Life on 3rd — A “Throwback” for IWD 2022 (African Women Entrepreneurship)
Lize Kruger, a mother of three, as well as great grand daughter of four-time President Paul Kruger of South Africa (Transvaal), is the owner and CEO of Life on 3rd Guest House, one of the most resilient of Guest Houses in the Melville suburb is the focus — which also happened to be my residence for the 3–4 day October 2010 stay in that country.
My visit also coincided with the 3rd year anniversary of the 3-star Guest House on the 3rd street of Melville, which was established in October 2007.
The business is located in the leafy and tranquil corner of the cosmopolitan village of Melville. Its location in the Melville suburb is rather competitive as this is the hub of Guest houses, with about 70 operating according to a labour survey in May 2010.
The peak occupancy period in Melville is usually between the months of May to November while the lull periods are between December and January. Considering that this period is usually a time when Gauteng Province residents tend to take their holidays in the favorable climate and picturesque Cape Town.
This peak occupancy period ensured that many Guest houses seized the opportunity to commence operations in the run up to summer 2010 FIFA World Cup hosted in South Africa. Most of these opportunistic businesses have since run into difficulty while Lize is still cashing in.
In the lull periods, Johannesburg is usually reduced to a ghost town at this time. Consequently Life on 3rd has had to respond to this macro environmental factor by closing shop for a month between 15 Dec. - 2 Jan. As Lize admits, it a time when “some of our staff tend to travel home — especially the Zimbabweans that work for us.”
The Guest house has a 3-star rating by the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa. It has 14 rooms split into three broad tiers/ market segments. At the lower end of the price scale three budget rooms, Europa Compact priced at 495ZAR per night. At the mid-range level there are Deck Rooms priced at 655ZAR per night. The next level up are four Urbane Suites priced at 655ZAR. The premium rooms, Twin Rooms, at the top-end cost about 1140ZAR based on two sharing.
Recounting her reasons for setting up Lize pointed out that “I decided to open the Guest House after having lived on the premises since 2003” (her first home in Johannesburg having moved from the Vaal triangle).
Although there are numerous guest houses dotted around Melville most are not considered direct competition as they fall under a higher star rating. For example, players such as Blue Trea, Space, Mi Casa su Casa and Mipichi are all -star rated. However, Ginnegaap is a direct competitor by virtue of its 3-star rating — same as Life on 3rd.
So what is the winning formula for Lize?
1. Focus — Life on 3rd has five permanent members of staff (plus 1 casual staff). The turnover for the last financial year (2009/2010) was put at about 1.5million ZAR.
2. Foresight — Life on 3rd has the advantage of having a rare commodity in the security conscious Melville area — i.e. parking bays. While the average in the area is about three, Life on 3rd has six parking bays.
3. Flexibility — The Guest House also claims to be an ideal venue for informal meetings, workshops or ancillary functions. With a rather loyal clientele who make it their quarterly, bi-annual and annual venue. Life on 3rd offers discounts on group bookings and long stays (5 days or more) ranging from anything between 15–25 percent.
4. Practicality — Life on 3rd seems quite comfortable with its 3-star rating with no immediate plans of upgrading. “I don’t aspire to have a higher star rating as the plan remains to delight customers, who come expecting a 3-star service but end up with something of a 5-star experience!”
5. Reality — The Company strives for 60 percent occupancy all year round on the average. This is based on the CEOs strategy of customer delight “set your goals slightly below your customers’ expectations if your aim is to truly delight them!”
6. Experiential — The emphasis of Life on 3rd is its ambience or home away from home experience. Interestingly Lize seems quite comfortable with the current ranking of Life on 3rd as she emphasised on providing a homely environment for guests. This is what Lize described as “priding ourselves in the ambience of this place.”
When asked about her plans for the future, Lize clearly pointed out that she seeks to expand her business locally i.e., by acquiring properties close by. However, this ambition does not preclude her ‘risk averseness’.
In any case, anyone visiting Johannesburg may want to breeze through the leafy and tranquil suburb and while at it, a quick stop on 3rd Street might bring to Life the lived experiences of Lize.
This article was first published as “Life on 3RD: Seven Lessons from a WBO” in January 2015.