Inspiring former cleaner gives back

Francine Zana Picture: Zamandulo Malonde
Owner of Exclusive Hospitality Concept Francine Zana Picture: Zamandulo Malonde

A former hotel cleaner turned-businesswoman hosted a dinner at the weekend, honouring those in the hospitality industry doing jobs similar to what she was doing when she started out.

Francine Zana, 33, said she was overwhelmed by the support she had received from business owners and friends.

“All I intended was to give to those who would not otherwise have the opportunity to attend such evenings,” she said.

The dinner saw 100 people enjoy a three-course meal at the Dolphin’s Leap Conference Centre in Port Elizabeth.

“There were tears, laughter and joy, but most importantly, the women enjoyed themselves and I can’t thank my supporters enough,” Zana said.

Isango Gate housekeeper Phumlisa Nohayi, 34, said she was inspired and encouraged by Zana’s journey.

“It gave me hope that dreams do come true,” she said.

“As housekeepers, we’re not always seen as people. It was nice to be on the receiving end and being pampered.”

Former boss and now friend Tania Plakonouris, of the Wilderness Foundation, said she first met Zana when she appointed her as her housekeeper.

“She’s a very inspirational woman. It was a warming event through a celebration for people who serve all day.

“Francine is one of those who say they’ll do something, go out and do it and I believe she’ll go far,” Plakonouris said.

The owner of Exclusive Hospitality Concept, Zana said hard work and dedication had helped her open her own consulting company.

Zana works from home with hotels, bed and breakfasts and private homes.

She always dreamt of doing well for herself, but had to drop out of EastCape Midlands College in Uitenhage due to a lack of funds.

“My dad worked, but had five children to take care of and funds were a bit tight. So I dropped out of school while studying business management and worked as a cleaner at a bed and breakfast for four days a week,” Zana said.

“You find a lot of graduates today who are sitting at home with degrees but aren’t willing to work as cleaners because they believe the job is beneath them. I couldn’t afford to think like that and thank God I didn’t,” Zana said.

She seized an opportunity to work at the Kelway Hotel, working her way up from cleaner to house cleaning supervisor and office manager.

“A new manager had come to the Kelway and she eventually promoted me as a receptionist and that was the first time I got to use a computer,” Zana said.

What she did next shocked friends and family. She left that position to move to the new No 5 Boutique Hotel, owned by the Mantis Collection.

“I took a R3 500 salary cut because I was looking at the bigger picture. I knew the position of cleaner supervisor would open even bigger doors for me,” Zana said.

She learnt the most while working for the Mantis Collection company.

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