There is a famous old proverb that warns against mixing business with pleasure.
However, 46-year-old Ntombi Muchenje and her fiancé Mareko Madisa, 54, are proving that this does not always ring true.
Seven years ago the couple started Sky-tan – a restaurant specialising in traditional food.
Located 5km out of Francistown along the A1 road towards Gaborone, the eatery has since established itself as a firm favourite amongst locals.
Indeed, on the Monday afternoon Voice Money make the short journey from our Ghetto offices to the small diner, the place is packed with hungry patrons enjoying their lunch.
Despite being based just a five-minute drive from the country’s second busiest city, the restaurant has a rural, relaxed feel to it.
Surrounded by bush and sheltered by the shade of a giant mokoba tree, Sky-tan’s rustic location was chosen precisely for that reason.
“Before we started our business we did some market research and eventually decided to be based on the outskirts of Francistown in the bush so that our customers can feel the nice breeze,” explains Muchenje.
“Sometimes one has to get away from the busy town to a cool refreshing place, where you can listen to the sounds of birds and sit under the bush trees enjoying their shade. As we are cooking traditional foods we wanted our customers to enjoy feeling the natural world,” he continues.
The menu consists of a number of local delicacies, the majority of which are prepared on site, including: bogobe jwa lerotse, lebelebele, phaletche, dikgobe, mabele, tjimoni, seswaa, Mokoto, mokwetjepe, dobi, delele, bobola and meat cooked in Setswana style.
Madisa reveals they decided to concentrate on traditional cuisine to cater for the older generation, although he stressed that the restaurant still appeals to the youth.
“We know elderly people hardly eat traditional food at their homes as their children do not like cooking it. Others do not like making fire to cook as Setswana foods consume a lot of gas or electricity and need a special pot,” he says, adding that their meals range from between P20 to P30 and are mostly sourced from local stock.
Taking over the narrative from her fiancé, Muchenje explains the enterprise has come a long way since it first opened for business.
“We started operating in 2010 without a licence and our Sky-tan foods services was only registered last year. We started with our own money – we did not get government money.
“We operate from Monday to Sunday from nine in the morning until two to three in the afternoon provided our food is finished.”
Muchenje notes that they currently employ eight people – two who cook at home for the early morning crowd, whilst the other six prepare food on site.
However, during the holiday season, when the restaurant gets extremely busy, the couple hire more girls to help out part-time.
As well as the restaurant, the duo also offer their cooking services for private functions.
“We are always booked in for birthday parties, wedding ceremonies, conferences and other organisations when they have an event they call us to cater for them. We once catered for Bopeu and we can cater for up to 5, 000 people” explains Muchenje with a proud smile.
The engaged business partners would not reveal how much they earn in a month for fear of attracting thieves.
However, through the proceeds, they have managed to build a house in Tatisiding as well as one in each of their home villages.
They have also bought three cars.
According to Madisa, their client base is made up not just of people from Francistown and the restaurant’s surrounding areas, but also travellers on long distance journeys.
“Even those driving big trucks to South Africa, Congo and Zimbabwe buy their meals here. Others call when leaving Gaborone to Francistown asking us to keep some food for them. We even get calls from others entering borders asking if we are open so they can have their lunch with us,” states Madisa, replicating his fiancé’s broad grin.
The pair conclude the interview by urging those who want to start their own businesses to be patient.
‘‘We would like to thank our loyal customers for their support and to thank God because he is the one who gave us the idea and strength as it just a miracle,” finish the happy double act, emphatically proving that a private and a personal life do not have to be kept apart.