Crowned Limpopo provincial Entrepreneur of the Year in the Emerging Category for 2009/10, and then named runner-up in the same category for the national awards in 2010/11, managing director of Zanami Lodge, Lorraine Chitate, has reason enough to celebrate.
A house of women
Lorraine Chitate is living her dream of owning her own guesthouse. And with a prestigious award title and nomination under her belt, her dream just got sweeter. “Zanami Lodge is the first business I have been involved in,” she proudly states. “I used to be a nurse, then a lecturer at Tshwane University of Technology before finally deciding to follow my dream of owning a guesthouse.”
Zanami Lodge, founded in 2007 by a husband and wife team, is simply ‘a house of women’. The logo indicates three African ladies with clay pots on their heads. Growing up in rural surroundings, Lorraine hails from very humble beginnings, and recalls having to go to school without shoes. “It was due to my struggles that I have always felt very strongly about making a difference.”
How it all started
Lorraine loves to host people at home and she is especially fond of travelling. “My house would always be full of visitors over holidays that there wouldn’t be enough room for all the guests to sleep comfortably,” she reminisces.
Lorraine is grateful for her good fortune of having the opportunity to travel to many places. “My husband and kids love travelling. I was always intrigued by the beauty of all the places that I would visit, and I secretly wished that somehow I could be part of that.” At the beginning, Lorraine wasn’t aware that one could do tourism on a small scale until the day she visited one of her favourite tourism destinations without making a prior booking. “The staff referred us to a nearby guesthouse for the night and I immediately knew this is what I wanted for myself. My dream was born.”
When success knocks
Zanami Lodge is situated in Polokwane and offers bed and breakfast, provides accommodation to the discerning business traveller, and offers conference facilities and beauty treatments. Massages can even be organised with Zanami’s in-house beauty therapist. In addition to the stunning accommodation and luxuries on offer, the lodge also boasts a private swimming pool, braai facilities, private dinner arrangements, outdoor catering and events, and a shuttle service to and from the airport and shopping centres. Game drives to Polokwane Game Reserve can also be arranged, as well as a round of golf at the local golf club. Zanami Lodge is located just minutes from the CBD and, as Lorraine points out, it was very important that the guesthouse was located close to town because her target market includes the business traveller, and this kind of traveller is very time conscious and values convenience.
“It is important that one has a dream,” she emphasises. “You might as well dream big while you’re at it because it takes the same amount of energy to dream – regardless of whether it’s big or small! Then you need to work hard at that dream bearing in mind that the plan will have to change a couple of times before you are happy with the final product.”
Lorraine described the feeling of winning the Entrepreneur of the Year Awards as nothing short of exhilarating. “I felt very humbled to have come this far and to be recognised for these awards on a national level was the cherry on the icing. It just confirmed to me that hard work and perseverance does pay off.”
On a personal note
Lorraine owes a lot of her success to her husband whom she describes as wonderful and supportive. She is also blessed with three beautiful daughters, Zandile, Nyasha and Michelle, and if one reads slowly across the letters of their names, it is obvious how ‘Zanami’ was born. When asked how she copes with balancing family time with a successful business, Lorraine replied: “It is quite difficult keeping the balance between running a business and spending quality time with your family, but by God’s grace it somehow just seems to work out. They have had many a dinners without me but I always prioritise my family every chance I get.”
Lorraine holds a Master’s Degree in Business Leadership and majored in Finance, strangely enough, so judging by the path she eventually chose, it’s obvious that tourism is undoubtedly her passion. “It feels like I am on holiday every day. One could call it a working holiday because it is a lot of hard work, but I absolutely love it.” And her recipe for success is simple: find something that you love and are passionate about, turn it into a vocation and make a living out of it!