On the brink of burnout this CA quit her thriving corporate career & built a business focussed on wellness
- Hello, I am Ronel Jooste, a qualified chartered accountant and entrepreneur from South Africa.
- In 2014, my entrepreneurial aspiration together with the fact that I was on the brink of burnout made me realize that I had to prioritize my health and happiness.
- After a decade in the corporate world, I quit my position as Head of Group Financial Reporting and took the entrepreneurial leap and co-founded PhysEQFiT & FinanciallyFit Group specializing in physical, emotional, and financial wellness with my sister.
- We also started a guesthouse from scratch in 2016.
- Here is my story.
I was born and raised in a small town, Krugersdorp, located in the West-Rand of Gauteng in South Africa. We are fortunate to have a close-knit loving family and I have a younger sister, Marli.
I had big dreams when I was growing up and for as long as I can remember I had aspirations of becoming a “businesswoman”.
In school, I excelled academically (with accounting being one of my favorite subjects) and always wanted to be a CA, even though I hardly knew what it entailed.
When I got older, I was sure the CA qualification would provide me with the perfect foundation to pursue my entrepreneurial dreams, and decided to take the CA pathway.
Starting a corporate career with an industry-leading insurance company
I completed my honors degree and CTA at the Rand Afrikaans University (now the University of Johannesburg). Thereafter, I joined PriceWaterhouseCoopers, one of the Big 4 firms, in Sunninghill to do my articles.
I was in the banking division, therefore I mainly had banking and insurance clients.
Fast forward, I qualified as a CA at the end of 2004.
I wanted to gain experience in the corporate world, before exploring my entrepreneurial aspirations and accepted the offer at Momentum Group (a South African-based financial services group listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange).
I spent the first two years in a senior internal auditor position and gained a great understanding of the financial processes, systems, financial products, risk management, and fraud risk within a financial services group. Thereafter I joined the group financial reporting team and later was promoted to Head of Group Financial Reporting.
Growing in my career but too much work stress
In 2010, I was fortunate to experience the merger between Momentum and Metropolitan, I certainly learned a lot during this period.
By now my career was thriving but being in the finance industry can be stressful with a lot of deadlines and long working hours. This was taking a toll on my health and I knew I couldn’t continue like this!
I realized I earned a lot of money; my financial wellbeing was flourishing but my physical and emotional wellbeing was taking the strain.
I was also no longer happy and fulfilled in my job. I soon discovered a lot of professionals were facing a similar situation and something had to be done!
Fulfilling a small girl's entrepreneurial dream
During a discussion with my sister Marli Jooste, who is a registered Psychometrist and Counsellor at the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) I had the idea of creating a business focussing on holistic wellness - physical, emotional, and financial wellness.
I knew a venture like this would give us the opportunity to combine our qualifications, skills, experience, and passions into one solution.
In early 2015, I completed my personal fitness training diploma and by Nov'15 I quit the corporate world spanning over 10,5 years, and my sister and I started PhysEQFiT (Pty) Ltd – a company specializing in holistic wellness.
(We later launched a separate division - FinanciallyFIT to focus on financial wellness where I specialize in financial consulting and training!)
In April 2016, we decided to launch yet another venture - a Guesthouse. We started it from scratch with no guests or experience within the hospitality industry.
Building multiple businesses from scratch
PhysEQFiT & FinanciallyFiT Group focuses on physical (Phys), emotional (EQ), and financial wellness (Fi) programs.
We look at how to exercise and eat healthily, emotional wellbeing/life coaching, stress management, psychometric assessments, financial wellness, and leadership development for individuals to live a balanced and fulfilled life, but to also perform at an optimal level.
I use my expertise in finance to help businesses to grow, increase their profits, running a more effective and efficient business, and learning how to use their financial results optimally to make better business decisions.
Starting PhysEQFiT and FinanciallyFit Group required a lot less capital to start off. The capital was mostly for websites, software, branding, etc.
On the other hand, starting the guesthouse required a huge capital outlay. Apart from buying the premises, we had to furnish 9 bedrooms and 10 bathrooms, this is very expensive. The maintenance is also very high and challenging at first. It was a tough mountain to climb, but we have built a successful and profitable guesthouse in less than 3 years.
Fortunately, there are the benefits that both my sister and I have our offices on the premises, we have a private gym and a conference facility for me to present my workshops and training.
Challenges faced and overcome
Building a sustainable business takes a lot of time and it does not happen overnight, it required a lot of marketing, education, and networking.
To learn about marketing, sales, networking, human resource management, strategic planning, etc. in a textbook might sound easy, but to practically apply it is much harder.
I would say the biggest challenge was to understand who the target market is and how to reach them.
Another challenge was to find sufficient time to dedicate to all my businesses as they are quite diverse. It was also challenging to practically apply the non-finance-related aspects of the business.
Timeline of our journey
- The first thing we did when we started with PhysEQFiT was to decide on a suitable business form, followed by registering the company, creating a website and a social media presence.
- I spent a lot of time building my personal brand and establishing myself as a financial expert. I also learned everything I could about building and maintaining a website and how to use social media optimally.
- The first year owning the guesthouse was exceptionally difficult. We had no guests, no database, and no knowledge or experience of the hospitality industry when we started. The business required significant capital outlay to get everything ready and maintenance in the first year. I spent the first year mainly building the guesthouse and gym.
- We mainly used social media and networking events to advertise during the first year which didn’t work for us.
- The team consisted of myself and my sister as well two cleaners.
- As my personal brand grew, I received more prominent invites to speak at events, wellness days, business networking events, corporate functions, women's events, etc.; to talk on the radio, and to write articles for multiple local and international publications.
- The second year at the guesthouse was already a lot better. We changed our marketing channels and increased our rates and immediately saw an increase in new business.
- I hosted a financial talk show on radio in 2017/18.
- We spent a lot of time on upskilling our staff – sent them for cooking classes, etc
- I had more time available for the financial wellness aspects and then I also started FinanciallyFit Group.
- We experienced very good growth in revenue and occupancy rate at the guesthouse.
- We upgraded the rooms and introduced automated systems.
- In 2019 I published my book ‘Financially Fit and Wealthy’. This certainly helped us to grow the company and client base.
- Significant growth in revenue and occupancy rate at the guesthouse enabled us to make more upgrades to the rooms.
- Due to the growth and development of our employees over the years, they were able to run the guesthouse during my absence. This allowed me to focus solely on the financial consulting aspect of the business.
- We experienced significant results at the guesthouse from 2019/20 until March 2020 when the lockdown was announced.
- With the hospitality industry having been one of the industries suffering most as a result of Covid-19, our guesthouse was also severely impacted. We were fully booked that weekend before the famous lockdown announcement and then everything went dead quiet for months. It certainly was a big disappointment for us as we have seen significant growth in revenue and occupancy rate during 2018 and 2019.
- FinanciallyFiT Group performed well during the lockdown period as more and more people and businesses realized they needed help with their finances.
My entrepreneurial journey hasn't been easy. But the fact that I am being able to add value to the lives of people through my ventures makes it all worth it.
Entrepreneurship is all about becoming comfortable being out of your comfort zone, having a bigger vision, identifying opportunities, and turning those opportunities into reality.
Believe in yourself and your abilities and do not be afraid to move out of your comfort zone.
Do not postpone or give up on realizing your dreams.
Always strive to become the best version of yourself.