Makhosi Msimango, the founder and owner of Ndzenga Tours and Safari Tours, won the MEC’s Award at the KZN Lilizela Tourism Awards last week. Picture: Supplied.

Makhosi Msimango, the founder and owner of Ndzenga Tours and Safari Tours is one of the most humble people I have met.

The 35-year-old from Hillcrest won the MEC’s Award at the KZN Lilizela Tourism Awards last week, yet she remains so cool, calm and collected.

Seated across from her at the Premier Resort Sani Pass, Msimango beams with excitement as she talks about her first award.

“I am very honoured and excited to have won this prestigious award. It has not been an easy road, especially in this challenge dominated industry.

“When you are black and a female, there are not many people who take you seriously. You have to work very hard to make your dreams to come true,” she says.

She started her business, which specialises in cultural heritage and township experiences, in 2006.

Taking a break from the reed dance festivities in Northern KwaZulu-Natal, Msimango was in her car when she noticed a group of lost tourists.

“I was rather startled when they told me that they got there by themselves. I realised that there was a need to organise cultural and township experiences, and everything took shape from there,” says Msimango, triumphantly.

Despite the ups and down, and the recession, her business has grown by leaps and bounds. Although she was self-funded, having to use up her savings to start her business, the mother of 2 has a turnaround of over R4,6 million.

One of her most popular tours is at the Isithumba Cultural Village at the Valley of the Thousand Hills.

Here travellers can experience an authentic Zulu experience, from how the Zulu people live to sangomas.

Msimango, a member of the executive committee of the 1000 Hills Community Tourism Organisation, wants to grow domestic travel by offering budget-friendly tours for locals.

She also wants to continue to help women and youngsters who want to open tourism businesses through her non-profit organisation, Qhawekazi Foundation, which started in 2016.

Before Msimango heads to an early morning meeting, her final words to aspiring tourism professionals are: “Work hard, even when you do not see the results. Consistency is the key…”