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» An interview with Bongekile Radebe: On Being Her Own Cup of Tea

October 15, 2018

An interview with Bongekile Radebe: On Being Her Own Cup of Tea

In 2015 I was asked to participate in a panel discussion at the Youth Economic Indaba hosted by the Association of Black Securities & Investment Professionals (ABSIP). My particular panel was themed around women empowerment, and I was so honoured at the opportunity to share my thoughts amongst an accomplished group of young women. One of the things I remember fondly about this experience was the connection I had with the panel moderator- Bongekile Radebe. She was sharp, accomplished (from a very young age) and, immediately after our engaging panel debate was over, our common surname compelled me to call her Ma Bhungane (isithakazelo saka Radebe) which led to an exchange of kind, knowing smiles. Since then Bongekile has been on the path to world domination! When we first met, she was the founder of an organization called Her Destiny, a social business that created a platform for empowering conversations amongst women, related to connecting generations, personal development and financial literacy. But at the heart of all these conversations was tea, which was the consistent beverage served at each of her meetups. It was only a matter of time until Bongekile began to connect the dots to a more sustainable, impactful business model and an audacious aspiration. Her big idea- starting her own premium tea product called, “Taste of Legends”. This pivoted her passion project from being a social initiative into a health, wellness, lifestyle and agricultural enterprise.

Taste of Legends

Photo Source: @tasteoflegends

MG: So, you have a finance and banking background, and pivoted into starting a tea business. How did you approach the learning process in starting your business, especially since you had no experience and many of your large competitors have been in this game for ages?

BR: It took a good two years to develop my tea product, but I took my time because I didn’t want my tea to be just another tea product. I really wanted my tea to carry the vision of women and communities coming together to connect and learn. Hence the brand name “Taste of Legends”, which represents the various parts of the vision I was aiming to create. The brand name, the package design everything in between was all intentional and I didn’t want to rush this process. Fortunately, had a very good understanding of the things I didn’t know, and I always want to give my best in what I do, so I knew the most effective way for me to learn more about tea production was to surround myself with people who were masters in it already. This has especially helped to get the product side of the business working very well. Also, not a day goes by without me reading something related to tea and I had a natural curiosity to find out what the best tea in the world is and why. This has also focused my attention on building a brand that is globally strong and has potential to do exceptionally well somewhere else outside of South Africa. But a key business lesson for me has been being able to think big, and being okay with starting small.

MG: When did you launch your tea product and how has your business grown since?

BR: I launched “Taste of Legends” in August 2017, during SA women’s month, which was great timing considering the significance of the month and the background of my business. It’s now available for purchase on social media, and the website is due to launch soon. However, all the relationships I forged from before launching my own tea product have really pulled through and helped me penetrate the market. I also think the main reason these relationships helped was that they had seen the previous work I’d done and trusted that I could make my business a success. Relationships and the networks one builds over time are so important and should never be underestimated. My biggest client so far has been Brand South Africa.

Bongi quote

Photo Source: The Young Independents (2016)

MG: With your global achievements, including being a Mandela Washington Fellow and a One Young World Ambassador, have you always been intentional about wanting to stand up as a businesswoman on a global stage?

BR: I think I’ve always had my intentions in the right place, as opposed to just chasing an accolade. I remember when I was a teenager I used to read magazines and look up to these women who were my definition of success. At the tender age of 20, I was on the cover of Destiny magazine’s Power of 40 issue next to Khanyi Dhlomo, which was a small affirmation that started to shape a bigger picture for me and led me to where I am today. I continue to be spiritually aware of this favour and grateful for these building blocks. I consciously believe that I was not called to live an ordinary life, and I know that, in some way or another, my life will be great. I also realise that this comes with added responsibility, which can be very rewarding and also at times very painful. But this all builds deep wisdom and I welcome this as a spiritual experience.


Image Source: Destiny Magazine (2011)

MG: So, what’s next for “Taste of Legends”?

BR: I’m passionate about turning my tea business into a community of legends and people aspiring to achieve legendary work and/or legendary moments. We, as people, have the tendency to be so intensely goal orientated, but tea allows us the opportunity to just take it all in, either in solitude or with the company of others. “Taste of Legends” wants to help its consumers achieve wellness, self-care and we know that this, in turn, helps our consumers be their best and ultimately achieve their goals. I have my own aspirations for the business but I’m also looking forward to the business blowing me away. I’m especially keen to see the business grow in time to uplift the livelihoods of families that we work with. I think it’s excited to live in an age where we can document our journeys, and I dream of the day where I get to say that I am a black, township raised girl, who went on to make the best tea in the world.

Article by: Magcino Gule | Mbewu Movement Founding Member

Magcino Gule holds a Master of Philosophy in Politics, Philosophy and Economics (University of Cape Town). She is an Executive Assistant in Financial Services