A HUGE gamble has paid off for Sarah Dirsuwei, the owner of the city’s most sought-after wedding venue, The Plantation, when she left her top executive position in Johannesburg to start a wedding reception centre in Port Elizabeth.
Dirsuwe said she and her husband, Ralph, only opened the wedding venue when they decided to relocate to the city, where they had loved to spend their holidays with their three sons.
She had worked as the group marketing manager of a leading IT company in Johannesburg and her husband had owned a tertiary education business.
Since opening The Plantation, it has been voted the best wedding reception centre in the province, and in the country, winning national bridal awards – an accolade Dirsuwei said she aimed to keep.
“The majority of the couples who have their weddings here do not reside in Port Elizabeth, but they do have some connection here. It feels great to know that we have a venue that can compete with the beautiful venues in Johannesburg and the wine estates in Cape Town.”
Dirsuwei said the fact that she was an “absolute perfectionist” also helped her understand the needs of her brides.
“You only get married once, so there is no room for error. Everything has to be perfect.”
She said becoming an entrepreneur after working as a top executive was a big transition, but she did not regret moving to Port Elizabeth.
“It can be stressful. Before there was someone else to go to when there was a problem. Now when there is a problem, everyone comes to me.”
However, Dirsuwei said she had not regretted her decision to relocate to the city she had grown to love.
“I actually attended Collegiate for a few years when my parents lived here, and because they had a holiday house in Humewood, we would come down to the coast to spend our holidays here.”
Dirsuwei said salaries in Port Elizabeth were usually not as high as in Johannesburg.
“While still in Jo’burg, we started doing market research about Port Elizabeth and discovered the huge lack of wedding venues here.
“We spoke to engaged couples and everyone said they were looking for an all-in-one wedding venue where you could hold your ceremony, reception, take pictures and even spend the night.”
The Dirsuweis then visited country wedding venues in Johannesburg and Cape Town. They subsequently bought The Plantation’s plot in Sardinia Bay Road, from the capital of selling their house and her parents’ (their business partners) home.
After early hurdles in getting the business off the ground, with restrictions from the municipality holding them up for nine months, The Plantation eventually opened in May 2006. The couple also bought The Boma to offer couples a more laid-back, relaxed venue and more affordable option to couples.
“We are always watching international trends and stay on top of what clients want.”