Sixteen years ago Sylvia and I decided on a complete career-change by setting up a guest house… This is the history of Tladi Lodge.
We had both been in IT all our working lives, traveling extensively around South Africa on business. Naturally, over time, we’d grown tired of hotels, switching to the more personal guest house environment.
Personally, I enjoyed the hospitality of Harfield Guest Villa in Harfield Village (Claremont, Cape Town) on a regular basis. Getting to know the owners Graham and Jenni very well, we drew a lot of our inspiration for the guest house industry from them. Undoubtably, I picked Graham’s brain extensively when we decided to set up a guest house of our own.
Once I had the idea, there was no shaking it and I started hunting for the right property in the Sandton area.
This proved to be more of a challenge than we’d initially thought. After putting together a detailed business plan, I quickly realised that we would need quite a big property to be able to generate sufficient revenue. It’s one thing setting up a retirement business by converting an existing family home when the kids leave home. But, quite another when looking at setting up a new business venture that would generate enough revenue to put our kids through school and university.
This is a venture that is not without risk when one considers the significant start-up capital involved.
After looking at a number of properties and not feeling very inspired, an agent contacted me to say she had worked with a large property in Sandown. Although it had recently been taken off the market, the owner might still consider selling it…
At this stage, we were becoming so disillusioned with properties that we were being shown, we started considering building from scratch but were concerned about the time required.
I viewed the property and phoned Sylvia straight away to tell her that I had found the perfect property, but that it was going to require a lot more money than we had initially budgeted for. She came to look at it and her advice was simply: “Make a plan… this is the right property”!
Finally after several months of hard negotiating with the seller, as well as various banks, we finally got the deal together and took occupation on 1 April 2003 – our April fool joke on ourselves!
By this time we had decided that we wanted every room to be named after an indigenous bird. We also thought to name the entire guest house after a bird. Finding that most English bird names were either taken or had been used to death… we then considered using an ethnic name. But, after some serious research, found that they were very difficult to pronounce if you didn’t speak the language.
Then… one day I was paging through a book called “Vanishing Cultures of South Africa” by Peter Magubane, forwarded by Nelson Mandela. I came across the story of Tladi (the Lightning Bird) and was immediately inspired to name our guesthouse Tladi Lodge. We liked both the fact that the traditional symbol for the Tladi is commonly believed to be the Cape Fish Eagle (hence our logo), and that the Tladi is associated with physical and spiritual fertility.
After taking ownership, a lot of work needed to be done to build it up to a 5 star grading standard. The property had previously been converted for guesthouse use 20 years prior to our buying it. It had operated as a guesthouse for 10 years… Then, for the next decade by an airline as a base for their crew. So, by the time we took over, it was in a very run down state indeed.
Donating all the furniture to charity and then systematically redecorating every room… There was great excitement when we checked in our first guest about 3 months later!
Getting started with 6 rooms in the main house, we were extremely lucky to secure a long booking for a legal firm… In fact, I was actually still installing the 6th TV when the group arrived to check in! It was only after they’d left that we realised the need to do some serious marketing.
Ten years ago South Africa was not all that internet wise… Therefore a lot of people referred to The Portfolio Collection when looking for a B&B or Guest House. We advertised in this collection for 2 years, attracting some nice corporate clients that still use us to this day.
Fifteen years later, Tladi Lodge Hotel in Sandton, Johannesburg is a far more mature business. We take extreme pride in what we do… continually improving the buildings and the grounds. Sylvia and I really enjoy running the business and trust that our guests enjoy their stay with us. We just make sure that we take regular holidays before too many of our Basil Faulty traits start showing themselves!
Book Now, treat yourself and wind-down with us…
We really look forward to sharing our story with you when you come to stay!