Makhosi Msimango, the founder and owner of Ndzenga Tours and Safari, was seated in her car at the annual reed dance at the Enyokeni Royal Palace in Nongoma when she got the idea to start her own tourism business.
“I met some international tourists who had come into KwaZulu-Natal from Eswatini (Swaziland) to attend the annual reed dance in Nongoma,” she tells me over the phone.
“They did not know what to expect and looked quite lost. One of the females was turned away because she wore pants. This got me thinking about how many other tourists faced the same challenges because they are unsure about the customs and traditions of the country. I realised that there was a need for cultural and township experiences,” she says, enthusiastically.
She started her business, which specialises in cultural heritage and township experiences, in 2006.
The 36-year-old’s business currently has a turnover of R4.6 million.
Msimango, who is the provincial chairperson for KZN Women In Tourism, won the MEC’s Award at the KZN Lilizela Tourism Awards last year and has since been nominated for a string of awards.
This year, she was nominated in the tourism category at both the KZN Top Business Awards and KZN Investors Awards.
“I am very honoured and excited to see my business grow from strength to strength. I have worked very hard to make sure that I provide a service that is on par with industry standards,” she says.
Msimango admits that it has not been an easy road.
“It is still very much a male-dominated industry, especially when it comes to getting larger contacts. Clients turned me down many times, but instead of complaining about being black and a woman, I strive to do my best. I let my success make the noise.
“You have to work very hard to make your dreams to come true. The industry has taught me to keep race, sex and religion out of it," Msimango says.
Msimango tries to make her prices competitive and accessible for all types of travellers.
Her most famous tour is the Zulu Royal Palace tour in Nongoma where travellers get to experience authentic Zulu culture, and if lucky will get to meet the King.
“Showcasing KwaZulu-Natal comes naturally to me. It is my favourite place in the entire world and has so much to offer travellers.
“They have options of taking a country escape in the Midlands, experience the coastal beaches in Durban and the South Coast or enjoying nature in the Drakensberg.”
The entrepreneur has a non-profit organisation, Qhawekazi Foundation, which she started in 2016.
The organisation aims to help women and youngsters who want to open tourism businesses. She is conducting a masterclass on business and product development. She is working on becoming a business coach this year.
Her advice for those hoping to get into the industry: “Do not start businesses without it sparking your passion. It has to wake you up every morning and drive you to do your best. Consistency is key, and once you have achieved that, you well on your way to owning a successful business.”
Msimango will leave for Las Vegas for a travel exhibition in September.