Schon Kenya Tours and Safari is the brainchild of Diana Kalekye. Schon is a German word meaning beautiful. She established the tour company from saving the tips she received at Club Tribeka where she worked as a supervisor. The entrepreneur, in a previous interview with Lynn Ngugi, urged Kenyans not to despise women working in clubs since they have dreams as well.
Here is her story as told by WoK.
Background and Education
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The businesswoman is the second born in a family of three children, all girls. She lost her father while in class four. They were used to being spoilt but with their father gone, things had to change. Her mother passed on in 2017.
She grew up in Katine, Kangundo Sub County, in Machakos County and attended Tala Township Primary School before proceeding to Matungulu Girls. After high school, she attended Kenya Wildlife Service Training Institute.
In a 2020 interview on the Daily Nation, Diana Kalekye stated that she loved traveling and wanted Kenyans to experience what the country had to offer:
“I also love travelling and cooking, but I majored more in the travelling sector as I wanted to let all Kenyans experience Kenya’s beauty. I joined Kenya Wildlife Service Training Institute in Naivasha for a diploma in Tourism and Hospitality Management. I am currently at Moi University Nairobi Campus, pursuing the same course at degree level,” she told the publication.
Diana got employed barely a week after graduating. She worked in the tour company as a reservations agent and salesperson for two years. Things took an ugly turn when the company changed hands prompting the new management to show her the door.
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“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 also used the little saving I had on drinking sprees,” she told Lifestyle.
Dealing with frustrations
To deal with her frustrations, she began partying hard. Using her savings, she partied with her friends every day of the week.
She frequented Tribeka since it was affordable and this is where lady luck smiled on her. The manager, who was now familiar with her, encouraged her to apply for a job as a supervisor at the club. Her heart was set on working in the world of tourism since that is what she was good at. She applied for the job whose monthly salary was Sh10,000 a month.
Despite the meagre earnings, the tips exceeded her salary and sometimes she would make upto Sh3,000 in tips. Clients appreciated having someone to listen to them, and they would tip in appreciation for this.
“The salary was Sh10, 000. The tips went a long way in helping me as I would take home Sh1000 to 3000 a day. I saved most of it for two months, and it was enough to start my own company and website. In my first working month, I had spent most of the money pampering myself,” she shared.
With her savings, she had her company’s website-Schon Tours and Travels-designed. She contracted a lawyer who dealt with all the legalities of registering the company. Towards the end of 2016, her company was ready for business. She got her first client-a German national. Business was steadily picking when she was hit with the news of her mother’s death. She took time to mourn and take care of family matters. Business took a back seat.
In 2018, she bounced back with renewed vigour with the intent of taking the company to the next level. She started serious marketing, opened a Facebook page and even paid for google ads. Her business was on a roll until 2020 when the pandemic slowed down the economy. Tourism was greatly affected leading to a new drive of marketing local destinations, especially the Nairobi National Park. Her employees also took pay cuts. Despite the hard times, the company sailed through the pandemic.
The businesswoman told Tuko that she prays whenever she is faced with challenges. She takes time to tell God all her worries and she is also very open with her drivers, most of whom are older than her. Diana Kalekye shares her challenges with them and they advice accordingly since they have worked in several tour companies. She then advised entrepreneurs to stop procrastinating and start putting their ideas to reality.
In 2019, Schon Tours and Travels won the Luxury Travel Guide (LTG) award under the category Bespoke Safari Operator of the Year.