Facing the Challenges

He always knew it was not only going to be about the coffee. “I want to reach out to youngsters and equip them with skills they might not necessarily learn anywhere else. To be a good barista, you need confidence. This is also a very important life skill. I want to teach the guys who work with me how to interact with people and how to be confident in who they are.”

He admits that he was a very lost young boy, craving a sense of identity and looking for attention in all the wrong places. Growing up without his biological father and feeling rejected by some family members pushed him dangerously close to the world of gangs and drugs. “That’s why I specifically want to focus on youngsters who dropped out of school, who are addicted to drugs, are part of gangs and those who don’t have a father figure to guide them. I want to teach them about business and try to nourish their souls as well.”

We Shall Overcome

For Cheslin, everything changed when he met Anre Bootsma in his Gr. 9 year. He boldly asked if he could borrow Anre’s guitar and he immediately agreed to teach him to play. Three weeks later he led Cheslin to give his life to Jesus.

“That’s when my life changed. Although I still slipped up, from time to time, I now had a Heavenly Father to replace my earthly father, who didn’t want anything to do with me, and I could take my identity from Him.”

Anre played an important role as mentor for Cheslin during the influential high school years and it was he who encouraged Cheslin to join the fleet’s exercise squad in Simon’s town on weekends and during school holidays. The effect was twofold, he got super fit, and he stayed out of trouble!

It was also during this time that Cheslin was trained as a barista at a local coffee shop. And where the dream of one day owning a mobile coffee shop originated.

After completing two years studying Theology, he realised that his coffee dreams were still alive and he felt that God wanted him to work hard to fulfil this dream. Together with his partner, Ivan Swartz from Labit, they laid out a plan of action and got the wheels rolling to establish Fleet Coffee. Today Fleet is a popular coffee brand in Paarl with a growing loyal following.

At the End of the Day

Cheslin’s advice to young people in general and entrepreneurs specifically, is to get a real life mentor who can give input on both a spiritual and business level. “Make sure it’s someone who won’t give up on you when the going gets tough.”

And his secret to success? “Stick to Plan A, because Plan B sucks!” he laughs. “No, seriously, more important than that is, whatever you do and whatever you achieve, stay humble.”

He might be a humble young man himself, but he dared to dream big. With a passion for empowering young people like him and helping them find their identity to become who and what they were created to be. As he puts it; “I want to see young men in our community have high moral values and I want them to be responsible citizens. My goal is to have as many coffee stations as possible to provide these youngsters with job opportunities and in return, let them be a good example to others.” And this passion is contagious, not only to the young people who look up to him, but to every single person he comes in contact with when they come to get their daily fix from Fleet.
Visit www.fleetcoffee.co.za for more