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Thakadu Reserve: Albert Segoe & John Ditsele

A unique community-owned lodge breaks new ground with its innovative business model

Juliet Pitman

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Albert Segoe & John Ditsele of Madikwe

Henry Ford, inventor, innovator,entrepreneur and founder of the Ford Motor Corporation once said: “A businessthat makes nothing but money is a poor business.” Although at first glance thisstatement might appear to fly in the face of capitalism, it can be argued thatwhat Ford was getting at is that business can be rich in all senses of the word– rich in profit, in development, in growth and in people – if it addssomething to the world around it instead of simply focusing on making money.And he should know – after all, this was the man who gave the world the modernassembly line that makes mass production possible today. 

On the banks of the Marico River in a gamereserve called Madikwe there is living proof that Ford was right. A uniquepartnership has lead to the development of a luxury game lodge that is whollyowned and run by the local village community of Molatedi. Of the 33 staffmembers at Thakadu, only six had ever previously been employed. Their learningcurve has been steep enough to induce vertigo. And yet they have beenprofitable from the first month. From the second month they were completelybooked out and in month three they were awarded a five-star grading by theTourism Grading Council. They continue to attract guests from all over theworld who, almost without exception, comment on the ‘special something’ thatexists at this lodge, setting it apart from the countless other luxury gamelodges on offer in South Africa. The interesting thing is that mostof these guests don’t know that Thakadu is community-owned and run. They comeexpecting world-class service in a luxury establishment and judge theexperience against the same standards they would for any other venue.

The story begins when Madikwe Collection –a company that markets and manages bookings for a group of private lodges inthe reserve, and Mafisa – a facilitating company that had already helpedestablish the first Madikwe community-owned lodge, Buffalo Ridge – saw anopportunity to develop a new lodge in the Madikwe Reserve. And while thecommunity aspect was important, the move made good business sense for Madikwe Collectionas well. Says Carl Trieloff, Madikwe Collection director: “The idea is for theMadikwe Collection portfolio to cover the full range of lodges, fromself-catering to ultimate luxury, and Thakadu happened to fill a gap in theportfolio.” Madikwe Collection leverages the strength of an already establishedMadikwe brand to market all the lodges in the collection. All the time thatwe’re involved there is skills transfer and capacity building to ensure thelong-term sustainability of the business,” adds William Stephens, also adirector.

So although this is a story about socialdevelopment, it is also a story about business. In particular, it’s about how aunique business model is proving incredibly effective at helping a businessgrow, arguably more effective than any other model in the hospitality industry.In simple terms, because staff own Thakadu, they work harder at creating aspecial experience for guests. This provides a solution to one of thehospitality industry’s biggest challenges – how to motivate staff, who worklong hours for little pay serving demanding clients, to smile and be welcomingand friendly at all times.Albert Segoe, general manager, explains howownership has made all the difference: “I can tell staff to treat guests as theywould visitors to their own private homes.” While this might have a hollow ringto staff who derive no benefit from an establishment, it has direct and potentrelevance for Thakadu staff members who, along with Segoe and assistantmanager, John Ditsele, own the lodge. Service excellence means guests return,generating profit that goes into a community-run trust to help build schools,infrastructure and healthcare facilities.

This is not to say, however, that therehaven’t been challenges. Segoe is committed to intensive training and ongoingimprovement to ensure Thakadu remains profitable. Although it was a realchallenge to train staff who had never worked before, Segoe believes it workedin the business’s favour in the end. “But what made it easier is that peoplehere have passion. They are proud to be part of something. And that makes upfor lack of experience.”Segoe and Ditsele both display tremendousentrepreneurship and drive. Segoe started at the bottom in hospitality, workinghis way up from the kitchen scullery to management. Ditsele, previously awaiter in Johannesburg, was selected as one of eight candidates out of 300applicants to do a field guides qualification. He too has worked his way up.Today they run a business with a turnover of around R6 million that is not onlyprofitable but holds the future of an entire community. 

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27 Of The Richest People In South Africa

Here are 27 of South Africa’s richest people, but how did they achieve this level of wealth? Find out here.

Nicole Crampton

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Learn the secrets of SA’s most successful business people, here is the list of the 27 richest people in South Africa:

In a world with growing entrepreneurship success stories, victory is often measured in terms of money. The feat of achieving a place on this list is, however, years of hard work, determination and persistence. “One has to set high standards… I can never be happy with mediocre performance,” advises Patrice Motsepe.

From the individuals that made the 27 of the richest people in South Africa list, actual entrepreneurs and self-made business people dominate the list; while those who inherited their fortunes have gone on to do even bigger and better things with their wealth. Over the years, some have slipped off the list, while others continue to climb higher and higher each year.

  1. Elisabeth Bradley
  2. Sharon Wapnick
  3. Bridgette Radebe
  4. Irene Charnley
  5. Wendy Ackerman
  6. Paul Harris
  7. Wendy Appelbaum
  8. Mark Shuttleworth
  9. Desmond Sacco
  10. Giovanni Ravazzotti
  11. Markus Jooste
  12. Gus Attridge
  13. Gerrit Thomas Ferreira
  14. Cyril Ramaphosa
  15. Adrian Gore
  16. Raymond Ackerman
  17. Michiel Le Roux
  18. Lauritz Dippenaar
  19. Jannie Mouton
  20. Stephen Saad
  21. Patrice Motsepe
  22. Allan Gray
  23. Koos Bekker
  24. Ivan Glasenberg
  25. Christoffel Wiese
  26. Johann Rupert
  27. Nicky Oppenheimer
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Watch List: 50 Top SA Black Entrepreneurs To Watch

South Africa needs more entrepreneurs to build businesses that can make a positive impact on the economy. These up-and-coming black entrepreneurs are showing how it can be done.

Nicole Crampton

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Early-stage South African entrepreneurial activity is at an all-time high of 11%, according to Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, and entrepreneurial intentions have also increased to 11.7%. With both activity and intentions growing significantly year-on-year, there are more businesses opening up around South Africa than ever before.

The increase in entrepreneurship has seen the rise of more black entrepreneurs across numerous sectors. From beauty brands to legal services and even tech start-ups, these are 50 top black entrepreneurs to watch:

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Watch List: 50 Top SA Small Businesses To Watch

Keep your finger on the pulse of the start-up space by using our comprehensive list of SA small business to watch.

Nicole Crampton

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Entrepreneurship in South Africa is at an all-time high. According to Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), total early-stage entrepreneurial activity has increased by 4.1% to 11% in 2017/2018. This means numerous new, exciting and promising small businesses are launching and growing.

To ensure you know who the innovative trailblazers are in the start-up and small business space, here are 50 of South Africa’s top establishing companies to watch, in no particular order:

  1. Livestock Wealth
  2. The Lazy Makoti
  3. Aerobuddies
  4. Mimi Women
  5. i-Pay
  6. AfriTorch Digital
  7. Akili Labs
  8. Native Décor
  9. Aerobotics
  10. Quality Solutions
  11. EM Guidance
  12. Kahvé Road
  13. HSE Matters
  14. VA Virtual Assistant
  15. Famram Solutions and Famram Foundation
  16. BioTech Africa
  17. Brand LAIKI
  18. Plus Fab
  19. LifeQ
  20. Organico
  21. 10dot
  22. Lenoma Legal
  23. Nkukhu-Box
  24. Benji + Moon
  25. Beonics
  26. Brett Naicker Wines
  27. Khalala
  28. Legal Legends
  29. The Power Woman Project
  30. Aviro Health
  31. AnaStellar Brands
  32. Data Innovator
  33. Fo-Sho
  34. Oolala Collection Club
  35. Recomed
  36. VoiceMap
  37. ClockWork
  38. Empty Trips
  39. Vula Mobile
  40. SwiitchBeauty
  41. Pineapple
  42. The Katy Valentine Collection
  43. OfferZen
  44. KHULA
  45. Incitech
  46. Pimp my Book
  47. ART Technologies and ART Call Management
  48. Prosperiprop
  49. WAXIT
  50. The Sun Exchange
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