Hotel business is my passion
At 17 Gloria Orufeng discovered her passion for business and years later at 55 she has proven to be quite the business lady.
While growing her business she was also raising and grooming three children who now help her run her businesses.
Her latest project, Sahara Stone hotel puts her up there with the big players in the industry.
In fact, not far from Sahara Stone is Majestic Five hotel but Orufeng is not worried about the competition.
Archie Mokoka caught up with this formidable business woman to find out how she made it.
Kindly take us through your journey in business?
I have been in business since I was 17.
I used to buy Drum magazine and I noticed there were watches sold for R9.90.
I started ordering them and reselling for P50 to BCL employees and to other companies’ employees.
That’s when I knew I had it in me.
I went back to Jo’burg to buy more watches and I never looked back.
Soon I added other items.
My colleagues at Selebi Phikwe Town Council used to borrow money from me.
So you had a job before all this?
I was a switchboard operator before I became a Secretary at Selebi Phikwe Town Council.
Before that I had tried to be a nurse but I couldn’t stand the sight of wounds and blood so I left.
Okay. So how did you end up in the hotel business?
I started with Gloryland Guesthouse in Palapye in 2001.
I have a construction company and I like building so I started with just 10 rooms at my parents’ yard.
When they retired and went back home my dear parents offered me the place to buy and I did.
Wasn’t it tough for you as a woman, a single mother?
Hotel business is a woman thing and men can’t manage.
It’s homely and there aren’t many needs.
I wish ladies could understand this.
They already wash and make beds so it should be easy.
How did you survive competition from established names?
There was not much competition.
There was just Palapye Hotel, Cresta Botsalo and Palapye Guesthouse.
I was actually the first Motswana woman in the business but I was beating Botsalo hands down with just 10 rooms.
Wow! So you decided to sell and go bigger?
No. My daughter runs that business now.
Whether I could make it or not was no longer an issue so I decided to go bigger.
I had land in the most ideal location so it made sense to go for it, after all Botsalo wasn’t a threat.
At first I wanted a game lodge because of my passion for animals and plants but the Land board said there wasn’t enough bush for that.
What challenges do you face in your business?
This being a big project I had financial challenges because I would ask for money and not get it due to the recession.
The result is that costs went up and affected the budget and schedule.
We were supposed to open in 2013 but everything was behind.
Any other challenges?
The government books like yesterday, send confirmation and then change their minds and we lose business because of that.
The other challenge is manpower.
We train the youth and then they move around to other places but at least they come back after a while.
Is this your last project?
Sahara Stone is at phase one and phases two and three are coming soon.
In the second phase we will increase rooms and add an entertainment theater.
Phase three will bring out-door entertainment area and camping site.
That won’t be the end though; I’m still to pursue the Game Lodge idea at Radisele in five years.
You must be absent from your family a great deal.
My children are very supportive and we work together.
All three of them are my line managers.
One is Human Resources Manager and the other is Accounts Manager while the other is a Business Manager.
You said something about community service. Tell us more about that.
I love to serve the community.
Currently I’m supporting the local health team to build for destitute members of the community.
I also support local football teams with kits and last year in September I adopted Sebeso Primary School which will get P20 000 every year for seven years.
What can you say to motivate other women?
Women should know that they can also do it.
Winning comes from a plan and this is the perfect business for women.
If more women go into business we can encourage the youth when they see us doing.
We have what it takes.
There are many women raising kids on their own which is a strength no one should ever underestimate.
If any women need help I can assist because I’m not jealous and have helped a few women with ideas before.