Chris von Ulmenstein has a B.Comm (Hons) cum laude from the University of Stellenbosch and an MBA from the University of the Witwatersrand Business School. She began her career at the Unit for Futures Research at the University of Stellenbosch, moving to the Bureau of Market Research at UNISA in Pretoria. Six exciting years as Market Researcher followed at advertising agencies JWT and Y & R in Johannesburg. Reaching the glass ceiling in advertising, she was appointed as a Lecturer in Marketing at the Wits Business School. In this period she established a Market Research consultancy called Relationship Marketing, and was soon appointed as a Research Consultant at the fledgling M-Net. Moving to Cape Town, Chris shifted the focus of her consultancy to Public Relations, representing food clients Bonnita (now Parmalat), Baker Street Snacks, 7 Eleven, and Aylesbury, as well as Hunt Lascaris Cape and Omnigraphics. She was Chairman of the Institute of Marketing Management, created and wrote Ad-Monitor for the Weekend Argus, and created and presented the Sweet & Sour Excellence Awards on Radio Good Hope.
Whilst running her PR consultancy, she set up her first Whale Cottage in Hermanus in 1996, in honour of the special mammals visiting Hermanus from May – December. Two years later Whale Cottage Camps Bay was established. In 2000 Whale Cottage Bakoven opened in Camps Bay, and was sold in 2006. In 2004 Whale Cottage Franschhoek opened, and at the end of 2007 Whale Cottage Plettenberg Bay opened its doors. The Whale Cottage Portfolio was the first branded guest house group in South Africa, with a recognisable corporate identity, and unique marine decor style. The Whale Cottage Portfolio properties were all sold in 2015.
As part of her marketing of the Whale Cottage Portfolio, and to satisfy her love for writing, Chris started writing a newsletter called WhaleTales, which quickly became a must-read in the tourism industry. Past issues can be read on www.whalecottage.com
Chris has served on the Board of Cape Town Tourism as Deputy Chairman, and has been a Director of FEDHASA Cape, chairing the Small Accommodation segment. She established Guest House Associations in Camps Bay and in Franschhoek, the foundation of which is active networking with guest house colleagues for the benefit of all.
The WhaleTales Blog was started in 2008, and has a readership of over 30 000 unique readers per month. The Blog was selected as a Top 10 Finalist in the “Most Controversial” Blog category of the 2010 SA Blog Awards. Chris presents a Sweet & Sour Service Award every Friday. She is an avid Tweeter (@WhaleCottage).
The WhaleTales Blog focuses on Restaurants, Tourism, and Wines, with a Cape Town and Winelands focus.
Contact details: Chris von Ulmenstein , Cell 0825511323, whalecot [at] iafrica.com www.whalecottage.com/blog, Twitter:@WhaleCottage Instagram: @chris_ulmenstein
An interview by Cape Town Alive about the WhaleTales Blog was published on 11 June 2012:
MEET THE BLOGGERS #1 – WHALE COTTAGE PORTFOLIO
As the first in the series of Cape Town Alive’s introductions to the people behind your favourite Cape Town blogs, we sat down with Chris von Ulmenstein, the sole female driving force behind the Whale Cottage Portfolio blog. We spoke about all things that are online media, controversry MasterchefSA and what is Cape Town missing.
1. THE WHALE COTTAGE PORTFOLIO IS A GROUP OF GUESTHOUSES ; HOW DOES A BLOG FIT INTO THE PICTURE?
I started the WhaleTales newsletter ten years ago, in collecting so much information about tourism in the Cape generally, that it seemed a shame to not share it with the industry, and our past and future guests. Our views were outspoken at times, which made it a popular read, it going to an Address Book of about 30000. Sharing information is a reflection of the collegiality that is characteristic of the small accommodation industry. When blogging started, it seemed a natural to extend the 6-weekly newsletter into a daily blogpost. Every 6 weeks or so I edit the blogposts and create a newsletter, as not all newsletter readers are blog readers. Our guest house guests like to be updated with what is happening in the Cape, pick up restaurant tips, and generally are well informed by the time they come to stay with us. We do not believe in hard-sell at all, but our blog is Whale Cottage Portfolio branded. We do receive an increasing number of bookings via our Social Media presence – Facebook, Twitter, and/or the Blog. Not quite part of the question, but blogging has opened (and closed some) doors, and I have met lovely bloggers too, having the same passion for writing, which is what our blog is about. It’s nice to receive compliments about it too, about its content, writing, and the usefulness it has, even for locals wanting restaurant advice.
2. YOU’VE BECOME QUITE KNOWN FOR YOUR ABILITY TO EXPOSE CONTROVERSIAL ISSUES. HAS THIS BEEN WHAT YOU’VE INITIALLY STRIVED FOR WITH THIS BLOG?
No, the newsletter was the predecessor to the blog, and the trend was set there. One cannot write to be controversial – how others perceive what one writes is what creates the ‘controversial’ interpretation, i.e. it’s in the eye of the beholder. I write the truth, and it hurts those that do not like it!
3. MASTERCHEF SA KEEPS POPPING UP. ARE YOU A FAN? COULD IT HAVE BEEN BETTER? OR, BASED ON OUR OWN THEORY, ARE YOU A SECRET JUDGE, WAITING TO APPEAR IN THE FINALS?
LOL! I am not a cook, far preferring to eat out! I had never seen a MasterChef Australia or USA, but had seen from Twitter how others raved about the Oz version. When our local series started, and I heard that Cape Town Chef Pete Goffe-Wood was a judge, it was a natural to watch it, and my love for it just grew. I have enjoyed meeting some of the Finalists, and I am intrigued about the clues that could indicate who has won!
4. SPEAKING OF ALL THINGS MASTERCHEF SA, WE NOTICED THAT YOU HAD A LITTLE ‘DISPUTE’ WITH CHEF REUBEN (YES GUYS, THE DUDE FROM THE ROBERTSON SPICES ADVERTS). WHAT WAS ALL THAT ABOUT?
I don’t know about a ‘little dispute’. In writing the truth, I find it untruthful and dishonest of Robertsons, and of Chef Reuben to endorse a brand that he in all likelihood does not use in his Reuben’s kitchens, and that he contradicts by stating that fresh is best! This is blatant misleading of consumers! A year ago we had a very disappointing meal at Reuben’s Franschhoek, mainly service related, and I fed this back to Chef Reuben. We decided to no longer recommend it to our Whale Cottage Franschhoek guests. General talk in the village is that it is no longer as good as in its opening days of eight years ago, and most guest houses in Franschhoek no longer recommend it. For seven years we were one of Chef Reuben’s biggest advocates! Chef Reuben has lost the passion for his main business, being cooking in his restaurants – he has lost his chef credibility through his Robertsons’ endorsement, which probably pays better!
5. YOU’RE QUITE THE BIG SHOT ON TWITTER (FOR THOSE OF WHO YOU DON’T KNOW, CHRIS HERE HAS NEARLY 25000 FOLLOWERS). HOW DOES IT FEEL TO HAVE SUCH AN INFLUENCE AT TIP OF YOUR FINGERS?
I don’t have influence as such, it’s for those who read the Tweets to accept what I write or not. I get a lot of flack too, as you will have seen, so it comes at a price!
6. QUICK QUESTION, QUICK ANSWER. WHAT IS CAPE TOWN MISSING?
7. WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE CAPE TOWN BLOG?
There are so many good ones – I don’t RSS subscribe to any, but pick up good blogposts via Google Alerts, wyncc, wine.co.za, and Cape Town Alive on Restaurants and Tourism, which are my areas of interest. I glance at the blogs of 2Oceansvibe, Relax with Dax, Spill, and Cape Town Tourism regularly, to see what they are writing about.
8. TALKING BLOGS, WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE CAPE TOWN ALIVE BLOG AGGREGATOR AND BEING A PART OF IT?
I love the concept, and it’s great that it is Cape Town focused. I am chuffed that we were invited to be part of it. Cape Town Tourism could have done the same, in its position of tourism promoter, but they are far too political and self-centered to put on what you have done.
9. IF YOU COULD TWEET ONE MESSAGE, 140 CHARACTERS ONLY, TO ALL OF CAPE TOWN’S PEOPLE ONE GO, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
Aren’t we lucky to be living in the world’s most beautiful city!
10. ANY ADVICE FOR CAPE TOWN ALIVE?
Keep doing what you are doing well, but don’t get too big.