Micoffee: success despite extreme challenges
Updated: Jun 21, 2018
When you pop in to a Micoffee shop in Port Elizabeth, and owner Mike Chizeya happens to be around, you are in for a real treat.
Mike makes time for every single customer. And, if you make a return trip - after tasting the coffee, you will most likely be back for more – he’ll probably remember exactly what you ordered.
The 39-year-old opened his first pilot kiosk in Walmer in 2015, but has gone on to establish another permanent shop in Newton Park, which his wife and greatest supporter, Florence, runs.
Micoffee’s mobile coffee bar can be seen at functions and events all over Port Elizabeth and surrounds.
Mike tells The Springboard Academy how he “sees his success” when his regular customers come back every day, when he is asked to open outlets in other areas, or when his Micoffee brand is recognised.
Mike believes he needs to "stay humble, work hard, and believe in himself, his product, his purpose and in God”
Success does not happen overnight
Mike and his family have overcome many challenges to get to this point but he hopes his story will inspire young people who are experiencing hardships in the townships and rural areas of South Africa and elsewhere.
Growing up in the Muzarabani district on the border of Zimbabwe and Mozambique, Mike and his siblings walked 10 kilometres to school each day, and 10 kilometres back home. Their father passed away when Mike was just one year old, and their mother had to provide for the family through subsistence farming. They did not always know if they would have anything to eat in the day.
At the age of 12, Mike went to find work during school holidays so that he could pay for his school fees for the following year.
He admits that these experiences made him appreciate the small things, and made him determined to provide a better life for his children one day.
When he finished school, he went to work for the government’s cotton company. After five years, the Zimbabwean economy was so bad that he started buying and selling whatever he could find. He would cross the border into Botswana, buy products and try to resell them in his home country.
His greatest passion, however, was to become a professional footballer and he was close to achieving his lifelong goal when he was badly injured in 2002. He still loves the game and enjoys playing the odd game of social league soccer when he has the time.
When the game changes, you have got to change the game
When his soccer hopes were dashed, Mike had to work on his other passions, like accounting. Although studying towards a Bachelor of Commerce degree in the subject, he did not quite finish. The skills he learned during his studies, however, have proved invaluable on his business journey.
In 2007, after several visits to South Africa, Mike moved to Johannesburg, where he was unfortunately a victim of xenophobic attacks. The following year, he made the move to Port Elizabeth with Florence, and he has not looked back since.
Mike explains that a friend helped him find a temp job at Woolworths. From the very first cup of coffee he made and served, he knew that coffee was his calling and future.
The importance of mentorship
He is thankful for his time at Woolworths because it helped prepare him for owning his own business. His manager, Ismail Walters, was and is his mentor and has helped him to grow and develop as a businessman and a coffee connoisseur.
But in 2015, Mike was ready to spread his wings. He sold his car to buy a coffee machine, and started his small business in what was originally a “garage” on a busy road in Walmer. With the last R50 in his pocket, he bought a little coffee and some milk, and Micoffee was born.
Mike had to overcome many obstacles to grow his business to what it is today:
He had to overcome his fear of not having a monthly salary. He had to walk away from the security and comfort zone of a permanent position.
He had to make do with very few resources. Every time he ran out of milk or coffee beans, he had to use the takings of the day to buy some more.
He had no transport, and had to walk to buy stock for his small business.
He had to manage the little working capital he did have to ensure quality service for his customers, and provide for his family.
When a large food outlet and restaurant was established right next to his “garage”, he saw it as an opportunity to grow his business.
He persuaded his landlord to convert the garbage shed into an outlet for his coffee. This happened to be the prime spot in the complex and where Micoffee is now located in Main Road, Walmer.
Because of his foreign national status, Mike was not able to raise any finance. His business growth has all been self-funded.
Watch this space for further developments.
Faith like (coffee)
Mike believes that God had a plan for his life and everything he suffered or endured was to bring him to a place where he could serve God through his product and service.
He says it is an honour to help others with his skills and resources, and believes he has the rare opportunity to share and show his faith just by the way he conducts his business.
The father of three finds great joy in giving back to the Nelson Mandela Bay community which gives him so much love and support.
Advice for aspiring Entrepreneurs
Mike’s advice for anyone deciding on starting a business is:
1. Believe in yourself and your product.
2. Stay humble.
3. Work hard.
4. What are you waiting for?