LEARNING CURVE | Starting small no limit to dreaming big for Bhotani Group
Making sure it keeps up with trends is one of the contributors to the success of the Bhotani Group.
Lindelwa Kenqa, 49, has been offering upmarket bed and breakfast and self-catering accommodation in Port Elizabeth for 10 years.
Dedication and starting small are some of the things that have helped Kenqa make a success of her business.
Please share some background on yourself and how the business was started.
Bhotani Group was established in 2009.
When we moved to PE in 2008, we saw a gap in the industry that we thought we could fill.
We tried out with three rooms and we were only seven months in business when we hosted international guests during the 2010 World Cup.
Little did we know that it would grow to the brand it is now.
What is your core service?
Accommodation, catering and conferencing.
We offer a shuttle service as a value add.
What makes your business unique?
Personalised guest-focused service where each and every guest counts.
Consistently upholding a high service standard.
If someone wanted to copy your business model, how would they start?
Be prepared to start small.
Be dedicated and prepared to share knowledge and lift others as you rise.
Listen to what the client says and capitalise on that knowledge as that determines your survival.
What are some of the biggest inhibitors your business faced before getting off the ground?
Capital raising is always a challenge in SA.
Capital expenditure, especially for expansion and renovations, does require a bit of capital injection.
Our traditional banks find it difficult to distinguish personal from business assets.
In other words, raising a business loan while operating in your own home can prove a challenge from funders.
They want a clear-cut deal — buying an existing guest house that is registered and zoned as a business.
Do you have any tips for budding entrepreneurs or new business owners?
Networking, attending business forums and events and following market trends are essential — you sleep you lose.
What are some of your biggest challenges in day-to-day business operations and your particular industry?
Hospitality requires attention to detail, and to have a love for guests.
A small thing like a spiderweb or mould can chase a potential repeat guest away.
What is the best advice anyone gave you on success?
In the beginning, try as much as you can to be hands-on.
Understand every nitty gritty of the operations and market dynamics before you hire a manager.
You have to be on the alert at all times. Small things like stock theft such as sugar sachets and tea bags can ruin an operation.
How do you measure or define success in your business?
We encourage our guests to give us honest feedback on their experience with us.
Real time feedback on platforms such as Booking.com and assessors from star grading institutions help us to be on our toes.
Our staff are proactive, they are expected to carry checklists when doing rooms and grounds, so as not to miss anything.
What are some of the best practices that have made your business successful?
Seeking feedback from our guests helps shape the way forward.
Account for every cent that you spend.
Measure cost-to-income efficiencies and keep up with market trends.
What kind of advertising do you do?
Through our website, social media, major tourism booking platforms.
What is your company’s vision?
Our vision is to be a credible and consistent brand that stands for high service standards and an enriched tourism experience.
What is your target market?
Business and government guests in our Port Elizabeth establishments and nature lovers in the Wild Coast.
It helps to diversify as markets can be volatile.
What have some of your highlights been in running your business?
Being recognised as a promising emerging entrepreneur by the then-minister of trade and industry with only three years in business and featured in the Women’s Success Stories magazine.
Being a Lilizela Tourism Awards finalist for four consecutive years for service excellence and winning several other tourism and business related awards.
How many people do you employ?
We employ 10 people, and also have interns and temporary staff as and when the need arises.
Do you have any plans for expanding the business?
We have established an opportunity to expand in the Wild Coast, Port Grosvenor area.
It started as a base for our holiday home and as means to recoup our investment, we decided to put it on the market as a guest house.
We are very optimistic as we have been receiving bookings mainly from international guests.
How did you acquire funding for the business?
It was mainly self-funded.
We bought structures with a home loan, and then renovated them from our savings and investments.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learnt from your business journey so far?
One cannot focus on one area to generate revenue.
Covid-19 taught everyone this lesson — the situation can change at a blink of an eye.
Businesses must be flexible enough and be prepared to render business unusual to survive, by coming up with innovative means.
What are the greatest challenges and advantages of running your business in a city like PE?
The competition is very tight as there are a lot of accommodation establishments in the area, registered and unregistered.
It’s mostly the unregistered ones that kill the market.
Operating from owned properties has been an added advantage for us. It does not happen to everyone. We feel truly privileged.