“Everyone says you need money to start a business, but there are ways to creatively get around not having capital,” says Anthea Ambursley, who in 2004 left her job to start Anansi Heights Guest House, catering to the needs of the niche corporate traveller market.
Unable to secure a bank loan until her property had been rezoned for guest house purposes – a process that could take up to three years – Ambursley knew the business would have to finance itself. “That meant booking guests and conferences as quickly as I could,” she explains.
Drawing on her corporate background, she knew just who to target. “Most people don’t recognise that secretaries and PAs are incredibly powerful people in the corporate world. They do all the bookings for their bosses, so it made sense to me to start with them,” she says.
She invited secretaries and PAs to special breakfasts and lunches at Anansi Heights, giving them the opportunity to experience what the guest house had to offer. “They had nothing to lose other than a free meal,” she says
The tactic was to prove an important tipping point for the business. “I held my first breakfast on a Monday and by the Wednesday I had a three-day conference booked for 25 people. From there, the word spread,” says Ambursely, who’s since been able to expand the business to include self-catering apartments, much in demand among corporates looking to cut travel costs.