Johannesburg - Ralene van der Merwe, co-founder of the recently launched Pecanwood Manor, located in Upington in the Northern Cape, chats to IOL in this Q&A about what gave her the idea to start the lodge.

Q: Is Pecanwood Manor your first startup?

A: With an entrepreneurial upbringing, I learnt the foundations for identifying opportunity and achieving success. Starting my career in business administration, I soon moved to open my first guesthouse in 1998. From there, I opened my own interior and framing shop and worked at renovating a new house, to turn into a guesthouse.

After the birth of my 3 children, I sold my interior shop to focus on being as good a mom as I can be. With my focus on parenting for 10 years, I lectured, part-time, at Vaal University of Technology in Computerskills and Tourism and have been working towards achieving a psychology degree through the University of South Africa.

In 2015 I started renovated an old farmhouse with my business partner, Pieter Roos and we opened Pecanwood Manor in January 2016. I'm overwhelmed by the influx of guests we've had since the start of the year.

Q: What gave you the idea?

A: The idea to open the Pecanwood Manor dawned on me one night when I was searching for accommodation in the area for a business associate of my husband, and realised the need for luxury accommodation in Upington. My husband, always open to business [ideas], encouraged me and financed the startup. From there, Pieter and I worked hard to renovate the old farmhouse into the beautifully decorated, luxurious accommodation that it is today.

Q: How is it doing?

A: Pecanwood Manor had a marvellous start; the guesthouse was fully booked in the first month of opening. We were absolutely amazed and thankful.

Q: . Did you always want to be an entrepreneur?

A: No, not at all. I always imagined, I would be a stay-at-home mom but I had a very strong entrepreneurial upbringing. My dad was a successful sheep farmer and my mom a strong career woman, always busy with a new venture. My mom was an extremely creative woman which inspired me and my two siblings to flourish into innovative business people. To seal the deal, I married a strong and hardworking business man, David van der Merwe…and that further sealed the deal for me to also naturally become a business woman and entrepreneur.

A:. What made you choose this career path?

Q: I have a great passion and love for renovating, beautiful furniture and interesting houses - I simply cannot leave a stone unturned. The career that I find myself in sort of chose me when David and I got married. We bought an old Manor, at that stage far above our financial abilities but just knew is it is a great investment. We are both very eager and positive people and never back out of a challenge. We struggled to keep up with the raising interest rate and was very worried on how we will be able to keep the manor, so my mom (also a guesthouse owner) encouraged us to transform some of the rooms into guestrooms and the rest … like they say, is history.

Q: What's next on your list?

A: Hmmm….. right now I want to finish my studies in Psychology that I started two years ago, establish this wonderful guesthouse and not think ahead to much, because I know that once I start giving fertiliser to my creativity, I will want to start my next venture. So just making a huge success of this guesthouse is my number one priority at this stage!

Q: What would you say to someone who wants to be an entrepreneur?

A: I simply love Sir Richard Branson's motto in life: "Have fun, work hard, then money will come and if it's no longer fun, move on". If you are an entrepreneur, there's nothing else you can do, it will always surface and you will always be looking for something great to do. If you want to become one, make sure to really think about motivates you - the wrong motivation will exhaust you and it might lead to failure and you might lose your motivation for life… Rather BE what God made you to be, and success will follow.

Q: Would you say you need a degree to get started?

A: A degree is not a necessity but will definitely add value and give you confidence to excel.

IOL