By Prudence Minayo
Bountiful Safaris is a leading tours and travel company based in Kenya. At the helm of its leadership is Esther Njeri Njoroge who is both founder and Chief Executive Officer. This is her journey of resilience and triumph.
The CEO spent her early years in Bogita, Thika town. She is a second born in a family of four children. The family later relocated to Nyahururu in Nyandarua county. In order to attend school, she often had to stay with relatives.
Upon successfully completing high school, she enrolled at the University of Nairobi for a degree in social sciences. Two years later, she landed an internship opportunity with a Non Governmental Organization. The NGO was involved in community service and also owned and managed a lodge in Narok.
A position at the lodge fell vacant a few months into her internship and she was asked to step in until a replacement could be found. This is how she began working as a travel consultant. Her salary for the next three years was Ksh6,000 per month. It would then be increased to Ksh10,000. The nature of her job and working hours could not allow her to continue with her degree so she took a break.
The idea to open her own website to advertise tours and travels began to formulate. She approached a webmaster who told her she would need Ksh25,000 to set up the company. Since she could not raise the full amount, Esther began paying it in instalments of Ksh1,000 monthly. The website went by the name Bountiful Tours and Travels Safaris. Later, it was shortened to Bountiful Safaris.
In 2009, she joined a tours and travels company that paid Ksh15,000 monthly. They were also paid on commission and at times she could take home a monthly income of more than four times her salary.
While this job signified better pay, the work environment was toxic. The boss had a sharp tongue and used it to demean the employees. Esther even recalled a time the boss told her to quit and go open a brothel since that was the only thing she could be good at. In November 2013, she left the job.
This and the occasional put downs had taken a toll on her and she tried to commit suicide. She overdosed on painkillers, she fell unconscious and a friend took her to the hospital.
The executive then decided to focus on her then inactive website: Bountiful Safaris. She updated it and a friend also helped her create a Facebook page to attract traffic. They would then take photos of hotels and post them.
She booked a big group for an excursion in Mombasa and they were impressed with the services. They referred her to an embassy who were willing to pay Ksh 1 million. She neither had a business account nor a physical address. A friend who worked at a bank helped her open the account and her elder brother provided her with an office space that belonged to his friend in Kileleshwa. Two months after this, she moved to her own office in Westlands. Her brother once again stepped in and paid the rent for three months. Bountiful Safaris journey thus began. Today, Bountiful Safaris has created a name for itself and is one of the most highly rated tours and travels companies on Tripadvisor. Its top brand ambassador comedian Njugush commands a large social media following. The CEO hopes to open other branches outside Kenya in future.
With her own experiences, she strives to treat her employees with respect.