An eye for style
Bright, bubbly and highly accomplished – there’s nothing that entrepreneur Cindy Malaza can’t do. She works with event planners to create the most luxurious event interiors.
Malaza is the owner of Timeless Opulence, a bespoke furniture, event hiring and interior decorating business based at Riversands Incubation Hub in Fourways, Midrand. In keeping with the sophisticated Malaza’s effortless style, Timeless Opulence offers that special touch of class and prides itself on offering customers a unique and special experience.
A small-town girl from Ermelo, Malaza has crammed a lot of living into 34 years – starting in high school when she contracted the rare, Guillain-Barre syndrome. This disorder is where the body’s immune system attacks the nerves, causing weakness and paralysis. But even paralysis couldn’t stop this dynamo. She even ended up teaching herself at home because she had to miss so much of her schooling due to being in a wheelchair. The whole experience unleashed her thirst for knowledge and a desire to live life the fullest.
She says, “That period gave me a strong sense of self-belief, as I realised I could learn anything if I wanted to. It also led me to my passion for flying, since I loved the freedom that it represented.”
Malaza’s path to entrepreneurship is rather serendipitous. She studied Chemical Engineering, a field that’s helped her toughen up – a welcome trait in her entrepreneurial journey – but it ultimately wasn’t for her. After two years in the field, in 2011 she decided to follow her passion and become a pilot, but due to the high costs of flight school, she had to drop out.
She says, “I loved the idea of flying, it’s something I’ve dreamed about doing but I couldn’t finish the course. Then one day on a whim, I decided to upholster a chair, as I wanted it to have a specific look – but I had no idea how to do it! I ended up teaching myself by watching YouTube videos and I loved the whole creative process. I’ve always had a knack for design and making things look pretty – it just came naturally.”
This upholstered chair led to her new path, setting up Timeless Opulence. She started small, working from her garage but soon outgrew the space. She managed to wangle a bigger work area in the house she was renting as it was on a large plot of land and got working.
She started making bespoke furniture items for friends and offered an interior decorating service.
“This was supposed to be a way to help me pay for flight school, but I was hooked. It became my new passion,” she says. “But I ran my business like a spaza shop, I didn’t have any business knowledge or experience so I had to learn the hard way. In the beginning, dealing with friends was easy, but when the orders started rolling in – it became more complicated.”
Malaza was a huge hit, incredibly – she didn’t market her services, instead, all her orders came from recommendations and word of mouth. And thanks to her gift of the gab, she happily admits she’s a talker who could sell anything to anyone.
Through determination and hard work, she’s self-funded the business, investing profits back into the business to ensure sustainability. She slowly built up her business to scale, getting in extra help and the necessary equipment over time.
The orders were soon flooding in and the business enabled her to pick her passion for flying by allowing her to finish flight school and get her pilot’s licence.
When her burgeoning business outgrew a third venue, she knew it was time to formalise her offerings. She says, “A friend told me about Riversands Incubation Hub which had recently opened; I came to check it out and fell in love with the concept. The location was perfect, as most of my clients were in the North and I loved that they offered business coaching and mentorship – it was exactly what I needed. I now had employees, equipment and a full-on business so I wanted to up my skills as well.”
At Riversands Incubation Hub, she got the business mentoring she needed and they supported her business by offering her certain contracts in the Hub. But she’s also learned crucial skills like accounting, management, and business banking. She laughingly admits her love for accounting programme Sage and raves about how it’s changed her life.
Fully committed to her business venture, she kept pushing and it paid off. She was approached by a business acquaintance with whom she was friendly, about a possible collaboration in the event planning space, offering furniture for hire at events. “I never really saw myself in eventing, but the offer grew on me and it just made sense. I was making furniture already so it wasn’t a stretch to now start renting out pieces of furniture. Given that I was already manufacturing bespoke pieces, I could easily include customised furniture options for events. It all just came together.”
But, before long she decided to end the partnership, as she prefers working alone. “I’ve got a strong personality and like to do things in my own time. My partner and I had a few clashes so I decided to go it alone.”
This new venture has helped her expand her offerings and introduced her to a whole new market. In fact, the hiring division is doing so well it now makes up about 50% of her business.
So what’s been her secret to success? She says, “I’ve always prided myself on offering more than just furniture; I offer my customers an amazing experience. Right from the start, that’s been my mantra. I go the extra mile. I go out and do the initial consultation, find out what they want – give them that and more. I pride myself on offering excellent customer service and exceeding expectations. I make my customers feel amazing, and give them my very best. I’ve learned that communication is key, sometimes things do go wrong but if you’re open and honest about it – that goes a long way.”