Tradition is a brew best served cold, especially if it’s beer from Ukhamba Beerworx. This proudly South African micro brewery specialises in making beer that’s rooted in rich African tradition that can literally be tasted in every crisp sip.
When Lethu Tshabangu and his partner Noluyanda Roxwana founded Ukhamba Beerworx in 2014 it was to tell the African story of beer, which they believe was largely under-told and under-represented around the world. They wanted to change this by bringing to market their signature beer whose key ingredient is sorghum malt, which is used to make traditional African beer or “Umqombothi”.
The joy of turning a hobby into a business
Lethu and Noluyanda are living proof that if you set your mind to achieving something and are patient and determined enough to not give up, it can be accomplished. When Lethu started Ukhamba Beerworx he had no funding or business skills; he was just a regular guy who had a love of beer from being a bartender for most of his life. But he had a dream that he was crazy enough to pursue.
“My love for craft beer began years back whilst I was a bartender for a beer-centric bar in Cape Town. During this time, I began brewing from home – trying various recipes from lagers, to stouts to IPAs etc – and soon after, I realised I had a passion for making beer and I wanted to make a beer that resonated closer with my culture and heritage, I wanted to make an African beer! And just like that, the dream of Ukhamba Beerworx was born; and with it came a product range of Africa’s Finest Beer,” said Lethu.
Not giving up until you succeed
When Lethu and Noluyanda started Ukhamba Beerworx they had already perfected their beer – the “Africa’s Finest Beer”, however they had a lot to learn about running a successful business, including distribution and integration of systems.
“Trying to build a global brand is really challenging and requires full understanding of distribution and systems integration. When we first started we had no background in this. Thus, just the challenge of transporting beer from one city to another without having logistical issues was a disaster, let alone selling and marketing our beer in different regions, coordinating teams and stock levels across the country,” said Lethu.
“The way we overcame all of these problems was simply by trying a solution… and failing… and trying another solution…. and failing. But we never gave up; each time we failed we learned a lesson… and we kept on trying and failing until we eventually got it right. Each failure is a lesson that brings you a step closer to success,” continued Lethu.
Growing their brand despite the odds
Despite the ups and downs the craft beer industry has experienced in South Africa, including the tough economic climate and the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions that devastated the alcoholic beverage industry, Ukhamba Beerworx has been extremely fortunate to have beaten all the odds and to have actually grown their business.
Since inception, Ukhamba Beerworx has experienced an ongoing growing demand from restaurant outlets across the country to stock their brew. This promoted Lethu and his team to open their own restaurant in Claremont, a suburb in Cape Town, called Ukhamba Beerworx Taproom that specialises in African cuisine. They recently moved to their new home, Ukhamba Beerworx Brewery Waterfront, which can be found at Makers Landing at the V&A Waterfront.
“And we are still growing. Lockdown prompted us to launch our online store, from which we are able to distribute our beer nationwide. We have also recently signed an agreement to begin distribution to other parts of Africa, and are looking into prospects of taking the brand into Europe and America over the next three years,” said Lethu.
Offering seamless online payments with PayFast
Ukhamba Beerworx first chose to integrate PayFast as an online payment solution for customers looking to pay invoices generated by their accounting software Xero. “Overall feedback was that the solution was great, but we found a lot of business customers weren’t really using it. So the traction didn’t pick up as much, however we are still still using PayFast to settle invoices through Xero to this day,” said Lethu.
However, where PayFast really made a massive difference to Ukhamba Beerworx was when they launched their online store, www.ukhamba.africa in 2020. “Having PayFast as our online payment aggregator makes the payment process seamless for our customers as they can quickly and conveniently pay for their beer purchase with their preferred payment method including Visa or Mastercard credit card, Instant EFT and Mobicred,” said Lethu.
Do what you love. But get paid
“Every time I enjoy an Ukhamba beer, I remember that at some point this was just a dream. So my message to all the dreamers is go chase your dream! Be bold! Be crazy enough to believe that one day your dreams may actually come true. Utywala Bethu “Our Beer!” concluded Lethu.
PayFast has helped thousands of businesses like Ukhamba Beerworx succeed in turning their hobbies into online businesses. To find out how your business or ecommerce website can use PayFast to receive online payments, visit www.payfast.co.za.