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Jo Fritz from Jo’s Guesthouse and Hantamkraal Restaurant in Calvinia in the Northern Cape was recently named provincial finalist in the coveted Emerging Tourism Entrepreneur of the Year Awards.  For Fritz, the award means that years of hard work and dedication are finally paying off and his thriving business has become an inspiration for other entrepreneurs.

Fritz was born and raised in Calvinia as one of eleven children and was definitely no stranger to working in and around the house to give his stay-at-home mom a hand.  He loved cooking from an early age and his business skills quickly emerged as he started selling his home-made vetkoek and donuts to teachers and classmates in high school.  After finishing school, he spent two years building up his client base for his baked goods and saved enough money to go to college.  He qualified as a chef in Cape Town and also completed a diploma in hospitality services before returning to his home town.

He started baking again and shortly afterwards opened a take-away business, which was eventually expanded into a restaurant.  After two years of continued growth, he managed to secure a business loan from a local bank to buy a house and converted two of the rooms into guest rooms.  Five years later, Fritz is today the proud owner of a 22-room guesthouse with a beauty parlour and mini gym as well as a 60-seater restaurant and firmly believes that his business will continue to grow.

According to Fritz, the secret to his success is passion and hard work.  “You can’t allow your circumstances to hold you back.  You need to use them to encourage you to fight for what you believe in and to live your dreams.  Five years ago, I was a beginner in the tourism industry and today I am considered a leader.  I love being able to do something that creates jobs and allow people to earn a living.  I want to inspire our youth by showing them that hard work and dedication will pay off in the end,” explains Fritz.

Fritz is even using his rags-to-riches story to motivate local youngsters and delivered a talk at the local high school before the matric examinations last year and appeared as guest speaker at the graduation ceremony.  “I still have a pair of patched pants that my mom kept for me – it was really old hand-me-downs that I used to wear them when I started baking.  It is a reminder of where I started and will continue to motivate me and hopefully others as well.”

Fritz is currently busy completing his monthly performance evaluations and preparing his presentation for the finals on 14 August.  Each business is judged according to specific criteria and their development is measured against the initial needs assessments conducted at the start of the initiative as a benchmark.  Businesses are then evaluated based on the growth, development and improvement in specific categories.

Fritz mentions that the remote location of the town was one of his biggest challenges.  “There are limited resources available in Calvinia and I had to reach out to sources as far as Kimberley and Cape Town to be able to build my business, but I’m very excited and optimistic about the finals.  I believe that my business shows that I am a true entrepreneur.  I literally started this business off the street from scratch with no investments or financial support.  We’ve reached this point by ploughing all our profits back into the business to expand and I think that it will put us in a league of our own,” explains Fritz.