Kearan Fourie recalls the first time he ever witnessed entrepreneurship displayed through his grandmother Queenie who ran a tuck shop from home.
“We never needed anything, as the matriarch, my grandmother used her business to sustain our family.” She was the inspiration for him to start his own business. He even saw it fitting that both of his businesses be named after her.
The owner of Queenie’s Kitchen comes from very humble beginnings. He grew up in the “kaas” in Westbury, Johannesburg where he lived with his grandparents, aunt and two uncles. He remembers the township as an unconducive place for a child to grow up in the 90’s because gangsterism and drugs were everywhere. His aunt played a huge influence in him reading and listening to alternative music, this opened his mind to a world he didn’t see when he stepped outside of his house.
“Listening to U2 and The Cranberries, exposed me to a life I wanted to aspire to outside of the kaas,” he says. After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of Johannesburg in 2007, he found himself unemployed and didn’t exactly know what career he wanted to pursue.
Seizing an opportunity
His sister found him a part-time job handing out brochures at a stall at the Sandton Convention Centre. While working at the conference, he overheard a presentation by the Trevor Huddleston CR Memorial Centre and they spoke about the history of iconic townships Sophiatown and Newclare.
After their presentation, he decided to ask them why they didn’t mention Westbury, detailing its rich history and the reasons they should’ve included it. They hired him on the spot.
He started as a tour guide trainee the very next day. He continued to work there for some time, eventually registering his own travel and tourism company which he has now run for 10 years, transporting foreigners and educating them about the rich history of South Africa.
In 2012, he participated in the Awethu Projects Incubator Project where he learned skills like bookkeeping, administration, and business development and was awarded the Track Record Profit Award after making R90 000 from running Queenie’s Tours and Travel.
Turning a dream into a reality
The incubator project is where the dream of Queenie’s Kitchen was born. He tried using the organisation to back his business idea but after they expressed their reluctance, Kearan decided to pursue his dream solo. He utilised his savings and the R50 000 he was granted by the NYDA to finally open his soul food restaurant in Vilikazi Street in March 2017. The restaurant employs one chef, two waiters, a cleaner and a gardener and he’s happy that he can provide a source of income for his team.
“I want to provide local and international patrons of Queenie’s Kitchen with a taste of South Africa,” says Kearan.There were many difficulties in opening the restaurant from not having industrial kitchen equipment and having to use appliances from home, to not making enough profit to pay his staff and using profits from Queenie’s Tours and Travel to subsidise the restaurant.
On the menu, Queenie’s Kitchen offers pap, lamb chops, oxtail, curry, bunny chows, peri peri chicken and wors rolls. While impressive, Kearan would like to transform his menu when he has the right equipment and is very excited for the future of his business.
He attributes his ability to open the restaurant to being driven, finding a gap in the market and not being afraid to fail. “The microwave stopped working today and needs to be replaced, but we’ve got to keep it moving.”
He’s been ridiculed by passersby for being a coloured business owner in a predominantly black community. He has seen tour guides he’s worked with opt to take their clients to other food outlets down the street instead of Queenie’s. Besides that, the reception has been great and he’s happy that he could own a kitchen in the heart of Soweto, opposite The Nelson Mandela National Museum.