Miles Kubheka has spent several years in the food industry and during that period, he served in multiple capacities, exposing him to the details of the industry. During the pandemic, he realized that poor households bore the brunt of the contagion.
This was because the traditional market setting was not designed to favor poor consumers or communities as it often exposed them to high food prices. He also noticed that low-income consumers spent a large chunk of their finances buying food.
“These households are most at risk when household income drops suddenly, or food prices increase unexpectedly,” he told IOL Business. “Added to that, many live in homes which do not allow them to purchase large quantities of food, hence the success of spaza shops in these areas.”
To make sure that low-income consumers are well catered to in the retail business, Kubheka launched his first grocery refill dispensary outlet in Alexandra, Johannesburg. “I decided the best solution was an outlet that provides low-income communities the opportunity to purchase staple household food items at variable quantities, using their own refill dispenser to suit their budget,” he said.
He launched his retail outlet Gcwalisa to also tackle waste challenges. According to him, his aim to reduce single-use plastic in the area inspired him to develop the concept of a refill dispensary outlet.
His retail outlet is changing the face of retail in the townships. Explaining how Gcwalisa functions, Kubheka said that his outlet purchases “products directly from the manufacturer, so consumers have the opportunity to purchase more affordable household items.” He further explained that “our business model enables brands to supply the informal market in bulk using a branded refill dispenser. Customers can then purchase their groceries in micro-sizes.”
The South African businessman said he was inspired by his mother, who pushed him out of his comfort zone every single day, to start his business.
He got funding to start the business after he was awarded $31,000 for becoming one of the finalists of the SAB Social Innovation Awards to invest in his business. He was also assigned a mentor to guide him on his entrepreneurial journey.
For other entrepreneurs who want to be like him, Kubheka’s advice to them is to “just start”. According to him, support is most likely to come “when you start with something.”
An IT graduate who became a successful gastronomist, Kubheka founded the popular Vuyo’s brand. The systems engineer also worked at Microsoft.