An eye for opportunity, the guts to take risks and hard work has seen a Nongoma husband and wife team build a thriving hospitality business.

Mlungisi Percival Nzuza is an entrepreneur to his core and among his early endeavours he lists a successful supermarket.

In 2002 he and his wife Cynthia Sebenzile saw a gap in the hospitality sector in Zululand which launched them in a completely new direction.

“Government representatives would come to Nongoma but would not have a place to stay so they would rent accommodation in Ulundi. We saw this gap as something we could tap into,” said Nzuza.

But it was his wife who motivated him to look for a suitable site on which to build 10 rondawels for accommodation. That was the start of Nongoma Inn which was an immediate success.

“We had no training in hospitality at the time so we used the knowledge we had acquired from staying at other hotels and it worked,” he said.

With the success of Nongoma Inn, Nzuza came across an advert for the auction of a dilapidated 17-bedroom hotel in Mbazwana.

“I had never been to an auction before but with the success of Nongoma Inn, I was looking for a new challenge. My wife and I agreed that at most I would bid R650 000. The final price was R700 000.”

Knowing he did not have the resources Nzuza nevertheless took a leap of faith and as the hammer went down the hotel was his. He turned for the first time to Ithala Development Finance Corporation for a loan.

“I have written a cheque for this auction but it is going to bounce,” he told the Ithala bank branch manager when he asked them to arrange him a loan for the outstanding amount.

The loan was approved and immediately the Nzuza’s started work from scratch to get the hotel back to acceptable standards starting with the renewal of a liquor license and the addition of 10 rooms amongst other upgrades. The once run-down hotel has been transformed into a luxurious 27-bedroom hotel for visitors and holidaymakers to this small town.

Nzuza also arranged formal hotel hospitality training for him and his staff to improve the quality of their service. In addition to accommodation Mbazwana Inn now includes conference facilities and a restaurant.

The success of his businesses has enabled him to create permanent employment for 47 people from the local community.

“Creating job opportunities has always been a goal but it did not come without its own set of challenges. Because Nongoma is quite a traditional area, we had to educate most of our staff on etiquette and many other terms in the hospitality industry.”

Nzuza walked away with the Tourism and Hospitality Business Achiever of the Year award at this year’s Ithala Business Achiever Awards.

Ithala acting Group Chief Executive, Thembe Mathe emphasized the institution’s many efforts to ensure active economic participation especially for previously disadvantaged groups of people.

“The Business Achievers Awards initiative complements government’s efforts to address the triple challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment and achieve the goals set out in the National Development Plan through the implementation of radical socio-economic transformation.”

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