DO YOU DREAM OF RUNNING YOUR OWN LODGE IN AFRICA? THIS MIGHT BE YOUR CHANCE!
Pakachere is a nice lodge in the small quiet city of Zomba (Malawi). The lodge is situated at the foot of Zomba Mountain, on the golf course behind Zomba Police Station. Zomba has nature, a university, history as former capital and is close to Mulanje Massive, Blantyre and Liwonde National Park where you find elephants, lions, cheetah, hippos, many bird species, and more.
What is on offer? A chance to lease Pakachere and run it as your own business. All you have to do it get your own working permit for Malawi (employment permit for 2 years costs $2,000), negotiate a deal with the owners, pack your bags and go.
What is the deal? That depends on your wishes and needs and how the pandemic goes. There is a house on site where you can live for free. The owners are happy to give support and help with financial administration (taxes, salaries, pensions) and in human resource management (labour laws, staff welfare and expectations). If you want to make this work, you should commit for at least 1 year, or for even better, for the duration of the TEP (2 years). Buying Paka might also be an option. The building is owned by a Malawian, but the business and all assets are owned by Paka. The landlord is friendly and easy to work with; he sends people whe something breaks and in the first motnhs of the pandemic, he reduced the price of the rent with 50% for 6 months. Quite handy is that the landlord has a construciton company and he is a plumber by trade. We communicate with him via phone or WhatsApp; usually it is our manager Jonathan who deals with issues concenring maintenance and things that need fixing.
More about Pakachere. Paka is a small backpacker’s type lodge with a very good reputation. It has a beautiful garden, lovely staff, a kitchen, a (new!) road, new road signs, a stage, big barbecue area and it has beds, nets, fans, pots & pans, crockery & cutlery, tables & chairs, solar power, fridges etc. Everything needed to run a lodge! The staff is very capable, nice and can work independently, and the lodge itself has a lot of potential. The owners can easily go away for 6 weeks without worrying about the lodge; the staff runs the place perfectly fine without direct involvement of the owners and do get scores of 10 out of 10 on Booking.com while the owners are away. This is great if you want to go away for a weekend with friends or go home for an extended holiday.
Currently it has a 10-bed dorm with a big bathroom, two 4-bed dorms that share a bathroom, a single/double room with private bathroom, and a twin/family room with private room. This can be changed to 5 private rooms or any way you would like. There are 3 toilets and 3 showers outside for campers and Paka has a couple of tents to rent out. The garden is very big and there is plenty of space to add extra's. Travelers and locals do enjoy some sports (badminton, tabletennis, volleyball, yoga, bootcamps, dance classes, etc.) but someone has to organise that. The stage and big barbecue area offer opportunities for events, performances and parties.
What about covid? The corona pandemic has hit the tourism industry in Malawi hard. More than 300,000 people lost their jobs and many lodges are struggling. Pakachere went from 17 to 11 employees, and many of the current employees are working half time with 50% of their salaries. It has been challenging to pay the rent every month (Mk 550,000 per month), but so far Paka seems to have pulled through. The owners understand it is not an easy time to start a new adventure, but they are happy to help you starting up and the good news is: numbers of visitors are going up and bookings for 2022 are coming in. We have inquiries for group bookings and we have some long-term guests which makes a big difference. Since October 2021 the lodge has enough income to pay the salaries and rent, and we managed to get all staff up to 60%. Pakachere has received the UNWTO Safe Travel Stamp and all staff members are vaccinated.
Paka is a place for opportunities! The new stage and barbecue area are ideal for weddings, graduation parties and music concerts. There is a need for a café in Zomba; a place with good breakfast, lunch, coffee, tea and cake. There is also a demand for a new restaurant. It is a matter of rebranding and putting your time & effort in. If people know Pakachere not just as a lodge but as a café and restaurant, it can attract more people. The kitchen and the staff are capable to deal with changes with some guidance, and Paka’s beautiful garden can be a ‘new’ hotspot in town. Zomba is nice and beautiful with lots to do and places to visit nearby. Pakachere offers all kinds of trips and the feedback about the tour guides and the taxi drivers we use, is always positive.
So why do the current owners not do that themselves? “After 6 years in Malawi and 4 years Pakachere, it is time for something else.” Jeroen is a Biologist and wants to focus on conservation. Annelies used to be a lecturer in Event Management, and wants to work in Arts & Culture. “We think Pakachere would benefit from management from younger people, who come in with new energy and ideas, and are willing to put their time and effort in running the lodge and boosting the café and restaurant. We love Pakachere and we have many ideas, but we both rather work in different fields.” This could be your chance to run or even own your own lodge!
Malawi is a nice country to live. It is peaceful, people are friendly and there is hardly any crime. It is safe to travel by car or public transport, also for women alone. People are helpful and they do not try to scam tourists. Malawi is also beautiful, with a massive lake for swimming, diving and boating, including white sandy islands. It has mountains for hiking, and it has wildlife. The lions, cheetah, rhino, hippos and many birds are less than an hour away from Zomba and the park fees are affordbale ($30 for tourists). Zomba itself is a nice small town with a university, botanical gardens, a great market, lots of fresh fruits from the mountain and a decent supermarket. The airport of Blantyre is 1.5hrs away. Internet is easily available (tethering with your phone as hotspot) for approx Mk 1,000 per gB. Zoom and WhatsApp work fine, so it is possible to work online remotely and stay in touch with family & friends.
Look on TripAdvisor, Booking.com, Google and Facebook for reviews and more about Paka