When Business Meets Purpose at Gangstar Café

A café in Cape Town is helping former inmates get their lives back on track as part of a job-readiness programme, all while serving a hot cuppa to the public.

Gangstar Café is a social enterprise of The Message Trust South Africa. The Message Trust works with youth at risk across Cape Town in prisons, schools and tough neighbourhoods. Gangstar Café was initiated to create training and employment opportunities for youth out of prison. With youth unemployment being as high at 35% and coupled with a criminal record, it is virtually impossible for someone leaving prison to find employment. The first Gangstar Café was launched in Mowbray on Main Road in April 2017, and the second in Durbanville Town Shopping Centre in April 2019.

Students in prison get training in leadership, public speaking, business entrepreneurship and job readiness. Pastoral care support is also provided to all the young people in the prison. Once released, the individuals are reintegrated back into society and once certain levels of commitment are displayed, they are placed into barista training. On the job training is also offered in the cafes in customer service, stock management, processes, food preparation and other aspects of working in the hospitality industry.

After serving time in jail for violent crimes, baristas at Gangstar Café in Mowbray are now in training as baristas proper, giving them purpose and an opportunity to provide for their families. Their mission is to “create meaningful employment opportunities to prevent youth crime and gangsterism”.

Gangstar Café was born out of the prison work of The Message Trust South Africa, a registered NGO focused on breaking the cycle of poverty by focussing on youth at risk, both in and out of prison.

“We aim to provide excellent customer service and secure loyal customers who keep coming back.”

Trainees learn the importance of ensuring that processes and standards are followed and transferred into all areas of employment.

Former inmate Xola Dingiswayo told News24 how he started with not much knowledge about coffee at all, but worked his way up and is now a junior manager at the Mowbray branch. He plans to better his craft so he may compete in barista competitions in 2021.

There are two Gangstar Café branches, in Mowbray and in Durbanville, both run by five former inmates.

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