Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Diana Musembi: How I used tips from my Club job to start a successful tour company

Diana Musembi Kalekye is the CEO of Schon Tours and Travel Kenya. Her firm manages inbound and outgoing tourism activities for both domestic and foreign travellers.

Like many business proprietors, Diana’s tale is best described as from grace to grace.

At 25 years, she had life coming at her slowly in a steady reservationist and salesperson job, not until she walked into the office one day and was told “your services are no longer needed.”

This reality struck her hard, having lost a job she passionately loved. Like many would have done in her shoes, Diana resorted to partying and drinking away all her problems, concealing the depression she was facing.

“It was devastating. I had no side hustle. I was lost and didn’t know where to start or what to do. I struggled with a lack of purpose for two months, and pity partying became the day’s order. I used my little savings on drinking sprees,” she admitted.

Little did she know that the club joint she regularly visited (Club Tribeka) would be the next job that would catapult her to reach for the stars.

One day, the Manager at the club with whom she used to have ‘hi-hi’ greetings with, decided to engage her for a chat, seeing that she’d become a regular customer. Luck fell upon her when she landed the club’s supervisor job.

“The General Manager then, Doreen, had marked me and would always say hello. One day, we had a chat, and she said that she was looking for a supervisor. I quickly accepted the job,” she recalled.

“I didn’t care much about the salary. All I wanted was something to wake up to. I worked there for three months.”

With a meagre Sh. 10,000 per month paycheck, Diana started saving so that she could start her own business. The precious perks that came with the job were tips from customers.

READ: What students eat after paying Sh. 1 million fees at St. Andrews Turi

In a day, Diana would get tips ranging between Sh. 1,000 and Sh. 3,000.

“The tips went a long way to help me…I saved most of it for two months and it was enough to start my own company and website,” she revealed.

Diana has pursued a career in Tourism and Hospitality Management. She grew up in Katine, Kangundo, Machakos.

She has a diploma in Tourism and Hospitality from the KWS Training Institute in Naivasha, and a degree in the same course from the Moi University, Nairobi Campus.

With her career background, she established Schon Kenya Tours and Safari. The business was booming in 2019, and she won the Luxury Travel Guide (LTG) award.

“The biggest challenge was coming up with a marketing budget. I had not taken it into account that the business would pick up immediately.”

The business, like all tourism businesses globally, felt the impact of Covid-19. Notwithstanding, the business picked up after local and international travel bans were lifted.

In 2021, Schon Kenya Tours and Safari was named the best safari tour operator in Kenyan in the International Travel Awards.

For those wishing to venture into any business, Diana Musembi leaves her advice:

“At times, you have to do it afraid, and when you start, take care of your employees as they also determine how far your company goes. To those who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic, have self-belief, you can make lemonade out of lemons.”

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