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When Dave Murgatroyd casts a line into the water, he is not sure what will bite, but he is always prepared to catch a big one. The renowned KwaZulu-Natal entrepreneur and fishing champion, who recently sold his business Spec Tool & Die to a global conglomerate for a 9-figure sum, is at it again. 

This time it is in the tourism industry. As he negotiated the sale of Spec Tool & Die, which he started in his garage 32 years ago, Dave was looking around for new investments, perhaps for a retirement project of sorts, or just something to add to his property portfolio. 

He bought a tiny restaurant and caravan park in Clansthal, a sleepy spot on the KwaZulu-Natal coast about 60 km south of Durban. Over the last few years Dave and his son Luke have turned it into the Lazy Moose restaurant, before adding a wedding venue, then a conference centre, and then a fully-fledged boutique hotel.

Today the Lazy Moose Restaurant and Lodge, boasting an expansive ocean vista from its location 100m from the beach, is about to earn four stars from the Tourism Grading Council. 

“As an entrepreneur, once you’ve learned the basic principles, you can apply it to any business,” says Dave about his leap from industrial manufacturing into tourism. For Dave, those principles have always revolved around quality and service. 

“I am immensely proud of what we’ve built here,” says Dave, who did not spare expenses nor attention to detail, from the laying of the foundations right through to the finishing of the rooms of the beautiful hotel. 

He took the same approach 32 years ago when he, as a young tool-and-die maker and industrial-machine salesman, started making a certain part for air-condition systems in his garage in his spare time. As he grew, he always bought the best possible machinery for his own toolroom, thereby differentiating himself from his established competitors. 

Dave’s fastidious pursuit of quality is not the only similarity between his first business and his current one. Remarkably, Business Partners Limited, who part-funded the finishing of the Lazy Moose as well as its solar system, had also supported Dave in starting Spec Tool & Die then. 

In the early 90s Dave needed R150 000 to launch Spec Tool & Die. Armed with a business plan which he compiled with the help of his accountant mother Irene – a huge influence on his life and an entrepreneur in her own right – Dave approached Business Partners Ltd, which is still based in the same building today. 

They funded him, and Dave started what he remembers as a difficult first five years. Starting a tool-and-die business is especially difficult because the moulds that it produces are expensive products, and clients are unwilling to spend millions on an unproven one-man operation. But little by little, Dave built up his reputation through his high-quality delivery and service, and his state-of-the-art machinery that he insisted on acquiring as he grew. His toolroom was always impeccably clean. “You could eat off the floor and the machines,” says Dave.

Soon he was making moulds for the likes of Tiger Brands, Adcock Ingram, Unilever and Ina Paarman. By the time he sold the business in 2018, Spec Tool & Die employed 60 people and was doing a turnover of R100m per year.

Starting the Lazy Moose Restaurant and Lodge had its own share of difficulties, including load shedding, flood damage to the South Coast roads and the Covid-19 pandemic. The restaurant opened in January 2020, two months before the Covid-19 lockdowns shook the tourism industry to its core. 

Each of these challenges Dave faced down with all his formidable entrepreneurial experience, and today the Lazy Moose Restaurant and Lodge is in prime position to catch the wave of tourism returning to South Africa. Dave also believes that he is on the forefront of a flood of investment in tourism infrastructure in the relatively underdeveloped KZN south coast. 

For now, Dave has put his unstoppable expansion of what started as a small retirement project on hold so that he can focus on arranging a BBBEE partner for the business and completing the last formal steps to realising the hotel’s four-star grading.

And then, who knows what else might bite?

About the Author: BPL Admin

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