Turning partying into a business

2012-11-16 11:53
Glynis Horning, iMag
Running a diesel hydrotreater may seem a world away from running an exclusive concierge service that arranges dinner parties, adventure trips and luxury shopping expeditions, but Yolisa Qunta started out in chemical engineering and worked at a Caltex refinery for two years.

‘I quit before I finished the degree and did what all engineers do – sold out to commerce!’

A stint in marketing at Woolworths head office followed while she studied towards a BCom degree, and she launched The Black Tie Affair Concierge Services in Cape Town in 2010.

Why concierge services?
I’ve always liked hanging out in hot spots and I knew promoters, DJs and club owners. In our group of friends I was the one who organised our nights out – my phone would ring off the hook every Friday afternoon with people wanting to know what the plans were.

But I didn’t think of it as a business opportunity until a Joburg friend said I should start charging for it!

How does a luxury service survive the economic downturn?

By adapting! With people cutting back, we’re promoting our lifestyle assistants as adding value for  time-strapped executives.

No matter how bad the economy is, you still need your suits dry-cleaned, so why not hire someone to fetch them while you watch the bottom line?

Is there room for lifestyle assistants when so much can be done online?

Absolutely! Online shopping is not as widespread in South Africa as other countries, and when security and delivery are issues, it makes sense to use a lifestyle assistant.

Would you rather have your car licence posted to you or have someone trustworthy collect it in person?

What’s the most fun request you’ve received?
A guy treated his girlfriend to a picnic for their anniversary, and we spent hours setting up bubble machines and people with bubble wands for her entrance.

There was a gentle breeze wafting the bubbles, and the result was spectacular!

Biggest business disappointment?
Soon after I started I was contacted by the head of a well-known boutique hotel eager to go into business with me.

When it came to time to sign contracts, I discovered he wanted a major stake and balked at some of my conditions. I walked away, sadly but proudly.

What Yolisa says:

‘I don’t take anything, including myself, too seriously.’

Winding down

Favourite designers?

Sun Goddess and Stoned Cherrie, for designs that reflect our heritage, Tart for fun girly stuff, Marion and Lindie for office wear and Nigeria’s Jewel by Lisa.

Your biggest thrill?

I’ve bungee jumped twice at Bloukrans, abseiled off Table Mountain and gone quad-biking.

I climb Lions Head at least once a week and I can’t wait to sky dive next!