Keeping to 9 – 5? Not when you work for yourself!

Nadia Carolissen, member of the National Executive Committee of the SA Council for Business Women, is not a new entrant to the business scene but she has quickly learnt that being your own boss meant that office hours are actually all hours!  Luckily, she is not a typical 9 -5 type of person, she enjoys independence and space to do her own thing!

When Nadia opened a guest house in Pretoria, she thought that this would be a nice post-retirement project. Having been in the academic sphere for many years (she was involved with training and development at the Afrikaanse Handelsinstituut for many years, amongst others), she always knew that she would venture into business at some point in her life.  “ When our children left the home, it made sense to fill the empty spaces with guests,” says Nadia.  “Having your own business is hard work, but it can also be extremely rewarding.  But most of all, it is empowering – and this is not something you often experience in the workplace,” Nadia told us.

Venturing into the hospitality industry, Nadia soon found that understanding the industry was one of her biggest challenges.  She was also faced with the challenge of breaking into the accommodation market where many role players have been established for a while and had long-standing relationships with their clients.  “To be successful in this industry, you need a strong client focus.  By putting yourself in the shoes of the client, you soon realise that consistency is the main requirement.  You have to deliver at the expected standard.  Products and services have to be of a consistent quality”, says Nadia.

Looking back, Nadia knows that finding a mentor or coach, who could be a sounding board or trusted advisor, would have been of huge value when she started out. “I ventured into an unknown area and there were times when I needed someone to talk to, who could encourage me when my confidence levels were low,” says Nadia.

The best rewards of having your own business is that you can experiment, give expression to your own creativity, and implement your own ideas. Also, in the hospitality industry, no two days are the same as you dealt with a diverse range of guests daily.

Unfortunately, the hospitality industry was one the industries hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.  Nadia had to make some strategy adjustments for 2020. She researched the impact of COVID-19 on the target market she served and how to satisfy the target market post COVID-19. She also cancelled non-essential monthly products and services to reduce her expenses when lockdown started.  “ I also needed to consider adding new revenue streams.  Although it was always part of my long-term strategy, COVID-19 necessitated that this plan be implemented earlier, “ says Nadia.

She admits that things could have been quite different for her if her husband did not have a fulltime job and was in a position to provide much needed financial assistance.  At the moment the market and business environment are still very fluid,  so Nadia will re-assess the situation once we have more clarity of the post COVID-19 realities.  Only then will a  new strategy and way forward be crafted.

Nadia’s advice to women dreaming of entering the hospitality industry, is clear.  “Remember, no sustainable business is built overnight.  You need hard-work, discipline and resilience.  These are non-negotiable characteristics.  Have a vision and set realistic targets. And get a mentor – it is essential to have someone who has done it before, to mentor your process”, says Nadia.

Nadia is heading up the Mentorship programme for the SA Council for Business Women and her passion in helping small business owners to grow and be successful. “I feel that all SMME owners must belong to network organisations as it provides access to a whole network of diverse people with similar challenges, where experiences and  ideas are shared, constant advice and support are readily available and it is one of best marketing platforms”, says Nadia.

The SACBW is so blessed to have someone with her talents and dedication in the team and we look forward to a spike in growth for small and medium businesses under her able mentorship and guidance!

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