Chatting to Entrepreneur of the Year nominee

2017-08-30 06:02
PHOTO: Makhosandile zuluDoing renovations at Ilawu Hospitality Group in Pietermaritzburg (from left) Zithulele Mhlongo, Siphiwe Ngcobo, Nkosinathi Majozi, Sanele Mzinyathi and Neo Tsiu.

PHOTO: Makhosandile zuluDoing renovations at Ilawu Hospitality Group in Pietermaritzburg (from left) Zithulele Mhlongo, Siphiwe Ngcobo, Nkosinathi Majozi, Sanele Mzinyathi and Neo Tsiu.

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ONE of 15 finalists in the 2017 Entrepreneur of the Year Competition, Imbali Unit 1-born Siphiwe Ngcobo, says his business is founded on the principle of ubuntu.

Ngcobo is the founder of iLawu Hospitality Group.

He attributes this to being raised as the eldest child where household chores were a way of life.

“My argument has always been that hospitality to us, African people in particular, comes naturally.

“Studying hospitality is just a formality, but as black people hospitality is something we have within us considering the qualities of ubuntu,” he told Echo.

Although not formally trained or experienced in the hospitality industry, Ngcobo says his failed business­ endeavours provided invaluable lessons and experience, which helped him grow as an entrepreneur.

“I also reached out to many people so I could learn about the industry, but it did not end there, I kept on reinvesting in the business.”

For him reinvesting in the business includes keeping up with national and international trends, upskilling employees and personal development.

His first B&B was a house which he had to lease because he couldn’t afford to buy it and didn’t qualify for a loan because he was blacklisted.

“In the middle of renovating the house, I had exhausted my funds, but had to start operating because I had no job or business to fall back on - I just had to make this work.”

He was the receptionist, night auditor, housekeeper, chef and handyman at the B&B.

“When it was full I would sleep in my car, which became my makeshift home.”

From then his business has grown into a four-star lodge in Newcastle with another one soon to be opened in Vryheid, and his business now does catering.

Ngcobo said he does not outsource, but employs full-time staff, while offering in-service training for students completing hospitality related studies and hires part-time personnel for particular events.

“The nomination was recognition of the hard work we have put in and we appreciate it, however, we believe we have not done enough to be celebrated.

“We still have a lot of ground to cover, a lot of learning to do and a lot of work to be done so we can compete at the highest level with well-established hotels,”

The competition is sponsored by Sanlam and partner­.

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