This man started his own ice-cream business with his Covid cash grant, and now employs four people

Thando Makhubu opened up an ice cream business during the coronavirus pandemic. He generated R10,000 within weeks thanks to a special grant.

By: Phumi Ramalepe.

Original Post: |


  • Thando Makhubu, a self-employed photographer from Soweto, opened up an ice cream business during the coronavirus pandemic.
  • He started up with R700 in August 2020, and generated a profit of about R10,000 within weeks.
  • The 30-year-old entrepreneur got a special mention from President Cyril Ramaphosa during this year’s State of the Nation Address.

With only R700 saved from a R350 Covid-19 grant, Thando Makhubu from Jabulani, Soweto, started his own ice cream business during South Africa’s initial hard lockdown.

The 30-year-old photographer started Soweto Creamery in his mother’s house in Soweto after gigs were cancelled due to lockdown restrictions. He now employs four people.

Soweto Creamery (Business Insider Phumi Ramalepe)
Soweto Creamery

Makhubu recalls seeing images of the product on Pinterest and thought he’d give it a try in August 2020.

“The idea was not really thought out. I saw the ice cream on social media and wanted to try it out. If it worked it worked, if not then life goes on,” he said.

Makhubu needed something to do to generate an income during the lockdown, and while he waited, he applied for the R350 Covid-19 grant.

The R350 Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress Grant was introduced in 2020 as a result of economic hardships caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The grant is given to individuals who are currently unemployed and do not receive any form of income, social grant, or UIF payment.

“The reason why I qualified for the R350 grant was because I was working as a self-employed photographer, focusing on events photography.

“I also worked with other social establishments which rely on a crowd, but there was none, so government announced the R350 grant. It’s not a lot for most but it’s something,” he said.

To start out, Makhubu used R700 that he had saved over two months. The aim wasn’t really to start a business but to create samples and then take photos of them.

He initially bought about 20 small containers for the ice cream, a few tubs of ice cream, sweets, biscuits and cookies in order to bring the concept to life.

The first products that Makhubu created were the Chocolate Overload and Planet Sweetness. Together with his brother, Makhubu took professional photos of the ice cream and posted them on their WhatsApp statuses.

After friends and family saw the images, some of them stopped by for a taste. One of their socialite friends, Mohale Motaung, saw the images and popped by to buy some ice-cream as well.

“On the fourth of August, Mohale came with his friends. He bought some ice-cream, posted us on his Instagram which has close to a million followers, and his other social media platforms.

“He advised us to create a Twitter account. I changed my photography Twitter account to Soweto Creamery and we went from 50 followers to about 6,000 in just a week. People started coming,” Makhubu said.


After officially opening in August, Mkhize said the company generated sales of about R10,000 within a few weeks.

The growth motivated them to invest in a much bigger freezer and to source ice-cream from nearby sellers. They have also invested in a waffle-maker, commercial blender, and milkshake maker.

“We want to increase assortment. For some people what we offer is a lot, so we want to have protein smoothies, thick milkshakes and waffles for people who love that kind of stuff,” said the owner.

During his speech at this year’s State of The Nation Address, President Cyril Ramaphosa gave Makhubu and his business a special shout out, but Makhubu has no idea how the president knew about him.

“To be honest, I was not even watching TV, I was at the gym. When I switched on my phone, I saw videos of the president, but I thought it was memes.

“When I played the video, I heard my name. I paused, rewound multiple times and heard my name, I could not believe it,” said Makhubu.

Mint Immensity (Supplied)

The following day he received calls from different people wanting to find out more about him. According to Makhubu, the sudden popularity has somewhat boosted his business as more people know about it now.

Currently, Makhubu has four employees. His mother, brother, sister and a neighbour who helps customers with parking.

The entrepreneur plans on investing in the company’s own ice-cream maker, and wants to make sure to invest in good quality equipment. The next step will be to roll out franchises across the country and work in an even bigger venue.

To emerging entrepreneurs who have dreams of starting their own business, Makhubu advises them to “start small, and don’t be afraid to fail. Social media is very powerful, so they need to put in a lot of effort in that as well.”

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