1998: After a wonderfully meditative walk up Kilimanjaro,
and many thoughts about what to do with my future, I remembered
my thoughts of starting a company called Weekends Away. It made
perfect sense, as I had spent the past 10 years organizing all
sorts of adventure for groups of friends.
I flew down the mountain as fast as my feet would carry me,
headed off home and promptly converted a bedroom into an office
and Weekends Away was born.
1999: I met my husband to be and started travelling all
over the world. My husband is German, and extensive travelling
is a German affliction. Thus began my extensive travel education
to complement my adventure education.
1999: I met my husband to be and started travelling all over the world. My husband was German, and extensive travelling is a German affliction. Thus began my extensive travel education to complement my adventure education.
2002: In July I took a deep breath, dived in the deep end and gave up my part time position in order to focus on growing the business. We had one staff member (me) and one student trainee. Talita Minty worked for the company for many years, whilst developing her adventure skills.
We also started an Adventure Racing team called Weekend Warriors.
2003: We spent the next few years, developing our database and focusing on Adventure Travel. We also attempted to start up two branches, one in Cape Town and one in Durban. I think that was definitely a case of running before we could walk.
2005: Bongi and I started Holidays of Hope, which was an NGO organizing holidays for disadvantaged children. During the time that it was open, we sent over 500 school children on holidays for the first time in their lives. The NGO closed in 2009 with the arrival of the recession.
Oct 2006: We finally closed our leisure business and started to focus on the Corporate Sector. The reason for this was business sustainability.
We offered a range of services from the Business Tourism sector, team building, incentive travel, events and conferences.
2007 – 2009: These were probably the most challenging years of the journey. We expanded our team to 16, and then came the recession!! I had grown the business from less than a couple of R100 000 turnover to a R25 million turnover. In that process, I also began to understand the difference and learn the lessons of turnover versus profit!!
In January 2009, my German husband had returned to Europe, as a result of an armed robbery. I was left looking after three properties, and two business (mine and his). It was time to take a long hard look at what plan to implement in order to get over to Europe.
2010: In June, after extensive consultations with various Accountants and lawyers, it was decided the best plan of action was to close Weekends Away. Thus came to the end a decade of business and business lessons.
However, as life has a way of doing what life wants to do, things changed!
December 2010: I flew over to Europe for my mother in law’s funeral and found out that my ex had been living with someone for the past 8 months whilst I thought (we had been seeing each other once a month around the world) that we had a happy marriage.
2011 – 2013: For the next two years, I threw myself into new projects that I created. One of the major pieces of advice when you are going through a divorce is……..DO NOT START ANYTHING NEW!!!
Well, I obviously ignored this and rushed back to the drawing board!! I needed to make a u turn and start something new. Getting a job was not an option and running with the business model that I had in a recessionary environment was also not an option.
There were six projects that I worked on under the banner The Balance of Work 2 Play:
1. My old existing clients that were still standing (or spending) after the recession:
ii. China Construction Bank
iii. Selati Sugar
iv. Boston College
2) The second question was …where else could I utilise my experience in a market that was untouched by the recession?
a. This became another division of the company - Unions@ Work
b. Unions (Cosatu and their affiliates) were recession proof. The door to door (literally) process of securing their Congresses began. The different unions had different constitutions, but all had one thing in common and that was that a Congress needed to happen every three to four years. These congresses varied in size according to the size of the Workers Union
c. This took cahoonas at some level, at one of the events that I did, I was the only white woman in a stadium of 15 000 black people. Determination was the driving force was. They why….my ex had left me with a R7.5 million debt problem.
d. For more info on Cosatu, Unions in South Africa (third arm of government) then read it here >>
e. I worked with 10 of the 18 Unions
3) What international product could I bring to South Africa?
The answer Vertical Catwalks: I met with the team in Munich and got the rights to sell it as a concept in Africa. I did not put too much into this. Met with a few advertising agents and got budgetary issues and new product issues, so put this back on the shelf.
4) The next question was which brands could I create and then own the product?
My father had just been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and I saw the opportunity in the Medical Congress World. There had been conferences for Cancer, Aids, Diabetes etc etc
There had never been an Alzheimer’s Congress and yet this has been declared the biggest disease of the new century.
In May 2013, we held the very first ever Alzheimer’s Congress in Africa –
6 months before the event, the International Alzheimer’s Association asked whether they could co-host with us and this became their first regional Congress in Africa.
Visit the website here: www.africaalzheimers.co.za
5) For a number of years, I had looked at the International Conferencing Circuit – it was big business!!
I identified the World Congress on Healthy Ageing, got sponsorship from South African Tourism to attend and bid to bring the event to South Africa.
In Malaysia I acquired the rights to the Second World Congress on Healthy Ageing –
We worked with the World Health Organisation on this – the Congress will be held in July 2015
This is the committee: www.wcha2015.com/committee (6 of them worked with me on the Africa Alzheimer’s Congress)
The Congress will be held in July 2015
6) I created a consumer exhibition event in order to educate the general public on Healthy Ageing.
Then as life has wont to do – I had a tsunami 12 months!! Two very bad armed robberies, my father spent 3 months dying in the most dreadful undignified way. Two of my most beautiful dogs died of cancer.
I made a decision to sell my projects, sell my property and move to Mauritius.
This is my gap year, I am selling my property and in the process of getting to Mauritius, I needed to do more than just sell my property, which is a beautiful farm 12 minutes from Sandton City, 10 minutes from Midrand and 15 minutes from OR Tambo. This entire area, which has been a hidden gem is about to turn into 70 townhouses per plot.
I am back working as an estate agent (if this is what it takes to sell my property). I have 120 hectares on my books now, valued at ½ Billion Rand.
My journey as a business woman has been fraught with lessons. It has taught me maturity, made me solutions orientated, made me realise the strength that I have within.
Business has helped me to understand myself. It has helped me to realise that no matter what the mistakes and how difficult it is, when you fall over, get up, dust off your knees and get on with it.
Clem Sunter’s words were: Affirmative Action for Entrepreneurs – we need them in our country.
I am now about to start building my new business which I would like to run from Mauritius.