Past winner catch-up – where are they now?

2018 marks our 30th year in honouring entrepreneurs and the contributions they make toward growing the South African economy. We’re celebrating this milestone by catching up with some of the past winners of the competition.

Catching up with: Kim Whitaker

Winning year: Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year® – 2015

Winning business: Once in Cape Town is a combined product of two different accommodation types – a backpackers’ lodge and a luxury hotel – globally dubbed as a ‘poshtel’.

It’s been almost 3 years since you won the Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year® title in 2015, how has business been since then?

Business has been very good – we’ve grown year-on-year and even achieved some goals that we had set out back when we started our journey.

Shortly after winning the title in 2015, we were fortunate enough to realise one of our big dreams – expansion into Gauteng with “Once in Jo’Burg” in 2016. It has been incredibly exciting to watch the new branch grow from strength to strength.

Since the 2015 competition, I also became a parent and being a working-mom has now brought a few new challenges to my life – such as needing to travel and attend business meetings with my child (even to Germany for a trade show!).

Have you made any new developments within your business since winning?

We very recently launched a tourism academy for young women in the tourism industry. The academy will begin in May 2018 with 20 students initially – taking them through the basics of tourism management. We hope this will empower these young women to forge long and successful careers within the local tourism industry.

Eventually we hope to grow the academy to host up to 100 students per year. We want to be a driver of growth in our sector and contribute toward bolstering youth employment in our country.
We were also recently awarded our Fair Trade stamp after a thorough audit – achieving a 100% pass rate which we’re very proud of.

What was the biggest lesson you learnt from your stint in the EOY competition?

The competition was an eye-opener. Bearing witness to the innovative things others are doing reminded me to always put my best foot forward, and to be proud of our achievements.

The entire experience was exceptionally inspirational. I was able to meet and learn from so many like-minded entrepreneurs who have amazing businesses. In turn, this has led me to discover a personal passion for networking with other local entrepreneurs and for investigating the entrepreneurial landscape in South Africa. I am eager to be more involved in helping others discover their entrepreneurial talents and seeing how we, collectively, can grow our country.

What would your top piece of advice be for anyone looking to enter this year’s competition?

I think the biggest, and possibly the most important piece of advice I could offer other entrepreneurs looking to enter the competition would be to be themselves completely. Don’t be something you’re not – you should be proud of your business, and your uniqueness. Be proud to fit outside the box. Most importantly – know your business inside and out – and don’t be shy to show it off.

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