Rebellious teen turned coffee connoisseur. Introducing, Cheslin Grobbler

Rebellious teen turned coffee connoisseur. Introducing, Cheslin Grobbler

Fleet Coffee Company was established with the help of Labit in January 2015. The name Fleet Coffee Company is derived from Lieutenant Commander Barista, Cheslin Grobbler who learned the barista trade whilst training with the SA navy. At the time, he was still in high school and very rebellious in nature. It was decided that the navy would be a great platform to address this and so started the journey of Fleet Coffee Company.

Fleet Coffee is also known as a mobile unit that travels. It moves about from place to place and event to event, and has a permanent coffee shop that is based in 57 Main Street Paarl in the KWV Head office building.

At the heart of Fleet’s operation is the creation of job opportunities in communities.  It is Cheslin’s aim to equip people with skills by training them to become professional baristas.  Baristas with style, baristas with class and baristas with a passion for good coffee.

Cheslin chatted to The Cradle about entrepreneurship in South Africa.


How do you view the start-up scene in South Africa?

I do believe that start-ups are the way forward in our country. More start-ups are being established automatically as more and more individuals become entrepreneurs which means more job creation is taking place, and less unemployment. 

How do you feel entrepreneurs could be better assisted by government in South Africa?

I believe that if you want to be good at something, you will either train hard for that goal or you will get a mentor to guide you in that profession.

In my opinion our government should put in more of an effort into identifying good entrepreneurs in our country and communities. We need entrepreneurs who are willing to work hard, willing to invest back into the community and that are passionate about making a change in our country, so that it can move forward. Therefore I believe that our government should identify investors and mentors and place them in a position to directly assist the entrepreneurs striving to lift their businesses and projects off the ground. In this way the entrepreneurs will be supported both financially and strategically.

What do you believe are the characteristics that make a strong entrepreneur?

In my opinions the characteristics that make a strong entrepreneur are the following:

Willingness to change

If you want to be a strong and successful entrepreneur or businessperson you will have to be willing to make changes in your business and while you must always try to stick to Plan A, having the flexibility to change strategy should be top of mind at all times.


Hardworking and working smart

You need be willing to put in the extra effort and work longer hours than the rest, and in your working hard you have to make sure that that you are doing it in way that is sensible and smart.


Being passionate about your business is key to you not working for money but working for something that energises you and that gives you joy which you spread to the community around you.

Who have been the greatest influences on you as an entrepreneur?

The greatest influence that I had so far in my life as an entrepreneur is definitely my friend and business partner Ivan Swartz. Ivan believed in me, invested in me and mentored me in business.  Every idea I have I bounce off Ivan. He is my sound board.

How do you see your business growing in the next 12 to 18 months?

For Fleet it is definitely to create as many job opportunities as possible in the surrounding communities. So I would say in the next 12 Months Fleet will definitely start roasting its own coffee beans at Val de Vie Polo.

How do you view African entrepreneurship as a whole?

50% of the entrepreneurs surveyed said creating a business out of an idea that came to them from the environment in which they live, work and play was their main motivating factor. Only 4% of respondents started a business because they were unable to find a job.

This is positive for the entrepreneurial ecosystem as most entrepreneurs are starting businesses for the right reason. A huge concern is that as many as 38% of start-up entrepreneurs do not employ anyone at all. Job creation should be a key outcome of entrepreneurial activity, yet a large portion of our entrepreneurs have no employees. Entrepreneurs are growing but not fast enough to make the economy grow rapidly.

What challenges do you feel you personally still need to overcome?

The hardest part for me personally is handing over work and not being in control of everything the whole time. Another challenge that I have to overcome is to appoint reliable staff and equip them with skills that’ll make them truly excellent at the job.