • Venturing Strategy Building (Part 1)

Overview of modules for Block B

  • Entrepreneurial Marketing
  • Entrepreneurial Supply Chain Management
  • Entrepreneurial Finance
  • Venturing Strategy Building (Part 2)

Click here for more information.

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Company Posts

Win A Business Makeover With Retail Capital To The Value Of R250 000

Retail Capital is giving SMEs an opportunity to win a makeover to build their brand with an investment of R250,000.

Retail Capital




Retail Capital is giving SMEs an opportunity to win a makeover to build their brand with an investment of R250,000. During the summer campaign, SMEs are encouraged to share the vision of how they would like to see their business grow, and led by a team of experts, Retail Capital will work with the winning SME to help make their vision come true.

While South Africa’s economy is not faring well, Retail Capital CEO Karl Westvig remains optimistic about the country’s retail and hospitality sectors. “We are seeing some green shoots, with an increase in turnover in these sectors – starting from the end of September. Economic conditions remain very tough, but businesses seem to be trading well into October and we’re hoping this continues into the festive season trading.”

According to recent statistics from Statistics South Africa (Stats SA), South Africa’s retail sales rose by 5.5% year-on-year in August 2017, following a downwardly revised 1.6% gain in the previous month and above market expectations of 2.3%. It is the biggest gain in retail trade since August of 2012.

Related: How To Raise Working Capital Finance

“I do believe that these sectors will see an improvement during the summer season. But, key to this will be for small business owners to ensure that they have the right amount of stock, adequate cash flow, as well as other systems in place to meet the ever-changing needs of customers,” says Westvig.

For many small businesses, however, continually adapting to market changes requires cash injections that they don’t often have.

The prize includes the following:

  • Business plan/consulting
  • Marketing strategy
  • Design and branding
  • Website and social Media and,
  • R50k capital to gear your business.

Westvig explains that the summer campaign tagline ‘Your Vision. Our Belief’ really speaks to why Retail Capital first opened its doors. “Our goal is to see the potential of small businesses and to work with them in making these become a reality.”

He adds that the idea is not to simply help one business during the campaign either. Westvig points out that one of the biggest challenges that small businesses face in the sluggish economy is enough foot traffic through their doors. “Generally, the main hurdle in creating brand awareness and projecting credibility of their establishments boils down to establishing a strong online presence.”

“One of the first ways that South Africans identify a business or service provider that they want to work with is over social media – even in a country where the digital divide has traditionally separated the technological haves from the have-nots,” he says.

He explains that companies that don’t have a social media presence are running the risk of being overlooked entirely. “They may attract customers in their own community with signage or word of mouth, but to grow a business, they need to expand their reach – and that’s where social media comes in.”

But, the reality is that resource and time constraints mean that for many SMEs, social media is not prioritised. “Unfortunately for the average small business owner, they don’t have the time or expertise to get connected.”

Understanding the importance of having an online presence, Retail Capital has also committed to developing the digital presence of all campaign entrants. This would include setting up each entrant’s digital presence on platforms such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, Tripadvisor, Zomato and any others that may be relevant to their specific market or industry.

“As a partner to many SMEs in South Africa, we are continually looking at new and innovative ways to help provide them with the much-needed support in order for them to realise their visions. SMEs need to be supported with initiatives like targeted education and training, supportive legislation, and funding opportunities that collectively help them grow our national economy,” says Westvig.

Related: 6 Great Tips For A Successful Shark Tank Pitch

Who we are and what we do:

“More than R1.25 billion has been extended to a range of businesses including food trucks, hair salons, restaurants, spas and franchised retail stores. Many of these businesses have not been able to raise funding in any other way, other than to go to unscrupulous lenders,”says Karl Westvig, the CEO Retail Capital, a company that provides working capital with the help of innovative lending technology.

“We have also estimated that for every R160 000 we lend, we create a new job. This means that 625 jobs have been created purely by enabling small businesses to get the funding they need for working capital requirements or expansion opportunities.”

Retail Capital’s system, which enables it to advance funding to small businesses, based on real time information on credit card transactions, is providing a new funding alternative to entrepreneurs who have previously been turned away by banks. Because it is able to get actual sales information, it can approve funding immediately, and allow for flexible repayment options based on sales cycles of the particular businesses it is funding.

“This creates significant opportunity for small business owners to focus on their business and grow volumes or look for expansion opportunities rather than spend their time frantically trying to repay debt or keep the business alive after debt repayments have eaten away at any cash reserves they might have had.”

Retail Capital funding is repaid by it taking a percentage of a business’s recorded credit or debit card sales, with repayments fluctuating in line with their business cycle. This has the effect of ensuring that it isn’t overburdened with debt.

“In the past six years since starting the business, small businesses have had the benefit of R1 billion in funding they would have been unable to get through traditional channels,”says Westvig.

Against the backdrop of recessionary conditions in South Africa, Retail Capital’s client information reveals growth in informal sector turnover across a number of industries.

“We believe that growth in the informal sector is outstripping that of the formal sector,”says Westvig.

As a large proportion of the businesses it funds are women- and black-owned, there is evidence that entrepreneurs who have previously been excluded from access to finance are now enjoying success now that their access to finance problem has been solved.

Win A Business Makeover with Retail Capital

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