#CareerMonday: Esther Njoroge on leaving her job and starting a tour company
Have you ever wanted to go somewhere but your pockets ran shallow? Or has your man offered to take you to that ‘Instagramable’ resort, but you were not comfortable because you knew after that trip you’d have to eat sparingly to survive?
Many young people can relate with these examples, because let’s face it – most of us are cash-strapped.
This common challenge presented an opportunity to Esther Njoroge, founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Bountiful Safaris.
In an interview with eDaily, the budding entrepreneur explains that she quit a well-paying job to invest in the venture – a seemingly risky move that was motivated by appreciation of the gap in the market and a passion for travel.
“I quit my job back in 2013. Everyone thought I was crazy. How could I quit secure employment to get into an unknown business with already established competitors?” she recalled, citing what many would consider conventional wisdom.
“You see to me it was all about passion. My former job used to pay me well, but I was not satisfied I wanted something more from life. I love travelling. And that is how Bountiful Safaris came about,” tells Esther.
Using money to make money
She remembers, albeit nostalgically, how she used to pay safaris for her friends in a bid to promote her young company and fight for her place at the table with established tour companies.
“It was not an easy journey. I used most of my savings to sponsor ads on Facebook about Bountiful Safaris as well as pay for holiday resorts for my friends,” he recalls.
And she admits that the gamble paid off as her main clients now are those whom she used to take on free safaris.
A few years later, Bountiful Safaris now has 7 vans and a total of 10 employees – no mean fete for a lady in her mid-20s.
Lucky Break or Smooth Sail?
She admits it was not all smooth through as many challenges came her way.
“I remember when we went to luxury hotels, asking them to partner with us. They were quite skeptical. Some said we were not established; therefore they were not confident in our ability to bring them numbers. Others wanted us to pay them upfront, and in business some clients pay after or during the trip. Rarely do they pay the whole amount upfront,” she said.
With time, she has however built a name that commands respect from the same hotels.
Other challenges she faced include competition from larger companies and the perception that holidays are an overly expensive luxury, reserved for foreigners and top-earning Kenyans.
“Most people assume that they cannot afford to go on holiday, even to local sites. But what these people need to learn is that with saving and planning, it is possible to go on holiday. Actually, domestic tourism is what can promote our industry,” she pointed out.
Aiming for the moon and pushing on
If she has learnt anything since she opened the doors at Bountiful Safaris, Esther has learned the importance of persistence– a lesson that she more than readily passes on to anyone who will give her an ear.
“Keep pushing. Keep going for what you want. Everyone can achieve what they want, nothing is impossible in life. That said, you should not venture into business unless you are prepared to sacrifice as it is not for the faint of heart,” she advises.
She however sounds a warning to those who are only testing waters, ‘Business is not for the faint hearted.’
Of course I cannot leave them without asking about her relationship status.
Smiling coyly she says, “Single and ready to mingle.”