D.I.V.A of the Month – February 2012
Benita Cyster, the educator-turned-hospitality-specialist from Pniel, tells us about the benefits of running a family business.
Lelemba:Who is Benita?
Benita: I am a 47 year old wife to Peter, mother to Kelly (19), Reeve (18) and Pierz (10), daughter, sister and ex teacher who is still passionate about it and will always be an educator at heart. I am a caterer that loves cooking, events manager, carer and proud owner of our own 4star Bed and Breakfast in the historic village of Pniel.
Lelemba: Wow that’s a lot of hats you wear. So tell us about what you do for a living amongst all the above?
Benita: For now I do the day to day running of the B&B, marketing and basically doing it all at Lumley’s Place. I also assist with accounts at my husband’s dental surgery in addition to taking care of my family.
Lelemba: Tell us more about Lumley’s Place – how old is it and how has business been thus far?
Benita: First occupancy was in December of 2008 and we have had tremendous growth thus far. Things are still picking up because of word of mouth and fantastic guest reviews. We pride ourselves on giving the best and friendliest service
Lelemba: Seeing as it is a family business, is your whole family involved in running it?
Benita: Yes, including all my children and my dad who is 72 years old! Peter (my husband) handles the finances, yours truly handles the marketing, networking, reservations and other day to day things. My mom (70) is in charge of linen. Joy (my sister in law) is in charge of the breakfast, costing of catering projects and staff working roster. My Dad is in charge of security and swimming pool and all cousins and nieces pitch in as waiters at events, as well as aunts and uncles whenever the need arises. I have a very supportive family that provides a good and experienced business support structure.
Lelemba: Wow that’s just awesome how everyone pitches in. What would you say are some of the pros and cons of running a family business?
Benita: Just pros all the way. We get to meet interesting people from all over the world and walks of life. We learn a lot about different cultures and food preferences and this teaches my kids about hospitality as well as work ethics. We do sometimes sacrifice family time, however it is good to get them all more involved in the running of Lumley’s Place on a regular basis as it will become theirs after all. It can be a real challenge to be firm with family members especially when things need to be done the right way. We have a very good understanding though and pray about each challenge.
Lelemba: What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced and how did you overcome them?
Benita: There have been a few. Firstly it is time management. I sometimes struggle with the juggling and ensuring that everyone is taken care of in the best possible way. This includes guests, family as well as community.
Secondly we struggled with unskilled staff. We all have different perceptions of quality service and I want to give all guests that come to us a ‘Lumley’s Place experience’. Being a passionate teacher, I get around this challenge by ensuring that the staff members are continuously trained. Sometimes I do the training myself and other times we get training from Cape Winelands and Kim from SEED Stellenbosch. This ensures that our guests receive top quality service and that the staff are empowered which in turn gives me more time for marketing and attending workshops.
Thirdly, being located outside the city centre and in a so called ‘Coloured neighbourhood’ has been a challenge. However, I must say that Pniel is an extremely safe and secure neighbourhood with a warm hospitable community that are very supportive of our business.
Lelemba: Oh yes Pniel is beautiful. We personally enjoyed every second we stayed at Lumley’s and in Pniel in general. What are some of the highlights you have experienced?
Benita: Winning 2011 best Tourism SMME and winning a week of marketing at INDABA in Durban in May. Being featured in KUIER of 3rd August 2011 under inspiring stories and getting visited by the PASELLA TV crew when they did a documentary on Pniel. And now being one of your DIVA’s! In addition, I love learning about the many exciting things in the business and hospitality area on a daily basis.
Lelemba: Congratulations for all those accolades! Who/what else inspires you?
Benita: Women like you who are following a dream, your dream and being successful at it. True life stories of hardships and challenges that end in success. My parents, for putting all their kids through school with faith and hard work. Everyone that overcomes challenges, big or small, to achieve success in their lives. People who dare to step out of their comfort zones to be successful and to provide for their families and others. People that fight and support causes for no gain and the love of caring.
Lelemba: That’s beautiful. Where to from here? Can you share what some of your dreams or goals are?
Benita: To finish off the much needed two extra rooms in 2012. To employ more staff in our growth thus assisting my community in a even more positive way and to be known for our fantastic hospitality, hearty breakfasts and simply the complete ‘Lumley’s Place experience’. We are truly blessed.
Lelemba: You are blessed indeed. Thank you very much for sharing your story with us. I am sure it will encourage a lot of people out there.