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Fill intimate sanctuaries with smiles, kindness and lovely people.

These nine words define and meld Last Words symbolic embrace. It is the silken web we spin around guests to nurture their happiness. When these qualities intimately connect there is an energy, a momentum capable of building brand advantage and recognition.

How did it all begin?

A family’s desire to share beautiful boutique places in unique locations. Creating an oasis, a hidden gem, a sanctuary for people to enjoy at their leisure. Elegant luxury in larger than normal rooms, spacious bathrooms with genuine warm hospitality. Fewer rooms create exclusive and intimate properties for discerning and savvy travellers. The name, The Last Word, comes from being the best of something enabling our guests to have the last word.

What sets your business apart?


“He who returns from a journey is not the same as he who left” – Chinese Proverb

An insightful observation. It sums up exactly what we want to achieve at Last Word. Provide a different travel experience that changes people for the better by simply making them happy. We want our guests to feel something as well as see something. In the arms of Last Word, you can lose yourself and find yourself at the same time. Elusive, mysterious, perhaps even secretive until all is revealed.

What is the concept behind your business or the problem you’re solving?

Today there is a fresh desire for a slowed-down holiday of comfort, cosiness and safety in an intimate, less crowded place of one’s own discovery – an elusive hideaway. Those are our islands in that sea of sameness where travellers can come ashore and live a little better, breathe a little deeper and surrender to nature, courtesy of humanity.

Where to next/What is your brand vision?


A vision is just a more business-like expression of a wish or dream. Our dream ultimately is to create a well-known and respected brand of intimate hotels and safari camps, cherished by guests. This vision demands we be different. It demands we grow. It determines direction, the space we operate in, mapping out milestones, the things we need to do ourselves (action), the things we must follow (strategy) and the things we must be first to accomplish (innovation), even small things like a Crème Brûlée at turndown.

Beyond Boutique is the rare emotive space in which we dare to sail. We want to claim it as ours because of the prospects it holds, the warm-heartedness and safety and unforeseen promise.

Nicky Coenen

Founder of

The Last Word

What do you feel passionate about/what drives you?

I am enormously passionate about our staff – I can be a bit like a lioness in this regard- fiercely loyal, passionate and protective. I am also passionate about the future and the opportunities that it holds. I like to delve into new ideas creating ways to make our guests feel uniquely special in our boutique properties. Attention to detail and small gestures go a long way – empowering our staff to make these moments happen is paramount. We are like a mouse that roars – the small things can have the biggest impact.

Share an example of early life that has shaped you?

I rode horses competitively for 20 odd years specializing in the discipline of dressage. This taught me dedication, commitment and to never give up – that hard work does pay off. The support I received from my parents during these years was incredible and these factors have shaped me, my attitude towards work and my family. Through determination and a willingness to learn and adapt in a highly supportive environment, I feel I can achieve anything.

Highlights of your business journey so far?

Tourism and hospitality are full of highlights – there is certainly never a dull moment in this industry. Meeting people is fabulous however I think my very special moments are when I get to travel and experience other hotels and lodges outside of Last Word. Highlights are without a doubt being able to explore the amazing properties that we have in South Africa – there are some truly awesome gems out there. One achievement that makes me very proud is having two of our Last Word properties (Last Word Long Beach and Last Word Franschhoek) being listed in the top 30 hotels in South Africa in the Conde Nast Traveller UK and US Readers Choice awards. This accolade is testament to our amazing staff and beautiful properties.

Key lessons you have learned along the way?

I am only as strong as the people who make up our team at Last Word. Flexibility and communication are key – and these tend to become better as you mature. Listen, learn and then decide. Humility, kindness and transparency are so important in the workplace.

Best piece of advice you have received?

Create your own destiny and have fun doing it!

Advice to an aspiring entrepreneur or woman just starting her career?

Start before you are ready. Don’t prepare, just begin. Only you are stopping yourself from achieving what you want.

What funding route have you chosen for your business and why?

Ours is a family business that has been operating for 19 years.

Some of the challenges you have faced and how you overcame them?

Entering an industry 19 years ago that I knew very little about – a very daunting time for me. Through listening, learning, asking questions and making mistakes (as we all do and please do not be too hard on yourself when mistakes happen) I am now far more comfortable in my position and what I do. As a company we have had many challenges over the years – start-up in a highly competitive environment, global recession, water crisis in Cape Town and Covid, however we have managed to steer the ship through stormy waters through guts, determination, remaining relevant and communication with our staff, our trade partners and our customers.

Why is it important to support women-led business?

I firmly believe that women are our future. We are key role models for our daughters, nieces and the next generations to come. Woman are courageous, empathic and we bring a unique level of emotional intelligence to the companies that we lead. We nurture and heal – something that the world very much needs now and in future. By supporting woman-led business we will encourage growth in future.

60

Seconds

with

Nicky Coenen

My inspiration is...

wherever I may be, I love absorbing where I am, my surroundings, animals, people and nature.

My greatest fear is...

the unknown.

The most courageous thing I’ve ever done is...

to know that I am strong and brave even when I am scared.

Guilty pleasure?

mac & cheese – I absolutely love it!

Mantra you live by?

focus on what is in my power and ignore what I cannot control.

Female role model?

all my woman staff, they aren’t just employees, they are mothers, spouses, aunts, role models and very often the bread winners in their families or communities.

Women-led brand you love?

Pichulik and Sweetpeas.

Top productivity tool?

Notebooks – I still write everything down and they are my little obsession as I collect them as a reminder of where I have been.

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