At its core, Gcwalisa is a refill dispensary company where low-income customers buy staple foods at quantities more suited to their budget. These foods are dispensed into their own refill container, essentially cutting out the use of single-use plastics.
Khubeka says that most people with a low-income spend a substantial amount of that income on food. As food prices continue to increase, giving low-income earners the option to purchase micro-sized portions helps limit their risk of hunger, he explains.
“These households are most at risk when their income drops, or food prices increase unexpectedly. Many of these families live in households that cannot purchase large quantities of food at one time, hence the prevalence of spaza shops in these areas. This traditional retail model does not benefit these consumers as they are forced to bear the brunt of high food prices.”
Micro-sizing is something Khubeka is familiar with. He says as a child his mother would often send him to go and buy tea, coffee, and sugar.
“From these experiences, I saw an opportunity to disrupt the traditional retail business model of buying more than you need,” he says.
One reason Gcwalisa is able to offer consumers cheaper food, is that they purchase directly from the manufacturer, which means customers get a cheaper price for their food.
“Further to this, our business model enables brands to supply the informal market in bulk using a branded refill dispenser. Customers can then purchase their groceries in micro-sizes.”
The future of Gwalisa
Right now, Gcwalisa is operating in Alexandra in Gauteng. Khubeka says the company plans to roll out their business model to other townships and rural areas, where each branch will employ about four people.
Innovation requires money, which is why Khubeka applied to the SAB Foundation Social Innovation and Disability Awards in 2021. The programme was an immense opportunity, offering Khubeka potential mentorship and funding to develop his business.
After reaching the finals, Khubeka won R500 000 for his business. He was also given a mentor to support him in his business journey, and the opportunity to develop his skills.
“The funding I received was used to establish our first dispensary outlet, purchase stock, and equipment, and secure the premises. Without this and the mentorship we received, we would not have been able to realise this dream.”
As an experienced entrepreneur, Khubeka says getting the right support is essential.
“Entrepreneurship can be extremely lonely, so if you have an opportunity to receive support, grab it with both hands.”