“I see no limits in life” – these are the brave words of a precocious young man with disabilities who, together with his business partner, is making waves.
He is tenacious, and she, highly driven; and together, they make a formidable team. Meet the Juzi Juice Bar owners, Lesedi Gobela and Nokuthula Radebe.
Being an entrepreneur is tough; add the challenge of being young along with a disability and the difficulty scale is tipped even more. These go-getters aren’t deterred though; in fact, they make being business owners look somewhat effortless.
Lesedi is a disabled 32-year-old quadriplegic who lost the use of his legs and arm in a horrific car accident in 2004. He has since defied fate and refused to allow his disability stand in the way of his life.
Nokuthula, affectionately known as Thuli, is his 30-year-old business partner who, on the contrary, is physically abled. So forward thinking is Thuli that she isn’t the least daunted by Lesedi’s mobility impairment.
The two met at a business conference in late 2014 and immediately clicked. Almost as if it was meant to be, they found that they shared the same passion for business and health and this is how the business was birthed.
“As a disabled person, living healthily is vital; I want to share this knowledge with all disabled people,” Lesedi says, describing his reasons for venturing into the business.
The self-funded store, offering nutritious, healthy, flavourful smoothies and juices, opened its doors in early 2015 in Melville, Johannesburg. Although it’s small with three employees, Lesedi and Thuli hope to see their brand franchised with mobile bars at gyms and schools nationally.
With juicing believed to be rich in minerals and vitamins, Thuli says they aim to help those with nutritional ailments reap the health benefits. “We make super-healthy juices and smoothies. Our Green Goddess smoothie is a combination of celery and kale which suits people with iron deficiencies. Customers are also able to create their own menu,” she adds.
It isn’t always easy for Lesedi, though, who says his disability can sometimes be a challenge. As a quadriplegic, he has no use of his hands which he says makes it difficult for him to perform to the full capacity he’d like to.
He says consumers, unaware of these challenges, sometimes don’t understand his limitations but adds that good communication is the key to managing these challenges; especially for business persons with disabilities.
Outside of Juzi Juice Bar, Thuli manages a number of other businesses including a property management company, coffee shop and recycling business. She also temporarily works for the Franchise Association of South Africa.
Lesedi, also not one to loaf about, is employed at the Department of Trade and Industry as a call-centre agent. He looks to further his studies in advertising and marketing as well as one day represent disabled people in Parliament.
He is immensely thankful to his family for the great support they’ve continued to give him following his accident and encourages people with disabilities to never doubt themselves and to always follow their passion.
Lesedi and Thuli are undoubtedly phenomenal and inspiring – clear paragons of leading entrepreneurs without limits.