Updated: Nov 16, 2021
Janine Adonis, former school principal and mother to two girls, is exercising her entrepreneurial spark and has opened the beautiful Malmesbury Guesthouse. Ingrid Jones chatted to her about making that courageous leap.
By: Ingrid Jones
Tell us about yourself.
I grew up in Malmesbury, a small town 60km outside Cape Town. My father was a building contractor and my mother a housewife.
I qualified as a teacher and started teaching in 1995. In 2001 I faced the possibility of being retrenched, which at the time was dreadful news. I was pregnant with my first daughter and unsure about my future, and was transferred to Liebenberg Primary School where my career fortune changed.
In 2008 I was appointed as deputy principal I went on to become the principal in 2014. I resigned at the end of 2018. I have a wonderful husband Richard and we have two beautiful daughters, Kylin and Leigh.
You were a successful principal. How did you switch from employee to employer?
Education will always be near and dear to my heart. Throughout my life I’ve only ever been able to stay in one place or position for approximately five years. I love to learn new things each day and I felt it was time to move on, time to give someone else the opportunity to make waves.
I have a serious passion for cooking and interacting with people and this was the perfect opportunity. Our daughters attend school in Paarl and the travelling was draining them. We decided to buy a property there, but we didn’t want to sell our family home in Malmesbury.
Instead of renting it out we decided to turn it into a guesthouse. I wanted to give my full attention to building my brand so I decided to resign and run the guesthouse myself.
How do you apply your experiences as a school principal to the guest house?
I work very carefully with my finances. It’s important to treat people with respect and dignity, irrespective of where they come from. When times are tough, the ability to stay calm and still smile can be your lifeline.
Was it an easy switch?
I am a peoples’ person and because I love to cook and to experiment with food the switch was easy. I started the guesthouse in October 2018 and have never looked back.
What was it like getting the guesthouse ready?
I applied to the municipality for the rezoning of the property into a guesthouse. There is a difference between a guesthouse and a bed and breakfast facility. A guesthouse is when you have four or more rooms and a bed and breakfast has three rooms or less. There is a difference in rezoning costs.
There are also certain requirements in terms of parking and safety. You need to register with different government departments and your neighbours get the opportunity to object or accept. I waited about three months for the approval.
I wanted to deliver an excellent service to my clients and furnish the rooms with top quality linen, a fridge, coffee, tea and kettles, and other amenities. My husband hates limited DSTV and a poor quality television set so we made sure that each of ours was high definition quality.
We offer a full DSTV bouquet and Wi-Fi and the house runs on an inverter during load shedding. We do airport transfers and dinner on request.
Advice about starting up in the hospitality industry?
I did my homework. I spoke to people in the industry for some valuable tips. I also read up a lot about the hospitality industry. It is important to know about the legalities before setting up. I also went to a land surveyor applied to the municipality on my behalf.
Things you wish you’d known before you started?
Having the right staff on board will help grow your business.
Best thing about being an entrepreneur?
The freedom to be creative, innovative and make decisions without any boundaries.
Thoughts about managing your business alongside family?
The guesthouse is partially a family business because it affects them. It’s currently a huge sacrifice for us because we’re a new business although we feel really blessed to be as busy as we are.
The downside is I see very little of my family. One must never underestimate the intensity of running a guesthouse. If you and your family are not on the same page it can have a huge impact on family life. I try to meet their needs as far as possible.
I value everyone. I am here to serve – it’s an act of respect, kindness and love.
High heels or flats?
Heels. As a principal I use to wear only high heels because it gave me confidence and looks very professional.
One of my previous learners booked into my guesthouse with her parents and she actually asked me where my high heels were. At the moment though I am forced to do my thing in flats.
Champagne or whiskey?
Champagne because it suits my bubbly personality.
Pop or jazz?
Both. With two teenage girls in the house I’ve come to enjoy their taste in music and every month I choose my favourite tune.
Describe yourself in one word
My friends say I am mostly: resilient, ambitious, enthusiastic, conscientious, phenomenal, determined, adventurous, passionate, caring, humble, loving, vibrant, creative, versatile, sincere, courageous, a powerhouse.
Describe the guesthouse in one word
Two lessons for other entrepreneurs
A guest commented that I go above and beyond to keep everyone happy. Work to keep it that way and you will attract business and see a profit. Bad service chases customers away; and
It takes 1 000 days to establish a business (My bookkeeper’s advice to me)