Job Creator of the Year Siphiwe Ngcobo
Job Creator of the Year Siphiwe Ngcobo
The Meander Chronicle was invited to attend a recent Tourism Forum held in the offices of the uMgungundlovu Municipality where the theme Why Pietermaritzburg? was being discussed. Local entrepreneur, and recent 2017 South African Entrepreneur of the Year® finalist and Job creator of the year winner sponsored by Sanlam and BUSINESS/PARTNERS, Siphiwe Ngcobo offered some valuable insights.
Group Managing Member of iLawu Hospitality Group, and an enthusiastic proponent of highlighting the Tourism potential of Maritzburg and immediate surrounds, his positivity and energy was a stand out feature of the round table discussion. Let’s see what makes Siphiwe Ngcobo tick.
Born in Imbali, Pietermaritzburg, and now resident in Pelham with his partner and 2 young children, a 9 year old son and 3 year old daughter, this local entrepreneur is moving and shaking with his iLawu Hospitality group. His path to success is a colourful one and includes the obligatory ups and downs that characterise a successful entrepreneur.
Due to financial constraints he didn’t graduate with the Mechanical Engineering degree he enrolled for but this did not stop Ngcobo, a product of Carter High School, from doggedly pursuing a desire to be successful in business. His career path includes cutting his teeth in a Garden Services “business” during his school years, where he learnt some basic business principles like not spending every cent as you earn it. Assets need to be maintained using some of the income! A foray into manufacturing saw him producing ice-lollies in his backyard and earning himself some relatively decent money while still at school too.
Volunteering in a local engineering company saw him gain relevant and useful experience which made him more employable than graduates who were looking for work at the time. An impressive work ethic, hands-on training and useful experience saw Ngcobo take up an offer at Harmony Mines as a technician. It was here that he was offered a bursary to do a specialised course in Goldsmith Machinery in Italy, Cimmeo industries in Bassano del Grappa (south of Venice). Ngcobo says that it was probably here that the hospitality idea took hold as he spent many months in hotels and noticed the various aspects of the industry. Returning home he took up a position at Hulamin as a machine cutter, started another business in IT, which turned out to be his undoing at the time. The business lost everything, including the moeny he had saved overseas. It jeopardised his job at Hulamin and saw Ngcobo hitting his lowest point, or as he puts it, a point of nothingness. It was a period of deep introspection as he reassessed himself and his dreams from his new home in his grandmother’s garage. He picked himself up however, realised that living the fast materialistic life was not going to pay off. He was reinstated by Hulamin, received some back pay, started a tuckshop which he managed in his remaining hours. It was during this period that the lure of property caught Ngcobo’s attention and grit, determination, hard work, dismissing the naysayers saw him buy his first B&B in Scottsville.
Currently his property group owns 3 hospitality establishments in Pietermaritzburg – iLawu Guesthouse in Scottsville, iLawu Inn in Commerical Rd and most recently iLawu Boutique Hotel in Morcom Rd, where we find oursleves enjoying a coffee in the new Botanic Restaurant. Situated at 42 Morcom Rd, Prestbury, it’s a pleasant spot and it’s obviously a favourite with the busy coporate set. (Open Mon to Fri, 07h00 to 21h00). A second restaurant has been launched at the iLawu Lodge in Newcastle and the iLawu group has a property presence in Vryheid. iLawu Food Services which offers catering throughout KZN for both the leisure and corporate events is one of the fastest growing portfolios in the business.
And our interview gets back to the reason for being in the same room, the critical question of Why Pietermaritzburg? Ngcobo speaks passionately about this. It is the capital city of the Zulu Kingdom. It’s heritage and architecture is of enormous touristic value. The sporting events it holds are internationally renowned. It’s between beach and berg, and is family-friendly. The reasons are endless reiterates Ngcobo.
He doesn’t mince his words when asked how Pietermaritzburg needs to achieve this status. “we need Government.” says Ngcobo “Government is our most important stakeholder and if it is not playing a leading role then development is not going to be sustainable. Good corporate governance is KEY. This means we need transparency and accountability. Without these key factors we are not an attractive investment. Issues with infrastructure are also not going to make Pietermaritzburg a viable investment. Once your CBD has For Sale signs everywhere it’s not good!”
Pietermaritzburg needs more of the likes of Siphiwe Ngcobo, who believes that it can be done! Situated in a strategic location on the main freeway between Johannesburg to Durban – Pietermaritzburg, with so much heritage and history to offer should be an attractive and viable destination for everybody.
Contact Siphiwe Ngcobo on 072 331 7345 or email: Siphiwe Ngcobo firstname.lastname@example.org>