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.
Interview with Insure Africa Founder, Judith Pila On Driving Insurance Inclusion
Judith Pila, Founder Insure Africa (Image: Supplied)
Judith Pila is the Founder of Insure Africa, a company whose main goal is to drive insurance inclusion in Africa through literacy, education, and awareness. Aside being an insurance professional, Judith is a contributing writer to Insuranceopedia, an online insurance information platform focused on Canada and US markets. She is the Content Director for Ladies Corner Canada Magazine, a Board Director for LCC Media Foundation. She volunteers with various organizations like, Insurance Institute of Canada, Career Education Council, SoGal Foundation. In this interview with Alaba Ayinuola, she speaks on her entrepreneurship journey into the insurance ecosystem and why she is driving insurance inclusion with Insure Africa. Excerpts.
Alaba: Could you briefly tell us about yourself and how you end up building in the insurance space?
Judith: My name is Judith Pila, born and raised in Nigeria, I now live in Canada. My journey to the insurance industry was purposive and one inspired by the need to do something different in an environment where it seemed everyone else wanted regular careers. Shortly after I moved to Canada, I already knew the industry was where I needed to be. In 2015, I began my career in insurance.
Alaba: For those who don’t know, what does Insure Africa do?
Judith: Insure Africa is a company that is, focused on driving insurance inclusion in Africa through literacy, education and awareness. We also provide consulting services to individuals and small businesses, we help them make smart and informed insurance decisions to help meet their personal and business goals.
Alaba: What makes Insure Africa special from other startups driving insurance inclusion?
Judith: While other startups are driving insurance inclusion through Artificial Intelligence and Technology, Insure Africa is doing same through literacy, awareness, making sure that Africans are well informed about insurance, so that when they decide to take on any insurance products, they are equipped with the knowledge they need.
Alaba: What have been the biggest challenges and successes in building Insure Africa till date?
Judith: I think I would have less to say in this regard, considering that Insure Africa has been actively operating as a company for only about four months. I think the biggest challenge has been trying to convince people that we are not insurance salespeople. I think the moment you mention insurance to someone in Africa, they feel like you are trying to sell them a product. People that we have been able to reach, see value in the services we offer and have given us positive feedbacks, I would consider that a success.
Alaba: How has the insurance industry evolved?
Judith: Unlike before, when most people thought insurance was only for the rich and large corporations, more and more people are now seeing the need for insurance. The Covid-19 pandemic has also proved the importance of insurance. And with the use of technology, insurance companies are now offering insurance products through different channels making it more accessible to consumers like never before.
Alaba: Kindly share the most difficult part of being a CEO of a startup?
Judith: I think one of the most difficult part is the unpredictability, that what you are trying to build will either fail or be a success.
Alaba: How do you feel as an African entrepreneur?
Judith: I feel great and inspired by other African entrepreneurs who have made it to the top.
Alaba: What are Insure Africa’s expansion plans in terms of product, tech & markets in the next 5 years?
Judith: We are more of a service company and have plans of reaching as many people as possible that might need our services. We do have tech plans but are not ready to share those plans yet. We already have representatives in about 5 African countries and think that the opportunities are endless, and the future is looking bright.
Alaba: Finally, what piece of advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
Judith: Keep building, there are going to be tough days, but hold on to the vision and hope for a better end.
Edith Njage: My Letter to fellow Female CEOs
Edith Njage, Co-Founder and current CEO of Arielle for Africa (Image: Supplied)
Edith Njage is a Social and Serial Entrepreneur based in Africa. She is the Co-Founder and current CEO of Arielle for Africa, which aims to create over 100,000 jobs in Africa through empowering, training, coaching and connecting and funding entrepreneurs. Edith is the Country Representative for Invicta Ventures on a mission to fund social impact ventures with up to $10 billion in developing markets. She holds a Bachelor of Business Administration with a major in Finance and a Bachelor in Business Management with a major in Economics. A Master of Science in International Business with a major in Disruptive Innovation and a Master of Science in Finance, both from HULT International Business School. Excerpts of her letter below;
There are realities that come with being a woman in leadership that in most cases remain secret.
Realities faced but not communicated.
My journey as a Young, Black and Female CEO has been nothing short of rough, tough and everything in-between. The hardest truth is that the journey has been lonely with no-one to turn to, until I decided to make changes to not only my leadership, but my circles as well. I began my journey as a serial entrepreneur at 18, relatively young in the books of most but when a problem in your continent calls, age is never a factor. I became a CEO at 24 and to date I wish someone explained the realities of being a woman in leadership. Especially a young and black woman in leadership.
I wish I knew the bias that I would face each time I walked into a room and sat on the table when most expected me to just bring the coffee,
I wish I knew that fundraising would be more about my gender and race than the value my companies brought to the table,
I wish I knew that the most powerful weapon a female CEO can wield is a network of other female CEOs,
I wish I didn’t do it all alone.
Dear Female CEOs,
You are powerful. You are graceful, You are beautiful in leadership. I know that the world has taught you to blend in, I know you have been told to use your position or title to protect your vulnerability and I know most days it feels like no-one in the world can understand what it is like to be you. I want you to know the key to our strength is each other. I want you to know that rather than face the bias alone, rather than rise to the top alone, we can band together and not only rise but build a system for the next generation of female CEOs to struggle less than we did.
Where the world has called us bossy, let’s exude grit and relentless pursuit of our dreams,
Where they have called us soft, we can preach emotional intelligence and finally,
Where they have prevented our progress, we can build paths for the progress of other women after us.
This is our time, but we cannot go at it alone. We must band together and begin talking about these realities, not in secret but for the world to see. It is for this reason that I decided about a month ago that enough was enough and that it was important for me to begin sharing the truth behind my journey as a Young, Black and Female CEO. I started a podcast!
Since beginning this journey I am in awe of how many women in leadership, in business, in politics and in corporate have reached out sharing their stories!
The Latest Episode is available below (streamed to Spotify and Apple Podcast). Adding onto that I have decided to be intentional about building a Female CEO Global Board. A space for Female CEOs to share their stories, struggles, plans for growth of their businesses and so much more!
If this is something that interests you and you would like to join us next week or maybe just find a safe space and community of women who understand, book a coffee chat with me here; https://calendly.com/edith-njage-alpha-group/one-on-one
I became intentional about building circles with fellow female CEOs and investing into those circles so that as a tribe we would all rise! Rise in business, rise in our purposes and pursuits and rise in who we are as people in the world.
As always, I hope that unashamedly sharing my truth will help you know that you are never alone.
Interview with a Polyglot: Favour Chisimdi Nwobodo, Founder Empress Linguistics Services
Favour Chisimdi Nwobodo, Founder Empress Linguistics Services (Image: Favour Chisimdi Nwobodo)
Favour Chisimdi Nwobodo is a polyglot who speaks nine (9) foreign languages. She is the Founder of Empress Linguistics Services (ELS) creating new ways for businesses to interact with consumers across borders. In this interview, Alaba Ayinuola spoke with Favour about what it means to be a polyglot, her journey in entrepreneurship and much more. Excerpt.
Alaba: Could you briefly tell us about yourself and your journey into entrepreneurship?
Favour: Becoming the Solution! Oh yes, I proffer Solutions. My name is Favour Chisimdi Emerald Nwobodo from Enugu state in Nigeria. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always wanted to be the Solution to people’s problems. Growing up, I got to witness the high rates of unemployment/poverty in the country, and the urge to put an end to this problem started growing.
At first, I started EMPRESS LINGUISTICS SERVICES (my brand) as a Linguistics brand – just Translations and Language Tutorials. I was the only one handling it but at some point, I did quit. During those bad moments, I was aimlessly searching on google when I saw the current finance situation. I felt bad – Nigeria is slowly losing “NAIRA”. I went on to search for ways to strengthen the economy of the country and I saw “Promotion of international trade” That struck!. But we’ve got machines and interpreters, why is yours different?
But then machines would be machines and sometimes those Interpreters might Interpret wrong stuff and scam people. I left the site and went into proper thinking, I thought about it and came up with ” LINGUISTICS IN FINANCE ”- when Linguistics meets Finance, it doubles it, it revives the currency etc.
I went on to propound the “LINGUISTICS IN BUSINESS SYSTEM”. I tried my hypothesis with a client’s job and it worked- I was convinced! So I came back stronger at Empress Linguistics Services and we’ve been able to help companies, businesses, and all thrive.
So far, we have been able to pull off a lot of deals. And from the comfort of our client’s home they are able to run their Businesses with ease, learn and attain fluency in foreign languages with ease. Our peer to peer service makes it so easy for Companies that most of them stick to it as their Linguistics needs (Translations and all) are attended to in 24 hours.
Also , seeing the way non English speakers are marginalized in various countries- they can’t access lots of things (products, companies etc) as they can’t understand English. With this, Empress Linguistics Services is working hard to eliminate Linguistics barriers and give them accessibility to various opportunities with LINGUIS-NESS (LINGUISTICS AND BUSINESS) a news platform in various languages that enables non English speakers access lots of information in various languages.
Alaba: Empress Linguistics is creating new ways for businesses to interact with consumers across borders. How did it all start?
Favour: My manager “Barr Chijioke Ojukwu” told me about opening a brand, and the brand “Empress Linguistics Services” was founded. At first, I had no vision. I just wanted to tutor languages and that’s all. I wanted it as a side hustle but then, REDIRECTION happened.
During the trying times, I went off and did some research and founded “Linguistics in Business”- How Linguistics helps to make businesses thrive, it was a great module. I also did some case studies with our client’s business and it thrived. It was a sell out, this prompted me to seek for “Linguistics in Finances” to help companies, firms and organizations meet their target companies and stabilize their finance goal by thriving in non english sectors.
Currently, we’re about entering the TECH and HEALTH sector to create products/services to serve everyone and make life easy. Just like our slogan says, “With ELS, lives are made easier”.
Alaba: Can you describe in detail what your company does and the response from your target market?
Favour: Empress Linguistics Services is a Linguistics Service aimed at profering Linguistics solutions to Businesses and the world at large. We’re in to make the world a better place with Linguistics and so far we’ve been good. Reaching the target market hasn’t been as I just entered the niche but I’m damn enjoying my growth. It’s worth it.
EMPRESS LINGUISTICS SERVICES is currently working on the Health sector with another product “DIGITAL HEAVEN”. I am sure you can wait for it. Some of our services are;
- Translations Services
- Interpretation services
- Proofreading Services
- Language tutorial Services
- Transcription services
- Advertisement in various languages
- Jingles in various languages
- Website Translations
- App Translations
- Movie Subtitlings
- Lyrics Translations, etc.
Alaba: What makes your brand different from the rest of the language translation startups in Africa?
Favour: What makes ELS stand out is ELS would always be ELS. The goal of ELS is to solve the Linguistics needs of Man. We are here to proffer solutions to man’s needs. Also at ELS, we have the peer to peer services that enables companies to get their Linguistics needs in less than 24 hours and from their own comfort.
We’re not a Translation startup, we’re a Linguistics startup as we offer both translations, tutorials and more. We’re in for TECH, HEALTH , EDUCATION and FINANCE and we’re working on making things easier in those sectors.
Alaba: You seem to really enjoy learning languages. What would you recommend to people who don’t like language learning but still want to speak in a new language?
Favour: When people say “Languages are hard” I tell them everything is easy once you understand the methodology but unfortunately some school’s methodology are so bad that people struggle to learn foreign languages and that’s why ELS was born to make it easier for MAN. At ELS, we make language learning easy and fun.
Alaba: What did you find to be the biggest myth when it comes to language learning?
Favour: Mmmmm, the myth I got to find out is “elimination of FEAR” and knowing the grammar rules.
Most language speakers don’t try to learn the grammar rules as they feel it’s a waste of time and it makes it hard for them to attain fluency easier and faster. Some of them find it hard to read and speak because of this.
This is the secret to the faster fluency in our students . Some get to make sentences and speak in their 2nd month. Once the rules are understood, you’re good to go.
Alaba: Who are some of the modern polyglots you are impressed with, and why?
Favour: Jaindersingh , my friend on LinkedIn is a Polyglot speaking nine Languages and I’m impressed. They’re good. But for now, I’m yet to see people proffering solutions with Businesses and that’s why I’m in to make all that happen with ELS.
Alaba: Where do you see ELS in the next 5 years?
Favour: In the next 5 years, I see ELS as the No1 Linguistics company in the world creating solutions in various sectors of the world.
Alaba: As a student-preneur, what is your advice to students who are aspiring to make an impact through entrepreneurship?
Favour: My advice is that they shouldn’t give up as nothing good comes easy, it might take time but it’s gonna be worth it. They were days when I was laughed at for learning foreign languages, days when I was looked down on.
But look at it now? That’s life!! Just keep doing what you’re doing. and like I’ve always said it’s “Quality consistency” or nothing.
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