Andri Ntema: Serial social entrepreneur

17 November 2016 | Story by Newsroom
Andri Ntema, UCT BSc student and co-founder of Slice Pizza, the newest pizza place in Long Street.
Andri Ntema, UCT BSc student and co-founder of Slice Pizza, the newest pizza place in Long Street.

The restaurant, which is located at 210 on Long, has an upbeat vibe and friendly staff. It has become a hit for serving pizza made from scratch by the slice. It's served fresh out of the oven with a South African twist.

Namibian-born Ntema came to UCT in 2013 to pursue his BSc in geology and environmental science.

“I had an option to study in Namibia at the University of Namibia and do medicine, but I chose to come here because of the diversity in the university and culture in another country,” he explains.

His passion for entrepreneurship began in 2014 after being exposed to various opportunities in South Africa.

“When I came to UCT, I started engaging with students and seeing how other students engage in terms of entrepreneurship ... Then I got an interest for business,” he says.

His interest particularly grew after he saw he had a flair for selling products and ideas to people. While studying, he started selling electronics. His brother in Namibia asked him to buy him a smartphone. Ntema found a supplier on Gumtree, added his mark-up and sent the phone off to him.

“The phone never gave my brother problems. A month later my brother's friends called me saying they need the same thing and I realised, okay, I can actually make money from this,” he says.

Depending on sales, Ntema would make between R500 and R2000 in profit daily.

“I realised that I have the ability to approach someone and sell my idea and they will buy my idea … that's how my interest grew and was born into the business I wanted to do,” he says.

Driving social change

Ntema later formed the Neoteric Consortium with a few friends – they collaborated on a project aiming to tackle the water crisis in informal settlements in Cape Town.

“In the consortium we work on identifying various social challenges and converting them into social entrepreneurship,” he says.

The business idea didn't go as planned because it was too technical for their capabilities, so they opted to create an interim informal housing solution, the Cool Shack.

Ntema is also a partner in Tenge, an African-print clothing company he started with his friend Fred Ajusi. They buy textiles from East Africa and make customised African clothing.

He also had the idea of opening a consulting firm that consults on behalf of government. This led to him joining forces with SBS Research, which was founded by fellow UCT students Prince Nwadeyi and Ntando Shezi.

“They decided they'd take me up because of the input that I bring in terms of other African governments and the exposure that I had in that area,” he says.

Ntema says the key to working successfully with friends is discipline and respect for one another.

“It can get very difficult, but that's all you need.”

Exploring SA culture using pizza

Last year an opportunity arose when a close friend of Ntema's from Johannesburg, Steven Pinto, came to Cape Town and wanted to open a shop.

“He wasn't sure what kind of shop he wanted to start. So he came and we walked along Long Street in December and we saw various places and came across this place and saw it was to let.”

They called the land lord immediately and enquired about the deposit.

“We paid the deposit and didn't know what to do,” says Ntema.

The shop is conveniently placed among the popular nightclubs, bars and backpackers situated on and around Long Street.

“We realised that on Long Street they don't sell pizza by slice . . . so we decided, 'How about we do that, but we move away from being Eurocentric and move into an atmosphere that is South African and African?' ”

One of their most popular pizzas, the Mzansi Magic, has chakalaka, boerewors and beef toppings.

“It's focused on South African people. So everything we have been doing here is to explore the culture in South Africa using pizza, a foreign food from America and Europe,” he says.

Start-ups take time

What keeps Ntema motivated?

“I want to change Africa,” he says. “What keeps me motivated is the guys who are already in the industry – the guys my age and older who are already pushing, and they're getting somewhere.”

Ntema was raised by a single mother, which is also a huge motivation.

“I want to reap as much as possible so I can make her proud and give her things she couldn't get because she sacrificed money and time for me,” he says.

Ntema advises aspiring entrepreneurs to be patient with their start-ups.

“A start-up is something that needs your time and patience. If things are not going well in the first month, don't give up and don't quit.”

Despite facing challenges along the way, Ntema aspires to open a branch of Slice Pizza on upper campus. Slice Pizza takes pride in giving students a platform to showcase their talent and be involved in their campaigns. Albert Matyila, a student from Tanzania, recently completed the latest wall art in the Long Street shop.

“We need student input to get their talent across in various ways apart from their degrees.”

Ntema is a firm believer that your degree is a stepping stone to network in your field.

“I believe that a degree is there to help you speak to the right people and put you in the right places, but you need to explore your potential, your gift and your interests,” he says.

'I know that whatever happens I'll do something great'

Ntema plans to further his postgraduate studies while pushing his businesses. He wants to open another branch of Slice Pizza in Namibia, but only after completing his postgrad studies. Next year he'll either pursue entrepreneurship at UCT or further studies at Stellenbosch.

“I still need to stay in South Africa so I can see this business grow to a certain point where I can leave and start another one. As international students we should not limit our ambitions and aspirations because we are in a foreign country,” he concludes.

Story Chido Mbambe. Photo Michael Hammond.

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