TUMISANG NDLOVU: In this week’s SME Corner with Moneyweb we speak to Pearl Lekgwathi, the owner of Lentig’O Salon Spa. Talk to us about that.
PEARL LEKGWATHI: Lentig’O Salon Spa is my baby and a lot of people ask me what does Lentig’O mean. It’s a Latin name for a beauty spot, so it’s something that is more pronounced or visible when we look at your skin, so it’s something beautiful. Most people love beauty spots, so that’s how the name came about.
Lentig’O Salon Spa was born in 2012/2013 after a I finished my studies in Somatology. So I thought what can I do. I don’t really like being employed. I had been interning at certain spas and gaining experience and then I thought to myself I would love to be in the spa industry and open a little beauty spa for myself. So that’s what I did with a friend of mine, who has since left. I’m alone now. But that’s how Lentig’O Salon Spa was born.
TUMISANG NDLOVU: Let’s talk about the business partnership relationship. You do mention that you went into business with someone and they subsequently left. How did you deal with that, because it could be a blow or a blessing in disguise? Talk to us about partnering in business.
PEARL LEKGWATHI: Partnering in business has its pros and cons. For me, it was a wonderful advantage because it keeps you in check. You have to account to someone and things like that, I love it for that. But when it comes to being spontaneous sometimes it’s not easy because there is always someone who you have to discuss things with and agree with. In most cases the things we had difficulty with were decisions regarding employees, office politics, how we handled it. Sometimes we were too emotional about it, sometimes we were too casual about it – and that can also cause a conflict between you and your partner.
TUMISANG NDLOVU: The background and the experience that you got from studying and then working in other establishments – what did you learn from that and how did it prepare you to run your own business?
PEARL LEKGWATHI: I’ve been working since the age of 15 and I actually started as an entrepreneur when I was 12 years old in high school. I used to sell chips and sweets to my fellow students and that’s how I started with entrepreneurship. So I’ve always known that I wanted to have an establishment of my own., I’ve always known that I was a leader and I didn’t want to work under somebody else. So when I had the opportunity to study eight years after my matric I was so excited and I was so ready to pursue the career that I wanted. So I chose Somatology.
TUMISANG NDLOVU: How then has the business been received so far?
PEARL LEKGWATHI: So far it’s been great, from the time we started we’ve had ups and downs where we moved from one place to another, but the business was received very well by everybody in general because we prided ourselves on the service that we gave our clients. We give our clients time to relax and in that regard we get so many returning customers and recommendations from our clients. It’s unique because we don’t complicate the treatments, we don’t enhance with machinery and things like that. We use touch and touch is what we are selling to the clients.
TUMISANG NDLOVU: Talk to us about having to run the finances of a business. We’ve spoken briefly about having to deal with staff and those conflicts that may arise – how did you then equip yourself to deal with the financial side of the business?
PEARL LEKGWATHI: That is the worst. I actually don’t deal with the finances of my business. I am lucky to have a husband who is an accountant, so he helps me with finances and teaches me how to invoice and things like that, make proposals. He actually helps me with most of the paperwork, otherwise I wouldn’t survive. I’m a bit impulsive and I can’t say that I’m very good with finances.
But when it comes to finance in your business it’s crucial to have savings, so that’s something that I’ve learnt lately. You need to save because sometimes there’s a big project and you don’t have cash flow and then you can miss out on an opportunity because of that.
TUMISANG NDLOVU: That is so true. Marketing – how do you find that in South Africa? Where you are a small business, you need to get the word out there. How do you do your marketing?
PEARL LEKGWATHI: Marketing is expensive, from branding to sending out pamphlets. I did all that when I first started out but now I’m more on social media. I use my Facebook page and I also started advertising on BrownSense, which has helped me a lot. It has reached so many people for me that I couldn’t have on my own, so I’m really grateful for that.
TUMISANG NDLOVU: What then did it take for you to start?
PEARL LEKGWATHI: If you have clients that’s what’s important. If you can get a client you can generate money. So I started with R20 000 and bought equipment like beds for massages, a steamer and products. It was a loan from my husband, which I paid back, so it helped me a lot to have that financial support.
TUMISANG NDLOVU: Challenges that you may have faced in this journey?
PEARL LEKGWATHI: Mostly marketing. That’s the most prominent. And also competition. There’s a lot of competition in this industry; there are so many spas everywhere. The pressure of wanting to deliver something unique, something beautiful, something relaxing is ongoing.
TUMISANG NDLOVU: Where do people find Lentig’O?
PEARL LEKGWATHI: Lentig’O Salon Spa is operating from Thabiso Guesthouse in Meyerspark, Pretoria. But we also work on a mobile basis because we have people who call us and say they can’t come to the Spa and “Can someone come to my house?” More and more we are getting people who say, “Please come to my place.”
TUMISANG NDLOVU: How did you get to a point of deciding that you would do the mobile service, because it’s very comfortable and convenient.
PEARL LEKGWATHI: When days are quiet in the spa you start questioning whether it’s necessary for us to just be here or can we be reaching people somewhere else. For instance, I have clients from Witbank and Johannesburg, while my spa is only in Pretoria, so it really helps to be mobile.
TUMISANG NDLOVU: It does. Where to then for Lentig’O?
PEARL LEKGWATHI: Lentig’O is now working on skincare products, a brand called Momi Montsho. We’re going to be dealing with skincare in a natural way. So we are going to provide fewer chemical products, and [more] non-harsh products, because we have a lot of clients complaining about sensitivity, sun damage and so on.
TUMISANG NDLOVU: We wish you all the best and thank you so much for your time.
PEARL LEKGWATHI: Thank you very much.
TUMISANG NDLOVU: That was the owner of Lentig’O Salon Spa, Pearl Lekgwathi, in this week’s SME Corner with Moneyweb.