Tours and Travel Business: Monica Musungu stands out as a confident, self-assured, successful entrepreneur. She owns a highly successful tours and travel company.
However, her climb to the top of the tours and travel business has not been a walk in the park.
All through her childhood, Monica struggled to get food and shelter. Her mother could hardly afford to pay her school fees or fend for her siblings. “She sold illicit brews to fend for us,” she says. After completing her secondary education with a C+, she enrolled for a Food and Beverages course at the SOS Technical Institute in Buru Buru.
“I wanted to get some skills that would enable me to live a better life and also help my siblings get out of the slums.” She raised some money from friends began her course.
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After graduating in 2003, Monica got a job as a casual waitress at the Bounty Hotel in South B.
“I worked hard and was promoted from casual to permanent employment.” She says that many of her clients wrote to the hotel’s management commending her work.
“One of the clients was Mr. Erlend Vold Engetf, who owned World Kenya Camping and Safaris. He offered me a chance to serve as a Marketing Manager at his company in 2006.” This was in spite of the fact that she had zero experience in tours and travel. Neither had she held a managerial position before.
“Although I was anxious, I knew that I would be quick to learn. I felt equal to the challenge and was determined to produce positive results.” Within a few months, Monica had mustered all the tricky workings in the business. “I became the company’s image and would represent it in every top tours and marketing conference in and outside the country.”
It was while working at World Camping Kenya that she began to contemplate starting her own tours and travel company. “I did not have any capital to boot. To many of those I shared my idea, venturing into tours and travel would be the beginning of my end.” But there was no holding Monica back. In January 2008, she resigned from her managerial position. “I am grateful that my employer was understanding and offered to help me if I ever got stuck.”
She founded her own company, Scenery Adventures together with one of her close friends, which she later incorporated in 2013 having a branch in Norway.
“We did not have much when starting. After paying rent for a small office at Bidco Towers, we were left with a Sh. 5,000 operating capital.” To make do, Monica would rent cars whenever she had a client. The business had hardly picked up than one of her clients was involved in a road accident with a rented vehicle.
“The borrower escaped. The car was towed to the police station and the police started looking for me.” To make matters worse, her partner disappeared on her. She was arrested and detained at Central Police Station for a week. “I was released after the insurance company intervened.” Soon after, another woman hired the remaining car to attend a function in Thika town. Unknown to Monica, she was a ring-leader in a car-theft city cartel.
“I had a hard time bearing the thought that she’d stolen the car.” She informed the car-owner who promptly called the police, accusing Monica of masterminding the theft. She was arrested and detained at Central Police Station for two weeks. Fortunately, the car was recovered and the woman nabbed. With no money left to keep her business running, Monica painfully shut down barely a few months after opening her business. “I had nothing; I couldn’t even afford a decent meal. I was taken in by a friend in Kawangware.”
Her moment of redemption finally arrived when her friend proposed that they restart the business a few months later.
“We pooled our savings together and came up with Sh.40,000. We reopened the office at Bidco and hired two new cars.”
This partnership, though, was short-lived. Just when the business started picking, Monica suffered another setback. Her partner began using the hired cars for personal leisure. “I’d get good business only to realize that the hired cars were away with my partner on personal business.” Her operating capital dwindled as the cost of operations spiraled upwards. She closed down again. “I began to wonder if I would ever make it.”
But Monica was not about to give up. From the Sh. 70,000 savings she had in 2009, she rented an office at Afya House and reopened the business alone. Although she was nervous that she may close down again, Monica says she was wiser and knew what booby-traps to avoid. Her big break came in August 2010. She secured a contract to book and ride ambassadors accompanying former US. Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, during the AGOWA forum.
“I made sure I secured useful contacts while providing my services.” Since then, the sky has been the limit for her. She has secured contracts with Akon and MTV MAMA, the Korean embassy and the Uganda government. She has opened a branch in Norway with her former employer and partner Erlend Vold. “My aim is to fully tap into the Scandinavian market,” she says.
Currently, she has four permanent employees and eight vehicles. Monica says that she bought her first business car on cash at Sh.900,000 then used the log book to take a loan and buy the second car at Sh. 700,000. “You have to risk and take a loan here and there.
If you rely on pooling your resources through savings alone, you may never make it on time,” she says. Her biggest challenge in the building her tours and travel business has been lack of enough capital. “In business, capital grows you. Lack of it will inevitably bring you down.”
Monica adds that her success in the tours and travel business has been transformed by her ability to take risks, push things up, and believe that she will make it. “Without self-believe and risk-taking, you’ll go nowhere in business. Learn from the mistakes you make and be wiser when investing,” she says.