By 2027, Travel & Tourism is expected to support more than 380 million jobs globally, which equates to 1 in 9 of all jobs in the world and the sector is expected to contribute around 23% of total global net job creation over the next decade. Thus, we are using travel and film to address negative perceptions, create opportunities for content creators and businesses in the hospitality and tourism industry and contribute to the new Africa narrative and development of the continent. In this e-Interview with Alaba Ayinuola, Muthuri Kinyamu, a co-founder of Turnup.Travel speaks on how they are using travel to create opportunities and connect people to what they care most about across Africa. Excerpt.
Tell us about yourselves and Turnup.Travel
Muthuri Kinyamu is a marketer by training, publicist and traveller turned tour operator, travel designer and a host. Previously, led a social media takeover campaign for Kenya Tourism Board to promote the Great Migration and domestic tourism and was part of the Nest.vc Africa journey since Day 1, building an Asian Venture Brand and community from scratch into the continent and Nest.vc is now synonymous with VC and entrepreneurship in Africa.
My co-founder Brian Gatimu graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Microbiology at Oregon State University in the US but decided the only way to truly enact change was to go back home and develop his passion in photography by changing perceptions about Kenya and Africa armed with a Canon 700D.
Turnup.Travel is an inbound and outbound tour operator, a holiday concierge and a production arm that delivers stunning visual content, digital campaigns and stories. Turnup.Travel has a digital marketing arm called Turnup in Motion with a dedicated professional crew of photographers, filmmakers, writers, producers and licensed drone pilots. We also have Turnup for Good, which is a storytelling agency where we organize themed tours and craft campaigns to amplify sustainable tourism, fundraising and CSR initiatives.
How much did you need to start your business and how were you able to raise that capital?
We are a self funded enterprise so we used our savings to fund the operation using customer revenue and reserves. Turnup.Travel was conceptualized at Voyager Beach Resort when two guys met during one of the KTB Social Media Takeover Campaign trips and decided to start something. You’ve probably heard modern travellers are looking for unique experiences and so we started Turnup.Travel to serve this demographic and we are already
What are the challenges you face in your business and how do you overcome those challenges?
My co-founder and I come from very different backgrounds which weren’t tourism but since he is people-centric while I am process driven we make a great team always learning and improving. We had to learn first and fast the intricacies of running a travel business and then built an experienced team to deliver. We invest in people first, tools and then seek collaborations to make things happen.
We are exposed to seasonality and cyclical nature of tourism but we are changing the behavioural aspects of this to inspire travel all year round. Besides that, we have a production and digital marketing side of the business that serves the hospitality industry thus we are busy all year round. Besides that, we are affected by things beyond our control like taxes, visas, incentives, infrastructure, security and safety concerns that hinder or facilitate the movement of people, our competitiveness of a destination and uptake of our packages.
What inspires you and keep you going?
Everyday hustle. Every so often in a generation, disruption happens to ‘norms’, bringing trends and changes in thinking. Business leaders who thrive are always at the forefront of these disruptions; they’re quick to sniff the next big thing and connect with discerning audiences so for me it’d be the people who say yes to our crazy ideas, methodical madness and out of the box approach. Turnup.Travel stands out as an innovative travel company, creating bespoke travel experiences and opening hidden gems and thus we have been at the forefront of introducing new and unique products.
Our customers and partners keep us going and we are forever grateful. Besides that, we get to see in real life the resilience, appreciate diversity and inclusion through our travels. Each person is on their journey and pretty much inspires us to keep at it. So here’s to rebels and misfits – the courageous ones who continue to reject the norms and choose to be among the first. May the odds be in your favour.
Where do you see your business in 5 years from now and what steps are you taking today to reach that objective?
We are a digital first, content-driven and customer-centric business with a huge focus on new age travellers like millenials but we also serve other demographics. We are expanding our technical capabilities to sustain growth and scale beyond boarders. We also use travel to connect people to what they care most about thus we see ourselves as enablers and a lifestyle concierge to help transform your dreams into memories beyond getting you from point A to B thus we can expand across verticals and different passion points.
Turnup.Travel is launching an app where you can find, book, plan and pay in instalments for our signature experiences. It’s an experience marketplace with a financial management component to help you check what’s available (discovery), budget and book.
At Turnup.Travel, we combine the power of photography, film and storytelling as we leverage on social media platforms to reach our clients. We are thus combining film and tourism being at the intersection of travel, film and media we are well placed to fulfil the intense global demand for live travel experiences and content that resonates on a deeper emotional level so hopefully we should have our own travel TV show to inspire a new generation towards their path of self-discovery. At the moment, we are posting our videos on YouTube but we hope to bring that to your living room or device in your pocket or screen at your workplace
What advice would you give to entrepreneurs looking to start a business or invest in Africa?
I think first there is no one way around this so chart your path and find your way around. There is a lot of literature around things to do, lessons and guides but some of these things do not apply in the continent where we have unique underlying challenges. We have immense problems which would thus give any curious mind a canvas to think of solutions. I would say do not be narrative driven but look out and analyse opportunities.
Always remember if something doesn’t work, it doesn’t mean you are a failure so rise and get on to the next thing. If you cannot build it from scratch, you need to figure out how to bring a minimum viable product to the market to start with what you have and can do then figure out the rest as you go. People are willing to support what’s already in motion not to push or restart what has stalled so you got to start and keep moving no matter what. Good luck!
How is your business participating to the development of Africa?
By 2027, Travel & Tourism is expected to support more than 380 million jobs globally, which equates to 1 in 9 of all jobs in the world and the sector is expected to contribute around 23% of total global net job creation over the next decade. As a travel and production business, we create direct jobs and income-generating opportunities along our value chain, we source from locals and small businesses and impact communities around the destinations we visit.
We always pursue a triple bottom line in everything. It must be fun for participants, must bring ROI/ value to our trade partners/sponsors and be impactful and socially conscious to the community. In the past, for example, we have donated proceeds to Homeless of Nairobi children’s home and we have an upcoming Heritage Tour specifically aimed at fundraising for the kids education and rehabilitation of street children. Through Turnup for Good, we seek to highlight good social initiatives by showcasing their work to bring their stories to our audiences and help them with fundraising or direct donation.
We are thus using travel and film to address negative perceptions, create opportunities for content creators and businesses in the hospitality and tourism industry and contribute to the new Africa narrative and development of the continent. Getting people to travel opens borders, brings foreign exchange and boosts trade. Every month we directly engage content creators through our Instagram tours thus creating an opportunity to learn from each other, collaborate and showcase which thus contributes to skills development, opens new places for consideration and opens doors to more income-generating opportunities for young creators on the continent.
We started in Kenya because charity begins at home, but we have a pan African vision and global mindset. This is the last frontier and we are excited about what the future looks like for the continent. Join us!
How do you relax and what books do you read?
Our business is travel so I am lucky enough to mix business with leisure. I am an introvert so a good conversation indoors or outdoors with someone and maybe a picturesque view with Turnup. Travel family helps me unwind. In my line of work, I get to meet lots of interesting and fascinating people from all walks of life who inspire, challenge me and give me unique perspectives. I take most from these interactions in everyday Africa.
Shaun Duvet on The Unit Group and the Impact of COVID-19
Shaun Duvet, Founder and CEO at The Unit Group (Source: Unit Group website)
The impact of Covid-19 is changing the way organisations operate and do business about the world. The entertainment industry is not exempted as it’s adjudged the second affected industry after the aviation, travel and hospitality industry. In this interview with Alaba Ayinuola, Shaun Duvet the Founder and CEO of The Unit Group shares his brand story and the Impact of Covid-19. Excerpt.
Alaba: Could you tell us about the Unit Group and the gap it’s filling since you launched?
Shaun: The Unit Group was established in 2017 as the holding company for my various business interests which include: COCO, GoldBar and Souk (my venues), Ultra South Africa, Corona Sunsets Festivals, Anything Goes, AG Virtual, Bella Bookings, Salute, Jet Black & Paradise Springs. These businesses cover all functions of entertainment marketing, management, hospitality, sponsorship and eventing from design, to staffing and artist booking, to production and everything in between.
The gap we launched The Unit Group to fill was that of a true understanding of marketing in the entertainment space. So many brands want to play in this space because the audiences are so receptive and the engagement so high, yet so few of them truly understand it. We felt that we had the marketing know-how, and a deep love and knowledge of not only this space, but the global players within it.
Alaba: What services does your company offer?
Shaun: The services offered range from throwing small corporate events to festivals for 50, 000 pax; to sponsorship strategies, virtual events; to full spectrum design, photography, videography; artist, model and staff bookings; marketing, and PR strategies and much, much more.
Alaba: How has the market responded to your offerings?
Shaun: We have seen a huge uptake in clients that previously came to us just to make the party happen, now asking for marketing, creative and strategic advice. AG Virtual, which launched this year, has also seen the likes of AFI (African Fashion Week) approach us to do their full virtual production.
Alaba: The steady rise of South Africa’s entertainment industry has increased competition in the country. What’s your company’s advantage?
Shaun: My 20+ years of experience and my years behind the decks. I live and breathe music and entertainment which enables me to understand what the market wants and keep abreast of global trends. I also have incredible teams in place that keep our work fresh and relevant, and the machine in constant motion.
Alaba: Kindly share some of the challenges faced, especially in this dire time and how you overcoming them?
Shaun: The challenge of this year is obvious – no events, no DJ’s, no dancing! That’s our life blood. We have managed though to stay busy by diversifying what we offer and working more strategically. Helping brands activate within the highly connected urban youth market in an authentic and resonant manner. Some of our venues are also still operational, and the festivals and events teams are taking some much-needed down time before the parties start again, which we know they will do with a renewed energy when we’re out of the current COVID crisis.
Alaba: Technology is disrupting the entertainment industry across the globe. How’s your company adapting to the use of technology?
Shaun: As mentioned, we have launched AG Virtual which is doing well. But we have always been at the forefront of event and entertainment technology in our work. Our audience demands it.
Alaba: How does your company contribute and set new standards in the South African entertainment industry?
Shaun: I regularly write and speak on industry channels and give back to the industry that way. We also ensure that we are constantly raising the bar with the work that we do, meaning that more people around the world sit up and take notice which will ultimately benefit the whole industry.
Alaba: What’s the future for the Unit Group and are you post COVID-19 ready?
Shaun: We cannot wait for life to return to “normal”. Down time was nice, but we’re rested now and it’s time to work!
Alaba: How do you relax and what keeps you going?
Shaun: I have 3 young kids so relaxation is scarce, but they certainly keep me going
Alaba: What advice would you give to entrepreneurs and investors coming to South Africa?
Shaun: Come! Don’t be afraid. There is risk, yes, but the rewards are also so great. We live in such a special place and I really believe in the future of this country.
B I O G R A P H Y
Shaun Duvet, CEO and Founder of The Unit, South Africa’s leading entertainment-based holding company, a combination of enterprises, individually built to make brands better. Shaun is also the CEO and Founder of Anything Goes, the branded entertainment agency, aligning campaigns, properties and music tours with international brands and artists across the continent.
He is the co-Founder and Director of ULTRA South Africa, which brings 50,000 dance-music revellers together every year to see some biggest names in eEectronic Music. He is the partner and producer for Corona Sunsets Festival South Africa, which over the last 5 years has seen over 40,000 fans join together across three cities to celebrate the sunset.
He is a co-owner and operator for COCO, one of SA’s premiere nightclubs, think celebrities, Ibiza-style go-go dancers, Hip Hop MCs, and a parade of sparkler-topped bottles, this alongside it’s sister GoldBar, an elegant bar annex to COCO.
Shaun Duvet is a board member and proud supporter of Bridges For Music, a non-profit organization that utilises the power of music to uplift communities through creative education. Recently, partnering with Defected Records on a new imprint Sondela Records all of whose profits will channel back directly into the charity.
Viola Labi: The multi-hyphenate creative strategist building an eco-luxury fashion brand in Africa
Viola Labi is a multi-hyphenate creative, premium retail Strategist and Founder of WOVEN, a design-led fashion enterprise.
With over a decade of experience and a proven track record in the global luxury retail space, Viola has worked with renowned international brands such as Burberry, ZARA, Loewe, CELINE and Valentino and has caught the attention of media powerhouses such as Vogue Business, Essence, Forbes, BBC and CNN International, as one to watch.
Born in Canada with Ghanaian parentage, Viola is culturally plural and holds reverence to fashion’s interaction with humanity; asserting that it permits people, irrespective of their cultural and social affiliations to unite. It is this fundamental belief and her relocation to Ghana that inspired WOVEN, a ground breaking brand which seeks to herald a new direction for eco-luxury retail on the African continent.
Viola said, WOVEN was birthed from a personal journey to Northern Ghana. “I witnessed my own reunification to elements of rich Ghanaian culture through textile creation at the diligent hand skilled Artisans. Despite language barriers and unfamiliar grounds, I felt at home. I spent more time with women creating textiles and found myself being stitched together in areas I didn’t know needed mending, areas like self-identity and purpose.”
“Looking back, I guess you can say we weaved symbolic exchanges of knowledge and cultural practices and this inspired me to creative WOVEN. Although the entire assortment of products are literally woven, the company name speaks to a higher purpose of coming together as Humanity.” She said.
The Brand’s mission is to actively work towards uniting the fashion value chain into a cohesive whole by showcasing the creative talent that pervades throughout the African continent; while emanating the diversity of culture, history and skill, much like yarn being formed into a unique tapestry.
WOVEN has the honour of partnering with 150 esteemed Artisan weavers in Ghana to create sustainable, functional, home furnishing products. It’s design principles and execution promote inclusion and seek to disrupt fear-based stereotypes by creating products, made in Africa, that are par with those of global standards.
Emalohi Iruobe, An Attorney and Founder of Tribe XX Lab Empowering Female-led Startups
Emalohi L. Iruobe Esq. is an attorney, adjunct professor and social entrepreneur. She is the founder of Tribe XX Lab, the first and only co-working, wellness and incubator space exclusively for female entrepreneurs and female led startups and companies in Lagos. Tribe XX Lab offers an open-plan office, private offices, events, networking, yoga, a nap room, conference room, reference library, pop up restaurants and wellness retail.
The fundamental idea is to create a place where women are able to present a professional front for their business as well as network, get training, access to funding opportunities and help each other. With a general focus on self-care and balance, the space also partners with brands that retail wellness and selfcare products in order to meet the other often overlooked core need of women in business-wholeness.
Prior to founding Tribe XX Lab, Emalohi was an adjunct professor of Business Law, Business Research Methods and Legal Analysis and Writing at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, USA for several years before moving to teach Business Law and Data Management at LIM College in Manhattan, New York. Afterwards she taught Expository Writing at Rutgers University in New Jersey, USA before founding Aimanosi Lingerie; a dynamic brand focused on promoting body positivity and selflove in African women. She has a Bsc. in Finance and Banking from Lincoln University, PA and a Juris Doctor from Villanova University.
Before delving into full time entrepreneurship, she practiced law in Pennsylvania and New
Jersey working in Commercial litigation, as well as working as the Manager of Project Implementation in the Kwara State Public Private Partnership office in 2013. She comes with over a decade experience in entrepreneurship, law, education and business.
About Tribe XX Lab
Tribe XX Lab is a civic space for complex conversations, critical contemplation, learning and action to prevent all forms of violence and oppression against women and girls. The goal of their work is to change the perceptions of women and their role in society as well as lead conversations and interventions that PREVENT violence against women and girls in the first place. They do this through the use of digital and social media, conversations, XX-CEED Virtual festival, game theory and art.
Through their work, they are particularly looking to provide support to survivors of Gender-based violence, promote greater public engagement in preventing violence against women, increase public awareness of the intersectionality of oppression women face, create social projects that encourage the extermination of rape culture.
Since inception, they have successfully carried out several survival supports programs, prevention panels and have received a grant to prevent gender-based violence against women and girls in universities in Nigeria as well as provide psychological support to victims of GBV in institutions of higher education from Oxfam/Voice.
Emalohi also launched ‘I GO TALK’ a Nigerian Pidgin phrase which simply means I will not be silent, I will tell on you. It came in as a crucial response to the sexual violence that female students in Nigerian Universities face. This is a clarion call from victims, survivors, and women in general to the perpetrators of sexual abuse and to the general public, that they’re here to XXterminate, silence and provide support to victims. This is a motivation for victims of sexual abuse and harassment amongst University students to speak up and also a mode to create awareness for students on their rights in line with the recently signedd Sexual Harassment bill.
After the BBC Documentary, Sex for Grades rocked the whole of Nigeria in October 2019, the long cloaked truth about the oppression that young women face in the hands of university lecturers started to come to light. For the longest time, young women seeking higher education have been preyed upon by several academicians high in power and have been oppressed, victimized, and helpless.
Starting from the 25th of October to the 31st of October, they are kicking off the first edition of I GO TALK Youth Summit, the largest gathering of university students across the country to build collective power and voice in the fight to end Sex4grades and sexual harassment in Nigerian Universities.
Tribe XX Lab is laser focused on promoting gender equality, deliberate living, transformative leadership and community development through the design and delivery of trainings, workshops, seminars, collaborative partnerships and data gathering.