Siphelo Jalivane (33) owns the Milk Restaurant and Bar, Khayelitsha’s first fine-dining eatery. He shares why it was important for him to realise his dream, and how he did it. By Kwanele Mathebula Pictures Supplied
Playing soccer from a young age led me to the world of business. I was born in Langa, but grew up in Khayelitsha, both in Cape Town. I started playing soccer when I was seven years old. At 14, I was recruited by the Mother City Football Club where I started playing professionally. I played for the team for eight years until it was liquidated in 2008. This left me in a panic because I was suddenly unemployed and unable to provide for my family. I then found a job as a personal and administration assistant at Solethu Building and Construction. During this time, Vasco da Gama football club recruited me. For two years, I worked at Solethu during the day while playing soccer after hours and on weekends.
Working for various companies helped me hone my business acumen. In 2009, local businessman Bulelani Skaap offered me a job at his popular establishment, Lifestyle Lounge. With so much on my plate, I decided to quit soccer and focus on the job. I spent that year working at the lounge and Solethu. In 2010, Solethu was liquidated, affording me the opportunity to focus on the lounge. By 2012 I was managing Bulelani’s various business interests such as the lounge, a soccer team, chicken business and properties. After nine years, I was ready to venture out on my own. So, I quit my job to start my own business; selling chicken dusts on a side walk in Khayelitsha. This prompted the idea to create a waiting area where my customers could wait while I make their food. Out of this came my tenting business, Spesholi’s Stretch Tents. The chicken business didn’t last long because I didn’t have the regulatory operational requirements to operate it on the side of a road. Coincidentally, my tenting business was thriving. I managed to raise capital to open The Milk Restaurant and Bar.
The restaurant officially opened in December 2018. My vision was a three-storey eatery overlooking the developing township. Luckily, I found a house for sale in the hub of lifestyle and entertainment in Cape Town. In 2017, it was demolished and the restaurant’s construction began. This took over a year because I funded the entire project by myself. I struggled to find an investor, so I sold my house, cars, furniture and clothes to bring my dream to fruition. On 18 December, construction was finally completed; we opened for business the following day. The staff mostly consists of people from Khayelitsha and surrounding areas with varying degrees of fine-dining experience.
I chose Khayelitsha because I wanted to drive the economy in my community. Additionally, I wanted to create a safe space for the residents and visitors to enjoy a fine-dining experience in a township. This will hopefully help change the negative stereotypes people still have about it. I love seeing my guests creating wonderful memories and enjoying our food and entertainment.