Twenty-seven-year old Itumeleng Lekomanyane used the last R800 left in his pocket to try and make ends meet for himself and his 3-year-old daughter.
Faced with unemployment, after a failed embroidery business, Lekomanyane decided to treat Johannesburg locals to some of his special gourmet sandwiches.
So in August 2019, he became a street vendor, operating under the dubbed name “sandwich king”.
“That was the last R800 I had in my life,” he told News24 in the 8th-floor kitchen in Johannesburg’s CBD, where he makes his sandwiches while most people sleep.
He explained that the money was supposed to be used to pay his daughter’s maintenance. But instead, he took a massive risk and invested the money in his new business, Sandwich Nton Ntons.
That risk paid off, as today, he earns roughly R20 000 a month.
News24 visited Lekomanyane, his business partner Sammy Diphoko, and two salesmen, Meshack Molotsi and Lindokuhle Skhosana at their preparation kitchen in downtown Johannesburg.
“We usually start preparing the sandwiches around 8 pm or 10 pm in the evening, so that they are ready to be sold by 4 am the next morning when people are commuting to work.”
Unlike most people, Lekomanyane and his team sleep between 13:00 and 20:00 before waking up to get to work.
The team of street vendors can mainly be found in four different spots around the CBD including Bree Street taxi rank and Simmonds Street.
“I’ve currently been stationed outside the SABC building in Auckland Park to see how well the sandwiches sell there,” he said.
Lekomanyane explained that he has had to identify several locations to find a profitable market.
The sandwich entrepreneur has since gained much popularity in the streets and on social media, with many of his followers sharing his products daily.
“The experience has been great. We’ve been able to employ two more people to assist us. In five years we should be hitting the streets with food trucks in every corner of the country,” said Diphoko.
The pair believe that the success they’ve seen now after just six months could allow the business to grow nationally.