Two women who are going places, Phetheni Mbonambi of Syavaya Tours and Sindi Mshengu, the owner of Kuhle Tours.
Picture: TERRY HEYWOOD PHOTOGRAPHY
GO-GETTER businesswoman Sindi Mshengu, who has a highly successful travel and tourism company, has always known what she wanted.
When you look at her fleet of 45 vehicles and realise she employs 32 people, it is hard to see that the award-winning entrepreneur, who owns Kuhle Tours, started out in the world of business with R100.
“Never underestimate what you are doing. It doesn’t matter how small it is, but as long as you have a bigger picture of where you want to be in life and believe in yourself, you will definitely get there,” she advised.
She used that initial R100, which was a Christmas present after leaving school, to buy second-hand clothes. She began selling them at payout points in the Durban Greater area, recalling that it was then “that the entrepreneurial spirit hit me”.
Her business gradually grew, and then she went overseas to buy designer clothes to sell to her friends and eventually saved up and bought a car to reach customers further afield. After marrying Mduduzi Mshengu, an accountant, she spotted an opening in the tourism and shuttle industry and set up Kuhle Tours.
As the MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs, Sihle Zikalala, said when he presented her with the coveted MEC’s award at last year’s provincial Lilizela Tourism Awards, she had no formal education in the sector, no capital and no financial backing. And it was not easy for a young black woman tour operator back when the sector was dominated by big business, he pointed out.
The quality of her service brought in business and she was able to buy a second car.
Mshengu was initially based in uMlazi, but when the airport moved north, she relocated to uMhlanga to be closer to the King Shaka International Airport. It turned out to be a good move and Kuhle Tours continued to prosper.
She took part in Tourism KZN’s incubation programme which moulds, guides and supports emerging black-owned business owners, exhibited at Tourism Indaba for three years and also took part in trade shows in Mexico for three years. Mshengu, who will be back at the Tourism Indaba meeting customers this week, now expects to expand her business even further.
As well as operating from offices in uMhlanga, she has an office next to the Elangeni Hotel on the beachfront which is open 24 hours a day.
Kuhle Tours handles shuttles, transfers and car-hire for private use. It also offers a chauffeur service for VIPs, matric dances and other functions, as well as packaged overland tours with qualified tour guides.
The company’s luxury SUVs and saloons are also hired by the VIP Protection Services to transport cabinet ministers, provincial MECs and other high-profile passengers.
“We are the only company that offers this VIP service in Durban,” said Mshengu, who has five top tourism awards to her credit. She plans to open a travel agency so she can become a one-stop shop for inbound tourism.
She has always provided opportunities for tourism students from the Durban University of Technology, giving them employment and the chance to forge their way into the sector.
Phetheni Mbonambi and her Syavaya Tours company, is another successful and growing business which has benefited from TKZN’s support, and will be busy during Tourism Indaba just as they are during other local conferences.
They will be taking delegates on 10 scheduled tours, with the most popular being the Wild Life Tour, as well as the tour to the Valley of 1 000 Hills, the Durban City Tour, the Mandela Capture Tour in Howick and the Inanda Tour.
With their fleet of more than 20 vehicles, ranging from small sedans to 22-seater buses, Syavaya specialises in inbound tourism, collecting visitors from the airport and their Durban hotels and also taking them on some of their 15 tours around Durban, KZN and the country.
Mbonambi, a former high school teacher, joined Syavaya Tours, which was founded by her husband Malusi, in 2006 and has never looked back.
The couple were among “the lucky ones” who have been been involved in Tourism KZN’s incubation programme, getting invaluable help with their brochures and marketing.
They have also taken part in Tourism Indaba and attended various trade shows around the world, with TKZN and South Africa Tourism.
“We’ve been to London, Berlin, America and Japan and right now we have some ongoing business with some countries in Africa as a result of links with the Nigerian tourism industry.”
The company has several divisions, and one special project is their “Gogos (grannies) On Tour” for the elderly. “It gives the elderly the chance to travel their own province for two days and explore the tourism offerings.”
Another specialist tour is for the spouses of tourism delegates. Business delegates often bring their spouses to Durban and while they attend local and international conferences, their partners get to see the sights.