For a Memorable Non-Traditional Safari

Lovely big almond shaped eyes are fixed on me - a piercing gaze. She does not bat an eyelid and stays focused on me as we talk, like if she blinked, she would miss something. The wide eyed look a reflection of how she lives her life; with expectancy, with curiosity, with passion, with purpose and an appetite for all things nature and adventure. At only 34 years she is a strong woman living life at her own terms.

After graduating from USIU with a degree in  International Business Administration in  marketing , Liz Mugure Kimotho joined Unilever as an intern and worked her way up to become the brand manager. The nature of her job in marketing involved travel and it was during this time that she discovered her interest in travel and nature. Then it dawned on her that she could actually do leisure as a business. Her idea was to make money by giving a social benefit. She opted to go back to school to bridge the gap in her skills and chose to go to South Africa and Spain at one of the top business schools in the world.

While in Spain and interacting with fellow business students from around the world, she was appalled at the level of ignorance, misconceptions and negative perceptions about Africa. At one point on a topic on emerging markets she remembers a lecturer saying, “If Africa were to be submerged, there would be negligible impact on world trade.” Seriously! Even with all what we consume?”She asks. Hers was the only dissenting voice. From then on a burning desire rose within her to do something to change that perception.

After coming back home, Liz wanted to work in the tourism industry as a marketer. She went to see the then Tourism and Wildlife PS Rebecca Nabutola about a job. Seeing her passion, she instead suggested that Liz starts her own business. It was during the tribal clashes in 2008 and a difficult time for the tourism industry. “Business was at its lowest and there were no entry barriers and some agents were even closing. Hoteliers and other players welcomed the extra distribution source. There is really no right time I always tell people who fear, just do it afraid,” she says.

Since her parents were both in business, her father was able to give her space in his office for which she paid rent. For seed capital Liz used her savings and cooperative shares to start off. She also managed to get an investor partner. With the business registration process done, her company, Exclusive Eco Travels was ready to go. She set up a website and sent out text messages to all her networks to promote and market her business.

As a getaway specialist, Liz believes there are so many different ways people can relax apart from the traditional safari or going away. “I want to create leisure experiences that are worthwhile and memorable. It’s all about doing it creatively,” she says. Among places she arranges for getaways are Maili Saba in Nakuru, Elephant Bedroom Camp in Samburu, Pinewood Village at Galu beach and Kilima Safari Camp at the Mara. The Rhino Charge challenge is also one of excursions she arranges for both tourists and locals. Some of her escapades were featured in a series dubbed Destiny Shapers by TV channel K24.

From 2009 to 2010 her business was smooth sailing. Unfortunately, in 2011 the numbers dipped and regaining momentum was difficult. “Inconsistency was my biggest mistake. I assumed that clients would just come.” She gives an example of Safaricom and Coca-cola whose businesses are thriving yet they are consistently advertising. All her efforts are now concentrated on marketing, creating value, growing her client base and upgrading systems. Her target is to have one million clients by 2020.

After being in business for the last five years, her business is able to sustain itself; paying all overheads and her salary. She laughs saying, “Of course I would want a bigger salary.” She was also able to buy out her partner and is in the process of designing her own unique signature package to attract more clients. Liz advocates for responsible tourism; use of solar panels, waste management and recycling; and she serves as secretary on the board of the Ecotourism Society of Kenya. 

About being a woman in a male dominated industry Liz says, “There is really no discrimination if you are able to prove yourself and are professional about it. After all, being in the tourism and leisure business is about relationship building and we women are good at that.” She agrees though that the nature of the business makes it difficult for especially women with families, because sometimes there is need to accompany clients, visit various sites to ascertain whether they have the right facilities and services and travel to market destinations abroad. Liz is currently in a relationship and when she does walk down the aisle she foresees things probably changing to accommodate family.

Liz draws strength and inspiration from her parents who are her role models. She appreciates the support- both financial and emotional, and the discipline instilled in her. Her mentor and business coach is James Karundu and she takes confidence and comfort in knowing that there is someone who has walked the steps she has walked and succeeded. Her adventurous spirit has seen her climb Mount Kilimanjaro and Batian the second highest point on Mount Kenya and she is aiming for the summit. Liz is currently doing some practice at the Blue Sky, an indoor facility that trains in rock climbing.

As we finish chatting she says, “In business, there so many variables and elements you have no control over, and sometimes you can be overwhelmed. There is so much going on; bad deals, difficult clients, low business, surprise turnarounds, ups and downs everywhere. Belief in a higher power, whatever your definition of what that Supreme Being is, gives calmness and serenity. There are many parts of an individual and you need to have an outlet and find balance.” Read the magazine

 


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