“When I started my journey in entrepreneurship I went in confidently, but with hindsight I was quite naïve and ill prepared. Its been a fascinating, tough and fulfilling ride. The most common question I get asked is: ‘Why are you in business?’ I find that my ‘why’ changes as I mature in the world of entrepreneurship. Not a single day is the same, not a single year is the same. The ‘why’ therefore, changes often”- Siphiwe Ngcobo- Ilawu Hospitality Group
In the beginning.
Siphiwe Ngcobo could not have been a more ordinary South African. His history reads like many other anecdotes of township entrepreneurs. Siphiwe was born in a small town of Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu Natal with limited resources and during trialing times in the country. Despite these shortcomings, Siphiwe successfully forged through to own a thriving and successful business, Ilawu Hospitality Group.
But before the success, Siphiwe experienced failures and successes in a number of industries, which enabled him to be well versed on issues of business leading to some impressive accolades. One of his recognitions includes a motion passed by the South African National Assembly recognizing his achievement as the 2017 finalist in the South African Premier Sanlam/Business Partners Entrepreneurship awards as well as overall winner of Job Creator of The Year 2017.
Siphiwe has a burning desire and passion to promote entrepreneurship in different platforms with the aim to impact mainly black township youth who suffer from socioeconomic challenges, such as unemployment, poverty and inequalities. Siphiwe does not identify himself as a motivational speaker or a life coach and insists on a ‘realist’ and firm approach when it comes to issues that face the youth.
“One of the lies that we need to stop telling the youth is that there are sure steps that lead to success, because there are no such sure steps in the evolving world we live in. I am passionate about sharing my path, but those are my experiences and they don’t offer direct solutions to our changing world”- Siphiwe Ngcobo, Ilawu Hospitality Group
Siphiwe is a permanent student in business. He is always ready to learn from fellow budding entrepreneurs’ experiences in advancing his knowledge in his own endless entrepreneurship journey.
The Entrepreneurial Journey
Its been over 15 years since Siphiwe ventured into business. He has moved from retail, ICT, property investments and hospitality industries. A tough feat, given that he was blacklisted and unable to participate economically. However, Siphiwe, ever so set in his ways explored the distressed residential property market in the township and guesthouses at the time.
“My interest in property was sparked by a book I had read as a child, “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” by Robert Kiyosaki. As I grew older I knew I wanted to be involved in property. It helped that I had spent time in Italy as a student which would help me decide the path I would take with my properties. My time there drew me to hospitality”- Siphiwe Ngcobo, Ilawu Hospitality Group
Siphiwe’s hospitality entrepreneurial journey dates back to 2005 where his keen eye for smart investing payed off. He took the decision to start investing in property within the Imbali township in Pietermaritzburg after identifying a demand for quality, yet affordable accommodation. Always inspired to grow, he shifted his focus to service the hospitality industries.
Siphiwe was determined to steer the new business towards hospitality by learning everything through a practical, handson approach. Siphiwe reputably gave his all to the business and led by example. He is known to have been actively involved with housekeeping, reception, general management, sales and marketing.
Siphiwe Ngcobo has managed to build the iLawu Hospitality Group team to over 100 full time employees across a diverse portfolio of accommodation offerings that cater to several markets including: corporate, government, leisure groups looking for quality facilities with exceptional services, to locals looking to host elite events.
iLawu hospitality group has achieved a combined debt and equity assets of more than R30 million to date. He has also led the group in consistently achieving the net profit margin of more than 15% which is 3 times above the industry norm of 6% net profit annually.
“Sometimes you start something and you do not recognize the impact it may have over time. Without a doubt, I am most proud and humbled by employment I have created within the township and rural markets.”- Siphiwe Ngcobo, Ilawu Hospitality Group
“When I started my journey in entrepreneurship I went in confidently, but with hindsight I was quite naïve and ill prepared. Its been a fascinating, tough and fulfilling ride. The most common question I get asked is: ‘Why are you in business?’ I find that my ‘why’ changes as I mature in the world of entrepreneurship. Not a single day is the same, not a single year is the same. The ‘why’ therefore, changes often”