SIPHIWE Ngcobo has become a pioneer in the hospitality industry and has received numerous accolades as the owner and boss of iLawu Hospitality Group.The multimillion-rand iLawu Hospitality Group own a chain of three-star hotels and a guest house in KwaZulu-Natal and employs more than 100 full-time people. Last Friday, Ngcobo was the first of successful black entrepreneurs from the city to share his entrepreneurial journey at the Indlela ibuzwa kwabaphambili business workshop held at his iLawu Guest Lodge in Scottsville.The workshops aim to inspire upcoming and new Pietermaritzburg and district business entrepreneurs.Sharing his journey and how his company is run like a well-oiled machine, the Italian-trained mechanical engineer said he has always had a knack for business. “After finishing matric in 1998, I was not sure what I wanted to do and the finances at home were tight so I started manufacturing ice-lollies. “The key to being a successful entrepreneur is taking advantage of opportunities that are available to you. I have always been involved in entrepreneurial activities in my life. I enjoyed trading and selling my stock and convincing others to buy,” he said.In his address Ngcobo measured reasons some businesses are more successful than others. “I have seen great businesses fail and questionable businesses succeed. As an entrepreneur, you need to know your strengths and shortcomings. Know where you need to compensate, there will be influences around you, but the strength of your idea and your confidence will determine the success of your business. Know your story and don’t duplicate other people’s ideas.”The 37-year-old, who started his hospitality business in 2009, said being a resident in one of the hotels in Italy inspired him to open his business.“The idea of owning a hotel was born there, but I didn’t entertain it. I was in that environment for too long and ended up adapting and liking what was happening. “When I came back to South Africa I worked at the mines, saved money and came back to Pietermaritzburg to start something.“I opened a computer business, but it didn’t survive. I didn’t read the market correctly and lost R300 000 in that business. I was dismissed at Hulamin because I was moonlighting between my job and managing the private business.”As luck would have it seven months after he was dismissed from Hulamin Ngcobo was reinstated and paid back his six months salary.“I took the job back, but months later I resigned as I wanted to focus solely on business because it was my passion. “I invested my money in business and in 2006 started investing in property. In 2009 I opened my first bed and breakfast guest house.“Initially, the plan was to build student accommodation around Scottsville, but when I walked into this house, I inspected the rooms and saw a bed and breakfast guest-house set up. “The student accommodation idea went out of the window and I knew the hospitality business was ideal for me. I wanted to change the bad reputations of B and B’s in Pietermaritzburg and add value with my business.”In 2009 his business made a turnover of R1 000 000 and in 2010 he bought his boutique hotel in Prestbury, the Ilawu Inn. Ngcobo cautioned that as an entrepreneur it is important to be honest, credible and vigilant of your brand.Today, iLawu Hospitality Group has grown at a dramatic rate, they run an events and catering division and own a string of hotels around KZN, including a luxury guest lodge in Newcastle.