Pharmacist inspires young women to follow their passions after joining the hospitality industry

The Pharmachef and The Hideaway Spa owner, Anjori Maharaj. Picture: Supplied

The Pharmachef and The Hideaway Spa owner, Anjori Maharaj. Picture: Supplied

Published Mar 11, 2024


The devastation of Covid-19 served as a stark reminder that life is too fleeting not to pursue one’s passions.

And because of that, Anjori Maharaj, a qualified pharmacist, decided to take a break from being a pharmacist about two years ago and started her home industry business The Pharmchef and later The Hideaway Spa in Pietermaritzburg.

The entrepreneur said that while she loves pharmacy and she still does locums to keep up with the industry she has always loved being in the kitchen and could cook meals and bake by the time I was 10.

“I spent hours in the kitchen with my mum absorbing as much as I could, constantly experimenting. I had hoped to get into the food industry professionally. However, heeding my parents’ advice, I ventured into the field of pharmacy, securing a more practical and stable career which I surprisingly grew to love,” she said.

Coming from a small, humble family and with entrepreneurship in her blood, her dad also runs a business, she started a home industry business The Pharmchef by transforming her kitchen into a sanctuary where her culinary dreams became a reality.

Maharaj said that her model was based on very high quality meals and also catered for specific diets such as keto friendly diets.

Despite the exhaustion of doing the shopping, preparing and delivering the food, she found herself feeling exhilarated and looking forward to the next day.

A decor set for a pamper party of bridal shower at The Hideaway Spa catered by Maharaj. Picture: Supplied

“I started a small home industry catering business in my kitchen and mainly cooked meals for families daily and also went to office parks and handing out free cookies and requesting people to try my services.

“I was determined to build a client base and the business began to grow,” said Maharaj.

The UKZN graduate revealed that as her business gained momentum, she found that she could no longer manage the business from her kitchen and then rented out a property and decided to open a small events venue.

But she faced a hurdle when the neighbourhood voted against it and I had to temporarily closed.

“After a very slow start the business began to gain momentum and it reached a point where I was able to secure a venue and began to transform it into a little heaven to pursue my passion for hospitality.

“It was then that my second business The Hideaway Spa was born. The name is very apt as the spa is set about 500m from the main road and is surrounded by forestry and nature and provides the ideal escape from the hustle and bustle of life,” Maharaj shared.

A relaxing therapy room at The Hideaway Spa. Picture: Supplied

She said that running the spa been an amazing experience and has it taught you her many lessons as an entrepreneur.

“As I drive in to the spa daily, I literally smile as I am so thankful for this blessing. I get to work in this beautiful haven, doing what I absolutely love. It has had challenges like any other start-up business.

“I have learnt that although affirmations and mindsets are important, hard work and discipline is a non-negotiable if you want your business to succeed. I learnt that networking in business is extremely beneficial in growing your business.

“There are many businesses providing the same services as you are, so you need to ensure you take care of your customers and provide a standard of service that is incomparable,” said Maharaj.

She added: “When planning, you forget to take into consideration the smaller crucial items and these can add up to large monetary amounts. I work as a locum pharmacist to have finances to fund the development of various aspects of the spa.

“It is difficult but nothing is impossible to overcome. You have to be a problem solver. There is always a solution, you just have to find it. I also learnt that although you have the flexibility and do not have to conform to normal working hours and you are your own boss, business has its own difficulties. You can't really switch off.

“There are those days when everything goes completely wrong and then those days when everything runs smoothly. Either way, you have to weather the storms and be very decisive and efficient when handling matters,” she said.

Aside from being an entrepreneur, Maharaj is also a mentor and a philanthropist. Having worked with NGOs as a pharmacist, she, having inherited her mother’s nurturing attributes, hosts affirmation workshops for young women.

Entrepreneur Anjori Maharaj and staff at The Hideaway Spa in Pietermaritzburg. Picture: Supplied

“My last workshop was designed on girls between the ages of 15 to 18. The focus is on self love and the relentless pursuit of their passions no matter how unattainable they may seem.

“We have various interactive activities and focus on the positive aspects and strengths of the girls. We educate the girls on affirmations and how to create vision boards.

“These workshops become a safe space where they can share their issues and concerns freely as we assure them confidentiality and encourage a non-judgmental mind set,” said Maharaj.

She also revealed that they provide the girls with various techniques to navigate life hurdles, emphasising the development of self confidence, self image and the essence of becoming a woman of substance.

“A pivotal part of the purpose of these workshops is networking and interacting with other young ladies their own age and the essence of becoming a woman of substance.

“We encourage values of empathy and respect among these young women, encouraging them to support and uplift one another in a world that often pits them against each other.

“We highlight the importance of discipline and hard work in attaining their dreams,” she said.

She revealed that the next workshop she is planning is for older women as she loves dealing with people and creating platforms for training including spaces for people to share knowledge that will benefit others.

“The next workshop I am planning is focused on older women. As we get older, women tend to neglect themselves and give all of themselves to their jobs and families.

“This workshop will focus on reconnecting with yourself and self love. We will focus not only on the internal aspects such as affirmations and mindsets but also host a segment on dressing and make up to ensure they care for themselves and gain confidence in every aspect of their lives.

“We also have a segment on the importance of journalling, meditation and exercise,” she said.