Santa's little helper… all year round

2008-12-26 00:00

Ever thought that the day is not long enough to do absolutely everything you need to do? Maybe the day goes by so quickly that you hardly see the kids, as you scurry about from one queue to the next. Well, there is help at hand, and it’s a step up from the standard.

Meet Nomfundo Khabela, the brains behind Personal Runnerz, a “lifestyle management” service that thrives to allow you those precious few hours to yourself.

“It is basically putting a monetary value on one’s time,” says Khabela, as she explains how the business plan came to her.

“I was working in Johannesburg in pharmaceutical sales and then studying on the side as well,” the Maritzburg-born entrepreneur revealed.

“Between work, assignments and being stuck in Johannesburg traffic, I had little or no time left over just for me.”

That’s when the Personal Runnerz light-bulb clicked, and Khabela chose to return home to Maritzburg to start it off.

“There is this perception that this is a small town, but it really isn’t,” she says. “It is ideally situated, the local economy continues to grow and more and more business people and execs are choosing to settle in the area.”

The location, proximity and relative ease to move around Maritzburg quickly all contributed to making up Khabela’s mind that the City of Choice was indeed the right place.

And what is it that she does? Besides the general errands, such as paying your bills, doing you shopping and picking up the kids from school when you are stuck in a late meeting, Khabela also goes the extra mile with some ultra-special services. She handles visa applications, does pet care duty while you are away on holiday, and even deals with your tax headaches.

Colleen Trotter of Hillcrest described how Khabela helped her relocate her mother to another frail care centre.

“I was pleasantly surprised that she worked as far as Hillcrest,” Trotter said. “But more than that, I was even more amazed by her professionalism and efficiency.

“Moving between care centres is not very easy, but she showed a human touch, was extremely kind and even had the sweetness to leave behind a small gift for my mother when she moved in.”

So where does this attention to detail come from? Khabela spent 10 years overseas; three in Scotland and a further seven in the United States with her parents working there.

“It is amazing to reflect on the standards that we in South Africa accept for customer service. Abroad, they have high expectations and do not settle for less,” she says.

“So I thought there was definitely a gap in the market, where the level of service could be raised.”

Another of Khabela’s recent customers was Denette van Rooyen, an etiquette training consultant from Pretoria. She needed transfers from the airport to the city for weekly meetings that she had in October.

“I was very impressed with her thorough professionalism and attention to detail,” enthused Denette.

Being from a similar industry, Denette says that we as South Africans normally settle for mediocrity because we don’t know better. But she was full of praise for Personal Runnerz.

“Obviously her world exposure has shown her a thing or two about standards, and she really is in a league of her own,” she said.

Khabela has big plans for her venture, and with word slowly spreading about her quietly efficient service, she has tapped into the local market for assistance.

“I have an understanding with the local university campus,” she said of UKZN, where she graduated with a B.Sc. in nutrition in 2001.

“I use the post-graduate programme students, who are waiting for firm employment, to help when things get busy.”

She plans to hold training clinics on service delivery with the 2010 World Cup in mind.

“The people that will flock in have a very pre-determined level of expected service,” she explains.

“If we do not meet their normal standards, it will make for a very challenging experience for everyone.”

Khabela says her long-term plan is to go national, but for the immediate future she will look to grow her base here in Maritzburg.

With availability at short notice, Maritzburg may have found its own Santa’s helper, only this one is available all year round!

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