To wed his wife Ashmina 30 years ago, Colin Kisten had to borrow a coat from a nearby postman, since he was unable to afford a coat of his own.
But his career got off to a sour start. When he was 17, he was kicked out of school for protesting against the apartheid government and forced to become a street vendor. “All I remember is being thrust into business straight out of school. It was an uphill battle.”
Kisten’s latest concept of hospitality includes access to medical facilities. When the project is complete, it will house 22 medical and 17 apartment suites.
The inspiration behind this, Kisten said was to ensure a proper mix in the cosmopolitan area. “I have been here as a developer for almost 10 years and I have seen that we are all tending to replicate the same thing. We aren’t bringing about anything new, which is important if we want to be innovative,” said Kisten.
His journey from vendor to developer includes a stint in second-hand car sales. “I called my business ‘Deals on Wheels’. I saved enough money to buy a Ford Cortina and did the car up with a few of my unemployed friends.
“I sold it and went back to the same dealer and used the money I got for another car.”
The business grew and Kisten went on to own a video hire store, a supermarket and, eventually, he invested in a Chatsworth hotel before branching out to work as an estate agent- where his passion for property development took hold.
Kisten formed Africa Rising, which has had a hand in creating a large portion of Umhlanga Ridge’s properties, including The Grand Floridian, Crystal Rock, The Meridian as well as The Grand Central.
Kisten dubs his buildings his “children”, going so far as naming them “like you would a newborn” once the deals are signed and before even a single brick is laid or a trench dug.
For the father of three, developing the land means he has come full circle.
His grandfather Natasadu once worked along the same plots as an indentured labourer.
“He would walk the street barefoot, selling strawberries to hotels across Durban.
“With that money he was able to buy a stall at the early morning market. My mother and aunts would work there and I would later help there too.
“I feel like I’m paying homage to him. And it’s one of the reasons I believe in keeping it simple. Don’t be flashy and over-the-top.”