From humble beginnings to property mogul
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DURBAN - Phumlani Ngwenya is a determined entrepreneur who started out selling boiled eggs and sweet potatoes outside a doctor's surgery in his hometown of Pongola, Northern KwaZulu-Natal.
Ngwenya says his humble beginnings led to him becoming a successful businessman.
Ngwenya began his career in business by selling boiled eggs and sweet potatoes outside of a doctor's surgery to help his mother make ends meet.
He then in his own words "graduated" and began to sell paw-paws near a petrol station. The entrepreneur later joined the petrol station working as a petrol attendant.
Later Ngwenya earned favour with, Willy Plant, an attorney who was impressed with his fluency in Afrikaans and "adopted" him. Plant, then bought books for Ngwenya and sent him to college where he became an Afrikaans teacher.
In 1999, Ngwenya took the first steps to start his hotel business. He purchased a 4-bedroom house in Pongola that he was going to sell and use the money for capital.
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However, he realised that there was a demand for accommodation in Pongola and chose to turn the home into a B&B. It was in 2002 when he got his big break, during the cholera crisis in KZN.
When nurses were sent to Pongola to help with the crisis they stayed at Ngwenya's guest house. According to Ngwenya, during that time period he made R250 000. Using the profit that he made he expanded the property into a 20 bedroom guest house which is now known as Crocodile Creek hotel.
After Crocodile Creek was launched, Tourism KZN approached him and suggested that he enter the National Travel Tourism Awards. He entered the competition and walked away with an award that allowed him to travel to London for the World Travel Market where he promoted his business.
According to Ngwenya, through Tourism KZN he travelled to other European countries like the Netherlands and Germany where he met tour operators. Through these tour operators he has hosted international tourists at his hotels.
A few years later he saw a hotel property that he wanted to buy but he did not have the funds. He said that he visited a lot of banks but none of them was willing to give him a loan because his collateral was Crocodile Creek.
The property cost R1,2 million and he only had R300 000.
He later found support with Ithala Development Finance Corporation. Ithala helped him with the financing to buy the hotel. This hotel is now known as Magudu Hotel.
Magudu Hotel has 200-bedrooms 8 conference centres and 2 dining halls. Ngwenya said that people host conferences and weddings at Magudu Hotel.
This year he bought his third accommodation property called Kwalala Lodge.
Ngwenya uses sites like Booking.com and TripAdvisor to advertise his hotels. His accommodation properties are also advertised by Tourism KZN.
In 2018 Ngwenya was the overall winner of Ithala's Business Achievers Award. He won R100 000 which he plans on putting back into his business.
Ngwenya said that he wants to be like Sol Kerzner. He spoke about Kerzner saying "If he can do it then so can I"