Hospitality success story

Nongoma Inn

Zululand hoteliers scoop award

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 Nzuza is an entrepreneur to the 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 saw them embark on 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.

Rewards for small business lions

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.

“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 17-bedroom hotel in Mbazwana that had been neglected and needed a new lease on life.

“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.”

Nzuza knew he would have to find additional financial back-up to make this dream a reality but, as the hammer went down, he had taken the plunge and the hotel was his. He then turned 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.

The loan application was approved and immediately the Nzuzas started working to get the hotel back to acceptable standards, starting with the renewal of a liquor license and the addition of 10 rooms, among other upgrades. The once run-down hotel has been transformed into a 27-bedroom hotel for visitors and holidaymakers to this small town.

Employment

Nzuza arranged formal hotel hospitality training for himself and his staff. In addition to accommodation, Mbazwana Inn now includes conference facilities and a restaurant.
Through this success story, permanent employment has been created for 47 people from the local community.

“Creating jobs has always been a goal but it did not come without challenges. Because Nongoma is quite a traditional area, we had to educate 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 emphasised the institution’s efforts to ensure active economic participation, especially for previously disadvantaged 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.”

In the picture: The Nongoma Inn was the Nzusas’ first (and successful) foray into the hospitality industry.