Picture a stereotypical Capetonian. If you see a mental image that includes the words young, laptop bag, beard, locally sourced, flexi-hours, freelance and consultant, you’d agree that the gig economy and Cape Town belong in the same WhatsApp group. If you’re the type of fourth industrial revolution entrepreneur who’s hustling to introduce the market to the latest game-changing, disruptive tech, while also surfing, hiking, and living on your friend’s couch when you’ve got tenants for your Airbnb apartment, then you know. Here’s how you’ll conduct yourself on the mean streets.
...the gig economy and Cape Town belong in the same WhatsApp group.
Cape Town has recently overtaken Johannesburg as a business hub in the fields of financial and technology services, according to the Global Financial Centres Index. More than 40 000 people work in the tech field in Cape Town, making it Africa’s biggest tech hub. According to Business Insider, a study of 150 technology entrepreneurs in Cape Town during 2017/18 found that many respondents said the lifestyle in Cape Town was less corporate. “[A] founder reported that ‘no one goes to the office on the same day and instead we all work a lot from coffee shops along the coast," the report reads. “The lifestyle of Cape Town promotes creativity, innovation, and inspiration because of the mountains, ocean and nature. People are coming here to be creative and innovative. There’s a tech culture that has boomed here with technically innovative products.”
This kind of industry needs that kind of workplace: flexible, relaxed, but switched-on. Specifically for tech careers, check out the Bandwith Barns in Khayelitsha and Woodstock: created by tech incubator the Cape Innovation and Technology Initiative, these two business hubs support tech entrepreneurs. You can hotdesk at Work & Co in Bree Street from R390 per day, less for monthly rates. Dedicated desks or offices are also available. Round the corner, the Inner City Ideas Cartel offers a similar service. WeWork’s shared office space on 80 Strand is about to launch – check it out, whether (they say) you’re a one- or 100-strong team. Akro’s branches in the city centre or Salt River come in at a below-average R250 a day – and they offer business acceleration courses too.
If you’re not quite at the coworking space stage, but want to spend a day on your laptop, any number of spots with free Wi-Fi, ethical coffee and organic food will keep your inner Capetonian satisfied. Cape Town takes lots of things seriously, and top of the list is its coffee, which will be ethically grown or traded, organic, artisanal, available with almond milk for lactose intolerants, or employ marginal communities as staff – or all of the above. It’s never just coffee.
Try the Bootlegger chain, Bean There at 58 Wale (fair trade coffee, locally roasted), Motherland in St George’s Mall, the steampunky Truth in the city centre, Vida’s flagship store in Kloof Street. You can also try Rcaffe or Brownies & Downies in Long Street, Origin, Hard Pressed and the vegan Smak in the City Bowl, or Superette in Woodstock. Hazz in Newlands and Shift in Green Point are slightly further-from-centre.
For decades, Cape Town’s clothing and textile industry was the backbone of manufacturing in the city. The factories of Salt River and Woodstock provided employment to generations of seamstresses, whose skills remain even if the big factories have shut down – and many entrepreneurs are turning these into opportunities for flexible self-employment.
The provincial department of economic development and tourism has announced a R132-million funding injection to reinvigorate the textile industry and create jobs. A global resurgence of interest in locally manufactured and ethically sourced goods means the average Capetonian consumer may prefer to buy cottage industry clothing from down the road over fast fashion from China. As a result, the city is brimming with millennial designers and manufacturers, who largely support homegrown products, recycling, upcycling, and growing local skills.
Check out Sitting Pretty in Woodstock, Hannah Lavery in Kloof Street, The Joinery for your eco-friendly accessories, and Spiritgirl for eco-aware athleisure wear. If you’re a denim fan, no need to import: support Real + Simple. Three more uber-hip fashion brands will have come to prominence by the time you’ve finished reading this, so investigate – or start your own!
Freelance and seasonal work is a huge trend, and it’s especially suited to Cape Town’s film industry, media and advertising jobs, and other creative gigs such as events, photography and videography, make-up artist, copywriting, web development, graphic design and translation, or the tourism industry, including tour guiding, waitering, taxi driving, project management and training. Websites such as Upwork, NoSweat, Freelance Cape Town and People Per Hour have sprung up in response to this need.