Cape Town hospitality establishment owner recognised as Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year®

Kim Whitaker, co-founder and co-owner of Once in Cape Town, a hospitality establishment situated in the heart of Cape Town, has been named the 2015 Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year® at the annual Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® Competition held in Johannesburg this morning.

The Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year® category celebrates entrepreneurs who have been in business for a maximum of 5 years, with a turnover not exceeding R5 million.

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’, and was born after Whitaker took over a struggling two star lodge and revamped the business and staff structures completely. The business offers a concise brand promise – the fun and adventurous qualities synonymous with a backpackers lodge, together with the cleanliness, safety, centrality and efficiency of a modern hotel.

Due to innovative and creative business and marketing strategies that Whitaker has fast implemented, the establishment has managed to increase occupancy rates from 32 to 80% in the short space of only 12 months. Despite constant re-investment, the business has also managed to maintain a 23% profit margin. The establishment is now recognised as a four star establishment in the backpacking category by the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa.

Whitaker has also introduced a new company culture and structure, which encourages staff to take responsibility for their own skills development and professional careers. Her efforts and hard work has resulted in a fun, social, friendly, safe and welcoming environment for tourists and locals to enjoy, and she believes that the employees of Once in Cape Town are the business’s best asset.

The business currently has a permanent staff complement of 25 employees, and has a staff to guest ratio of 1:5, well above the international average of 1:8 in a hostel environment, which Whitaker believes is necessary to provide quality and attentive service.

She says that entrepreneurship is the embodiment not only of financial risk-taking, but it is the execution of a usually creative and unique idea that others are afraid to even dream of. “It is the opportunity offered to people fortunate enough to be called entrepreneurs, in exchange for hours of scheming, focus and plenty of blood, sweat and tears.”

According to Frances Wright, a member of the 2015 Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® judging panel, Whitaker is deserving of the award as she has in a very short period of time successfully managed to turn around a failing business, which is extremely challenging. “A strong business culture was developed and implemented, resulting in the establishment becoming a thriving business with a strong culture. The business’s target market is well defined and Whitaker clearly understands the need of their customers. With a 30% net profit, Once in Cape Town is deserving of this award,” she concludes.

For more information on Once in Cape Town please visit