When he graduated with an IT Diploma in 2006, Stutterheim’s Thembani Kunelisi never imagined he would today be the sole owner of the first black youth-owned Debonairs franchise in East London.
A R1,5 million loan from the Eastern Cape Development Corporation (ECDC) ensured that Kunelisi could buy out his former partner in 2016. This is in addition to a R1,4 million ECDC loan in 2008 which made him and his former partner the first young black entrepreneurs to own one of the first three Debonairs restaurants in East London. They made an own contribution of R700 000 to finalise the sale of the franchise in 2008.
The Debonairs Oxford franchise staff complement includes six cashiers, two drivers, 14 back staff, two store ladies, and a management team of three including himself.
“Since taking over the business, it has grown substantially despite rising competition in the area. Between 2016 and 2017 we have increased revenue by 25% year-on-year.
“If I am able to meet my targets despite competition that means the customer, although spoilt for choice is still choosing my restaurant. Having had a good record with the ECDC with the first loan, it was easy for me to once more to secure their loan. I received a loan of R1.5 million and I was required to raise a further R50 000 to complete the buyout fee. As of October 2016, I became the sole owner of the Oxford Street Debonairs restaurant,” says Kunelisi.
Although Kunelisi studied Information Technology (IT) at the MSC Business College and worked in the field between 2003 and 2005, he says his love for business eventually caught up to him.
In 2005 he was discovered by Dave Van Rensburg, who recruited him to form part of a management team at a Debonairs in Mthatha where he worked for three years. That is where Kunelisi was acquainted with the business. Van Rensburg approached Kunelisi with the news that he was selling his East London Debonairs store and he thought that “I would be the perfect candidate to take over!”
As a way of helping Kunelisi raise the funds needed to purchase the store, Van Rensburg introduced him to the ECDC. With an excellent reference from the store-owner, getting a franchise license was also a less tedious process.
“The loan advanced to Oxford Debonairs is a demonstration of ECDC’s commitment to growing black youth-owned businesses as well as supporting their viable ideas. ECDC does this through loan funding as well as through non-financial support services to grow and support the competitiveness of small businesses.
ECDC continues to support entrepreneurs that demonstrate a willingness to honour their loan repayment obligations. Kunelisi is one such entrepreneur and his repayments allow ECDC to extend its reach to more deserving entrepreneurs. When entrepreneurs do not pay back their loans, it limits ECDCs ability to provide loans and to extend its impact,” says ECDC development finance and business support head Tandeka Rozani.