Inspiration to women

AWARD WINNER: Nyeleti Mushwana
AWARD WINNER: Nyeleti Mushwana

SHE is a role model and inspiration not only to her community, but to the country as a whole. Shoprite Checkers Women of the Year Socio-Economic Business Developers Award winner Nyeleti Mushwana wants her award to encourage other women to have big dreams too.

The aim of the award is to identify exceptional and visionary women who have achieved in their own fields.

The divorced mother of three, who received the award on Saturday night amid glitz and glamour at Emperors Palace in Gauteng, is a former teacher and astutebusinesswoman who owns amultimillion-rand hotel and conference centre in Tzaneen in Limpopo.

She is the first black woman to own a hotel in Tzaneen. The hotel employs 134 people, of which 78 are full-time employees.

Mushwana achieved the key requirement of the National Tourism Sector Strategy for the advancement of women in tourism by skills, enterprise and leadership development.

She founded Karibu Leisure Resort and ConferenceCentre/NMN Grand Hotel, which has applied for a four-star grading. The establishment focuses almost exclusively on the domestic tourism market.

Karibu Leisure Resort, re-branded as NMN Grand Hotel late last year, opened as a small hotel with 28 rooms and a conference facility for only a handful ofpeople.

It expanded rapidly and now accommodates 280 people in 140 rooms with conference facilities for 600 people.

Mushwana told Sowetan that she felt very humbled because her hard work had finally paid off.

"It feels good to be recognised. It is very encouraging. I am honoured to be among women of substance.

"I am extremely thrilled and humbled by this honour, which is truly a recognition of the difference South African women are making in all socio-economic spheres of our lives to better the lives of all our people.

"It is incredibly flattering to be one of the honoured women and I am grateful to those women who came before me, paved the way and levelled the ground so that it became possible for us to dream big, inspire and ignite through focus, dedication, hard work and a positive outlook towards life."

Part of Mushwana's prize money would benefit a youth development centre in her community.

She received R30000 for herself and the Shoprite Group will contribute R100000 towards this project.

"I believe that the development of the role of women in tourism not only gives society balance, but it strengthens economic and social structures.

"I give all the glory to my employees. They are the cream of Karibu. They consistently rise to the challenge of making South Africa a destination of choice for tourists. They are the country's brand ambassadors," she says.

Mushwana also won the Emerging Tourism Entrepreneur Award in 2004 for creating jobs and supporting families through her enterprise in her community.

Her development of people and improving the participation of women in the tourism industry was also recognised.

"My passion for the hotel and the tourism industry started as a child when I enjoyed cooking and serving people.

"This passion grew and I dreamed about establishing a hotel where people would come to stay and enjoy my food. After qualifying as a teacher, I decided to turn my passion into reality by starting a hotel. I must say that my culinary skills came in very handy."

What is the secret of her success?

Mushwana says her business motto is that guests always come first.

She adds that she makes sure that they feel at home and happy by adding a personal touch.

She believes that the industry needs to open their doors to the local community and to invite them to come and see what is happening so that they can be inspired.

Mushwana says hospitality is the only industry where young female workers outnumber male workers.

"This is a very important industry that needs to be nurtured because it creates jobs," she says.

Mushwana continues to dream big. She plans to build another hotel in Tzaneen soon and then to acquire hotels in other provinces.