By Gypseenia Lion
The economy is changing, and so also the way people work. A singular income is not enough, and employees are finding creative, lucrative ways to work for themselves beyond the nine-to-five.
A bearded man, wearing a pin-striped grey duckbill cap, stands behind a bar counter.
To his right adorning the counter is an array of empty cylindrical canisters. To his left, a contrasting set-up presents glass bottles filled with a transparent, salmon pink liquid. Next to them are gin chalices filled with a cornucopia of berries that are to be served to connoisseurs of the popular spirit.
Queen Nandi Pink Gin and Zulu Dry Gin are experimentally infused spirits distilled by Gologo Spirits, a business venture that merges African tradition with a contemporary outlook on alcohol brewing.
Mzwandile Xaba, an accountant by day and distiller by night, is the founder of the experimental distillery.
Nine years ago, the entrepreneur and employee would not have imagined that a childhood pastime would one day become a secondary source of income.
At 5PM, when most South African corporates are closing off the business of the day, Xaba’s two-hour journey to the warehouse begins, where he often spends hours losing himself in the craft.
Once the boiler goes on, it is down to work.
Cleaning distillation columns, labeling, bottling and blending various infusions until the odd hours of the morning, ironically, rarely feels tedious for the hustler who, in the next few hours, needs to make his way back to his assigned office cubicle.
How does an accountant from the East Rand, in the Gauteng province of South Africa, end up, not only distilling spirits for commercial use, but juggling two jobs in industries that are worlds apart?
Growing up in a household with a father who pursued two careers; one in music and the other as a mechanic, influenced Xaba’s work ethic.
Xaba, who was good at mathematics and accounting, pursued a career in the financial sector. However, his childhood preoccupation of distillation has remained with him through the various stages of transitioning into adulthood, and recognizing that he needed a stable income.
Brewing umqombothi (African beer), in time for the weekend traditional celebrations with his father, is what he owes the success of Gologo Spirits to.
Although the process of brewing and fermenting the African beer is predominantly done by women, without a matriarch in the household, the men used to distill the beer themselves.
Xaba says umqombothi distillation also taught him to recognize the various cultural environments and the greater role his practice played in ensuring the success of those events.
Xaba expands on the use of spirits in celebrations.
“You normally have those when you go to traditional ceremonies. At home, it is also used during lobola (traditional engagement) negotiations, and when young men come back from initiation school in the mountains. Spirits are used for different functions and purposes from a cultural point of view.”
Xaba’s fascination with biochemistry and spirits was unrelenting, so in 2010, while working as an accountant, he decided to teach himself the delicate balance of creating the drinks that were impactful to him.
Within three years, the first drops of alcohol were ready for commercial use.
“It was just something I wanted to do. I thought it was quite interesting and I was really passionate about it.
“I don’t know why because I have never set foot in a physics or science class but I was drawn to it,” he says.
He started with vodka, experimented with brandy and whiskey, and at a later stage he tried gin distillation.
“For the past five or six years, almost every day there is something that I am doing that is in line with Gologo. If I am not literally making something I am reading on up on something.”
Finding a balance
Xaba views his side job as an enhancement rather than his primary source of income or a necessity.
“The day job is something I understand and something that I need to do in order to do what I want to do. It covers some of my operational costs. The business is something that I funded from my pocket.
“Some of the loans I have taken to set Gologo up are what I am paying off through Gologo,” he says.
“As the projection is, there comes a point where I am really making money to expand the distillery and cover some of my personal costs. It is a blend of both, a blending and a calling and it is financially viable. Doing both, keeping the day job and operating Gologo as a side-hustle is probably one of the best decisions that I may have taken financially, and also in terms of testing myself.”
When presented with the burden of choosing one job over the other, he is quite clear that financial stability is an imperative.
“I would only quit my day job once it starts costing me more money,” Xaba states decidedly.
An online platform, Hustle South Africa, is an ongoing project managed by Dana, who is in marketing, and her husband, Justin Arnoldi, also the Head of Digital Transformation at Blue Turtle Technologies.
The Facebook page was created in response to the high unemployment rate in South Africa which currently is peaking at 29% in the second quarter of 2019.
According to StatsSA, this is the highest unemployment rate recorded since the first quarter of 2003, the number of unemployed citizens rose by 455,000 to 6.65 million.
A problem Hustle South Africa hopes to decrease with this challenge is by providing a platform for users to promote and acquire side-hustles. Through the platform, hustlers are able to upload the services or products they have on offer, whether it is through text, video or images.
“The way of working has changed, people want autonomy and flexibility. They do not necessarily want to be tied into one job; they want a couple of jobs so that they can do different things.
“We wanted to create a central platform where people can interact and sign up for side work relatively easy,” Dana says.
Hustle South Africa defines the gig economy as a series of freelance or part-time work assignments.
On the platform, hustlers now can not only advertise their business, but build a public data-base. Is it safe?
“From a security perspective, we are going to have a checking system where people can put their ID number in and they will be checked for a criminal record; if they are a South African citizen; or if they can be employed,” Dana says.
Credibility is built through references, and referrals.
This model has proven effective with Uber as they provide clients with a driver-rating system.
If Bryan Davey, a diesel mechanic and baker, chose to use the Hustle South Africa page to market his side job, he would not only receive the deserved exposure for his business but would also add to the database.
The self-taught baker, who has been a mechanic for seven years, decided to bake on the side to take his mind off the noise at the workshop.
Doing something completely different takes the pressure off when he is not at his nine-to-five as a power generation field technician at Cummins South Africa. The balance between the two is a tightrope walk for Davey.
“I do try and go straight home and start baking, hopefully if I have an order for the week. It does take a toll on you, I won’t lie it is difficult but if you want to make something work, you will do it,” he says.
“It does have an impact on your mental and physical health, but it also depends on how you are managing it, so if what you are doing is a form of stress-reliever for you, it will not impact you negatively but if you are doing it in a way where you just want income, it will affect you.”
Davey, nonetheless, does both jobs with a smile.
Based on research published by Henley Business School Africa, nine of 10 people in Africa have taken on extra work to survive.
The South African study uses the Henley Business School UK in 2018 as a framework to explore local trends, which shows that 71.3% of the 1,158 respondents in their African network have side-hustles for additional income.
According to the study, the top three side-hustles in their South African networks are professional business services at 25. 7%, real estate at 20.1%; teaching, lecturing and tutoring at 13.3%.
The lowest three being providing building/DIY services, running a shop/tuck-shop/food truck, and waiting/bartending/ hosting.
Jon Foster-Pedley, Dean of Henley Business School Africa, says the demands for the highest three industries are caused by the job descriptions.
Side-hustling as a real estate agent would not require as much time and attention as a food truck. The time and effort required, according to respondents on the network, would demand them to learn a new skill, which would take up too much time.
“The bottom ones mean that you have to be good with your hands, they are skills-based.
“Running a shop or a tuck-shop, you need to adapt to a lot of the things which take a lot of your time.
“You need to do that with your hands, you can’t scale waiting and bartending,” he says.
With the top three, on the other hand, a hustler can employ other people to manage the operations of the business while focusing on their day job.
The economy is changing and so also the way people are making money.
Side-hustles can be as lucrative as the hustler wants it to be, but finding a balance on the tightrope, is the ultimate challenge.