Successful businessman inspires at Entrepreneurship Intervarsity Awards event

Published On: 13 February 2024|

A giant video screen flashing snippets of media footage illustrated how an entrepreneur turned a fictitious boerewors roll vendor called Vuyo into reality.

So began the keynote address of Mr Miles Kubheka (above), CEO of Wakanda Food Accelerator, who spoke at the fifth EDHE Entrepreneurship Intervarsity Awards on 1 December 2023. The Southern Sun Hotel at the OR Tambo International Airport – on the West Rand, was where the entrepreneurial talents of 24 national finalists, drawn from across the 25 of 26 South African universities, were showcased and celebrated.

Beer advert

Kubheka narrated how he had seen a beer advert featuring Vuyo’s adventures — chronicling Vuyo’s dreams of success. He wondered if this was based on a true story. “I’m a systems engineer by training. I was working for Microsoft at the time, travelling the world and getting paid really well. When I was home visiting my mum in Diepkloof Extension, I would hear kids going, ‘Oh, Vuyo is such a big dreamer!’ I googled this character and found that he was fictional, dreamed up by an advertising agency. I promptly trademarked the word Vuyo and I became Vuyo from that day on. Even my mum now calls me Vuyo.”

That is how Kubheka left his high paying job.

“When I told my mum that I was going to sell boerewors rolls at a local Fourways Farmers’ Market she wanted to know what I would do about pension and medical aid. I learnt an important lesson: people do not start epic things because of fear — not always fear of their own, but other people’s — including fear of those who love them.

Vuyo’s boerewors roll


As the business grew, he used customers’ money to improve his product, which, over time, got better. “Eventually, there I was, a black guy selling a R115 boerie roll with fries. We sprinkled sesame seeds on it and the Hipsters loved it.

“But of course, I wanted a bricks-and-mortar store — a restaurant — so I could show my mother that I had made it.” He found a site in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, admitting that he should have known better as the building was vacant. “It turns out that students drink their money, they don’t eat it. Also, my restaurant was opposite a university which closed for four months of the year…Remember, location is crucial.”

Let it snow

For the opening of his Vuyo’s stores he hired four snow machines and covered the street with snow. The media picked up his story and he became an instant media hit, appearing on television and in newspapers.

“I then started food trucks – called Mother Truckers. Instead of a million-rand truck, I used my old Kombi and cut off the roof. The VW stood for Vuyo’s Wors or Wors Wagon,” he laughed.

Managing the business also entailed managing the queues, knowing when to speed up or slow it down. “Energy begets energy. I found that when there were more than 20 customers lined up for food, people move to another stall. Queues have to be managed.”

He advised the studentpreneurs to not aim to be Number One but to be the favourite. “The Number One restaurant is where diners go to for special occasions. The favourite is where people come back and back. Your customers become your evangelists – they tell everybody how great you are.

“When we opened Vuyo’s restaurant, I got all my family and friends to come and I gave them free food. But for 30 minutes they couldn’t eat, so that paying customers could see the food they had ordered. After half an hour I reheated the food and they could eat.

“In 2019 I sold Vuyo’s and semi-retired. I was unhappy because I was young and did not know what to do next. Fast forward seven/ eight months and CoViD hit. Selling was the most inspired decision I had ever made!”

Meeting a new challenge

When, at the start of the pandemic, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that everyone had to stay home and only essential services would be allowed to operate, Mr Kubheka printed essential service certificates and started sending food to communities.

“I realised people in those communities were not poor, they were just poorly paid. They had a cash flow problem. Food parcels do not work. You create dependency. Charity sustains, not eradicates, a problem. I discovered that a 20kg bag of mielie meal works out at R7.50/kg. Food is cheaper when bought in volumes. This meant half a kilogram of maize meal turns out twice as expensive per kilogram. The system renders you poor if you have less money.”

And so, he came up with a new concept, a shop where people could bring their own containers and buy only what they needed. GcwaliSA was born, where the cost depended on the weight of the goods purchased – including dish washing liquid, rice, maize meal and other grain and dry goods and grocery products used on a daily basis.

“We sell everything from a tea bag to an egg. I often see entrepreneurs that are passionate about their business. The problem is they often do stuff where they have not figured out if there is a market for it. Then you try and scale it because you built it. The trick is to find a problem that is already at scale. Have the humility to go watch the problem. Real solutions are driven from bottom up.”

Loadshedding created another opportunity

Mr Kubheka said that he then morphed GcwaliSA 3.0 into an energy supplier. “We discovered that people were deciding what to eat depending on load shedding schedules. They were eating pap and eggs four days a week where the nutrition content was poor. I saw a mama who wanted to buy sugar beans – but it takes three hours to cook, and access to electricity was unreliable.

“I thought… Gcwalisa is already running on solar. We need to extend our solar panels and reticulate electricity into the 15 houses around us. GcwaliSA now powers the community with electricity. People pay R5 for every loadshedding hour.”

He is now an EDHE patron

During the awards ceremony, Dr Norah Clarke, Director: EDHE at Universities South Africa (USAf) announced that Mr Kubheka had been brought on, at no cost, to be a patron of the EDHE programme. She said: “Miles has agreed to be our official ‘sponsor for 2024.This means that he will speak on our behalf, advise us and stand up for us.”

To that, Kubheka replied: “It is an honour to be involved with this extremely important organisation.”

Charmain Naidoo is a contract writer for Universities South Africa.