By Ronel and Marli Jooste
Owners of PhysEQFiT Guesthouse
I was the Head of Financial Reporting at Momentum Group (became MMI Group after Momentum and Metropolitan merged), when I decided to leave the corporate world in 2015 after 10½ years with the group and pursue new opportunities. Together with my sister, Marli (a registered Psychometrist, Counselling Therapist and coach) we started our own company called PhysEQFiT. We specialize in physical (=Phys), emotional (=EQ) and financial (=Fi) wellness where I focus on financial and physical wellness while Marli look after the emotional wellness.
Marli was already running her private practice from home for about 4 years at the time. When I left the corporate world we needed a bigger property where we both could live and run our offices from. We ended up buying a guesthouse in Zwartkop, Centurion (www.physeqfit-guest.co.za). It happened unintentionally but I believe if an opportunity comes your way, grab it with both hands and work hard to make it work. Marli and I always dreamt of owning our own guest lodge with a wellness centre one day and I guess this was a step in the right direction; even though for a Chartered Accountant and a Psychometrist to step into the hospitality industry is taking quite a giant leap of faith. In April 2016 after doing renovations and furnishing the guesthouse, we opened our doors and our new journey started.
We certainly faced multiple challenges:
- We decided to only buy the property and not the previous guesthouse’s book of business. For safety reasons we decided not to advertise on the accommodation websites or allow any walk-in guests. Therefore we had to start from scratch building up a client base and we only relied on referrals – an exceptionally hard job in itself.
- Moving from an estate environment to a guesthouse where privacy is pretty much non-existent was something to get used to. But we decided we will tolerate it because we want to run the guesthouse ourselves for at least the first 2 years.
- Owning a big property with 9 bedrooms and 10 bathrooms in total is a maintenance nightmare especially when two girls are running it.
- We had to get used to the fact that in the hospitality industry it is about the client / guests. If guests say they will arrive at 8:00am; it actually means they can arrive anytime between 7:00am and 10:00am.
- Running a guesthouse when we have our wellness business to also focus on requires a lot of juggling around and multi-tasking.
Fortunately the highlights overshadowed the challenges:
- One year later and we have a few regular guests whom we have great relationships with.
- We hosted quite a few events including conferences, training workshops, ladies groups, bridal showers, birthday parties and year-end functions at the guesthouse.
- We opened our private gym at the guesthouse for guests and private clients.
- Nowadays we also offer an in-house mini-spa at the guesthouse after partnering with DD Touch Spa. The spa is popular and we often host groups of ladies for pampering and lunch.
- We took over two staff members from the previous owner. Joyce and Evah used to be domestic workers (cleaners). We sat down with them asking them about their dreams and aspirations. Joyce wanted to get involved with administration and Evah wanted to learn to cook. Fortunately my partner is a chef and has a catering business. He is assisting us a lot in training the staff to cook and today they can cook and prepare delicious food. Evah completed a cooking course. We are busy teaching Joyce basic computer and administration skills. We spend a lot of time with them teaching them about basic business principles and explaining to them how vital their roles are in the success of the business. They are very loyal and reliable and we all work together as one big team with one goal – to run the business successfully.
- Our staff member, Evah, made us really proud with her 3rd place in the “Hirsch’s Domestic Worker of the Year” competition.
- On the catering side we have partnered with Bredies Bites. We have experienced what it is like to cater at big sporting events for up to 1,000 people; catered at a wedding on a farm for 230 guests; catered for 185 guests at their year-end function and catered for the VIP-guests in the bush at the Ashburton National Mountain Bikes series held in Rooiberg and Sabie.
- We opened a canteen in a corporate office building in Centurion.
- We appointed a qualified chef, Khensani to assist at the canteen and the guesthouse when we have functions.
- Our delicious platters are popular and we definitely want to expand on our catering for corporate clients.
It all started with looking around for bigger property and exactly one year later it developed into owning a guesthouse with six guestrooms, a conference venue, a private gym (where I can also live my fitness dream), a mini-spa, offices, an assessment centre (for Marli’s private practice), a canteen and catering services. Hard work is still required to build and grow solid and sustainable businesses, but we have a deep desire to make a success of everything. It was a journey that started unintentionally and we had to build it from scratch without having any experience in the hospitality industry, but we certainly are learning and growing all the time. What a journey it has been!