The man behind Eyadini Lounge, Jabulani Zama

Founder of Eyadini Lounge, Jabulani Zama, shares his business journey with us

Eyadini Lounge is one of KwaZulu-Natal’s most popular hangout venues, and one can go as far as saying it has become an important tourism hotspot for the province.

It’s easily the first place that many of us want to visit and experience when on holiday in Durban. Much of its popularity can be attributed to viral social media images of people walking into the venue. Over the past few months these have become an iconic part of the Eyadini experience and we all want to have that shot.

Born and bred in Umlazi, KwaZulu-Natal, Jabulani Zama (43) started out as a policeman who then went into the towing business, driving his own tow trucks in Umlazi.

Following this, Zama started a construction company called Jigga Man Civil and Plant Hire. He then later ventured into the hospitality industry with Eyadini Lounge which he built from scratch in 2009. The business only started operating two years later in 2011.

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CHALLENGE

“The biggest challenge I faced at the time was getting a liquor licence. Most of the guys that had similar businesses running tried to stop me from getting a licence, but I kept on pushing and eventually, after a year-long battle, I managed to get it,” Zama explains.

 

Eyadini Lounge is popular for the images they take of their customers as they walk in.

Zama used the money he made from his construction business to start on the Eyadini Lounge project and so didn’t seek out any external funding. He explains that the reason he opened up the shisanyama spot was because he wanted to expand his business portfolio.

GROWTH 

While the shisanyama started operating in 2011, Zama says it only started picking up in 2014 for a number of reasons.

“A large part of what boosted the business’ visibility were the pictures of our customers that we started posting on social media,” Zama explains.

I’ll only expand into the rest of the country when I am happy with the amount of money I’m making, I don’t think I’m ready now

“On Instagram alone we’re sitting at over 200 000 followers, and over 120 000 Facebook  likes – these are quite significant numbers and it’s only my photographer and I that handle it.”

Zama goes on to say that he spent the first few years of running the business learning and taking in all that he could about the hospitality industry.

“It was also the knowledge I gained over the years learning more about entertainment and the restaurant/shisanyama business. I worked on getting as much information about what I’m doing as possible and started implementing all that I had learnt and that’s when the turning point came.”

An aerial photograph of Eyadini Lounge. (Image provided)

He explains that he had to start investing in more expensive and known DJs, many of which were radio hosts as well. This helped in creating visibility for the business because every time these DJs would mention that they were playing at Eyadini Lounge, it was more exposure for the business.

“I also had to buy proper cars for advertising the venue because this prompted customers to come with their own expensive cars. This helped a lot because customers enjoy that type of lifestyle,” he says. “Our biggest sellers as far as drinks are concerned are champagne, whiskey and beer.”

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THE NAME 

The property that Eyadini Lounge is built on was previously a scrap yard and this is why he decided to call the venue Eyadini – which when directly translated simply means “at the yard”.

FUTURE 

Zama doesn’t have any short-term plans just yet to expand the business into the rest of the country, but he is currently working on expanding the existing venue.

Jabulani Zama. (Image provided)

“I’ve got a lot more customers now, and often the venue is overcrowded and this is something I’m addressing. I recently bought my neighbour’s property and will be turning this into a new outlet for the business so that everyone can have space,” Zama explains.

“I’ll only expand into the rest of the country when I am happy with the amount of money I’m making. I don’t think I’m ready now.”