Nyeleti Mushwana is the inspirational driving force behind one of Limpopo’s fastest-growing hotels, the Karibu Leisure Resort and Conference Centre. Her story is a fascinating example of how hard work, tenacity, and big dreams, combined with the right business support at the right time, helped her to make the transition from teacher to the award-winning, high growth entrepreneur she is today.
The 54-year-old was a teacher for 12 Years but she aspired to make a mark in the industry and took the leap to be an entrepreneur. Nyeleti started a security company, dabbled in catering, and carved a niche for herself as a self-made businesswoman with small business holdings that helped her save up and take the hospitality industry by storm.
“I started on my own, the hospitality was influenced by my simple culinary skill,” Nyeleti says.
Today she owns Karibu Leisure Resort and Conference Centre, situated 27km outside Tzaneen in Limpopo. Karibu means “welcome” in Swahili and Nyeleti aims to have every guest feel welcomed and well taken care of.
The successful entrepreneur was born at Dan Village in Tzaneen and “Raised by giants, who empowered us to believe in ourselves and be independent”.
Nyeleti credits adversity, which encouraged her to think out of the box. “I grew up wanting just to be a housewife like my mom and raise my children just the way we were raised. I loved it when coming home from school and mom would have kept our food warm by the fire,” she reveals. “Later on I wanted to make a difference, move more into social cohesion which I’m yet to achieve.” Yet the powerhouse has achieved what many would never think to imagine.
She started Karibu in June 2003 with only 20 rooms and a conference room which accommodated 60 guests. The new-and-improved expanded resort now boasts 158 rooms and world-class conference and meeting facilities. The hotel also offers a state-of-the-art conference hall which can accommodate up to 1 000 guests. Karibu caters to corporate government social events, church groups, and individual walk-ins, who are in search of accommodation and a relaxing oasis.
The hotel has helped Nyeleti garner many awards since, including the Shoprite checkers woman of the year award in 2012.
Entrepreneurship plays a big role in allowing everyday people to participate in the economy and Nyeleti did just that. On her winning strategy and what makes her business stand out from the rest, Nyeleti says, “The quality of service we give our guests, our brand experience and the ability to intuitively measure our guests’ expectations before they ask for it, and actually deliver that kind of memorable experience, which eventually will guarantee their return.”
Nyeleti also nurtures her staff and helps them grow to enable a skilled workforce – she has 78 permanent employees and 40 casuals. The mother of three worked hard and battled with access to finance and resources but adds, “You are able to overcome challenges by looking at it as your propeller. It pushes you to be more creative – that is what kept us running for the past 16 years”.
“My first venture [catering] unlocked my future opportunities. Catering funded the security business and the security funded the hospitality business.” A strategy she continues and emphasizes is “re-investing in the business”. On being a woman in business, Nyeleti says,
“Having business acumen cuts across gender.” The key aspects she lists are, “Self-belief, determination, hard work, tenacity and, of course, humility.” The formidable woman aims to have a business presence in the three leading metros, Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Durban, in the future.
And we’ve seen what she has done with her previous dreams and aspirations. “Our government has put systems in place to enable us to realize our dreams. What is important is to ask, seek information, do research, and surf the net. I would say to all women of honor: dream and dream big. Do not let anyone frustrate your dream of abandonment. Dream to fruition,” Nyeleti emphasizes.