Food System Heroes: Leon Qwabe and OrderKasi
Leon Qwabe sat down with us to share some of his recent wins and experience in our cohort. He and his #OrderKasi crew were part of our previous #FoodSystem Incubation cohort and successfully completed the program. They subsequently received funding from us through our partners at the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) to help launch their pilot, and have been making great headway since, with the launch of their app being their most recent success!
Order Kasi is the first Kasi meal delivery service that exclusively offers food from restaurants in the township to people in the township and beyond. The idea is to offer township restaurants access to reach a larger market through their platform. After all, there are customers outside the township that crave that authentic kasi meal! Besides, traditional African cuisine is fairly underrepresented in urban areas, especially on delivery apps.
Leon shared his experiences in the #FoodSystem Incubation Program as an entrepreneur with us and how his business concept grew from that. One of the most significant benefits he highlighted was the access he had to Oribi’s broad network, and how he could tap into the partners and collaborators.
OrderKasi has been awarded the grant at the end of the cohort to help with their pilot. That grant is made available by the IDC (Industrial Development Corporation), which is one of our partners. We are proud of our partnership with IDC as they share the same values and purpose with Oribi’s mission. Namely, to grow sustainable industries and support entrepreneurs.
The program elevated the OrderKasi business from developing slowly to ramping up and becoming an active business. Leon also pointed out how masterclasses helped his team structure their business, and how the program helped them position themselves to be a company that would attract investors across the board.
Leon started the business when he was living in Nyanga, and had a yearning for a food delivery service for himself, as many do not go that far outside of the city centre. After realizing that many of these companies do not service his areas and surroundings at all, he was not impressed with the reasoning behind it. What usually happens is people would call and order, then go to the restaurants physically to pay and pick up their food.
That is where the seed was planted. He took it upon himself to give communities that are deemed “too far” by these other businesses an opportunity to enjoy the same service. After all, there are amazing restaurants close to him, and they would benefit from this idea as well.
Leon saw the need for this service, and for him, it was a no-brainer. He approached a few restaurant owners and the feedback they gave him was positively overwhelming. The community was very excited, however, the immediate challenge was rollout and educating people that the service exists. This motivated the OrderKasi team to want to conquer the township market nationally and to spread this sense of access and opportunity within the community.
The OrderKasi team has grown from strength to strength, and Leon commented on how important it is for him to have a close and passionate workforce, especially as a small startup business that is growing quite rapidly. Not only does the local community benefit from having restaurant access at their doorstep, but restaurant owners and food businesses are empowered by having a wider range of customers. The more it grows, the more there will be a need for more logistics by people delivering as well. It is a developing ecosystem that feeds itself. This is the growth of an informal economy.
Leon rounded off the conversation with a prompt Christian asked him. Being, what advice would you give social entrepreneurs who want to make a difference in the community but also run a profitable business? He answers honestly, by stating: “Geez, that is a tricky one!” However, balancing what you’re doing and finding out about the market has a need. Is your business needed? And how many people need it? And at what cost to the end user? Then figuring out how to deliver that”.
As mentioned above, IDC generously awarded OrderKasi with a grant for their pilot. We asked Luana Malan, the Corporate Social Investment Specialist at IDC, why it’s important to support informal economies/entrepreneurs. She answered as follows:
“Through the CSI’s focus on Community and Entrepreneurship Development, this year IDC proudly partnered with Oribi on their #FoodSystem Incubation program. In Oribi uniquely targeting innovative solutions nationwide across this sector, it made sense to focus on an innovative solution like a food delivery app. Our engagement sessions highlighted the connections and opportunities between entrepreneurs, project supporters and consumers to collaborate to enhance the food system economy with a particular focus on social impact.”