Joyce Msungama

A home or a business? The tough call made by this business owner.

After saving funds from employment for a number of years, many choose to build a house of their dreams. Joyce Msungama was no different. Rising up the ranks in a banking financial solutions industry to the position of Head of Human Resources in one of the leading banks, Joyce was able to save money to build her dream home. She and her husband, a lawyer who owns a private practice, put their savings together and purchased land in an upmarket location in Blantyre. As you can imagine, Joyce and her family were very excited to begin building. They began planning in 2007 and started building in 2010. It was after a few months of building when a life changing thought occurred to her.

“I asked myself why I was building a big mansion for my family when my children were all in university and would soon be moving out of home,” shared Joyce. This prompted her to revisit her childhood dream of owning a hospitality business.

“My mother had taught me and my siblings to be the most hospitable at all times,” Joyce recalls adding that she and her siblings would have bed making competitions. “I have always enjoyed serving visitors in my home so much that when I suggested the idea of building a lodge instead, my husband was not all surprised. He immediately agreed.”

Fortunately, the location was very close to Blantyre CBD which would make it more convenient for customers. But what kind of customers?  Whilst the decision to change the unfinished home to a lodge was easy enough. Joyce needed to decide what type of lodge it was to be as she knew that the competition in the sector would be tough.

“I found that all the quality offers of accommodation were big brands and therefore very pricey. I decided to offer the same quality service at an affordable price. I decided my target would be the middle class.”

But the dream was not as close to becoming a reality as it seemed. Joyce had emptied her savings before completing construction of the lodge.

“I had not even began furnishing the building. I didn’t know what to do next,” she tells us, observing that the devaluation of the Kwacha currency in 2012 is what set her back immensely.

At the end of the year 2014, a friend introduced her to Business Partners International and she began considering a loan. She admits that she had initial reservations but began to build her trust after several consultations. She received her loan in 2015 and was able to finish construction and furnish the lodge.

In 2016, a 16 roomed Kris Star Lodge opened its doors. According to Joyce, business was very slow in the first year, marred by the lack of trust in a locally owned business, as many hospitality facilities were owned by foreigners at the time but she remained confident. The years 2017 and 2018 were very good for business.

The lodge also had conferencing, bar, pool and restaurant facilities and hosts top class special events. Joyce, who still works for the bank, employs 28 management staff at the lodge.

“It’s not easy overseeing a big place whilst working full time but I have taught my staff and I trust them. I am also here (the lodge) most weekends and evenings,” Joyce says.

Joyce has not stopped dreaming. She plans to build townhouses and a bigger conference centre. She’d also like to expand the lodge to at least 50 rooms.

“Business Partners International helped me achieve my dreams. I have had a great relationship with them and I look forward to continuing working with them as we grow,” Joyce concludes.

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