By Prudence Minayo
Sasha Seraphine Mbote is a Kenyan running a successful tour company in Tanzania named Maridadi Tours. Before establishing the business, she worked as a spa therapist in Kenya. The entrepreneur encountered numerous challenges but sailed through them to become a spa manager.
Here is her entrepreneur journey as told by WoK.
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Background and Education
She grew up in a close-knit family in Bahati as the second born in a family of five siblings. Life as a child was good as their parents worked to ensure they never lacked anything. She attended Bahati Primary School followed by Dr. Kiano Secondary School in Murang’a.
After college, she struggled to get a job and ended up working as an actress in the Kenya National Theatre. She had been introduced to the world of acting at a very young age. She was active in drama festivals and would perform at the KICC during drama festivals.
She played in different characters in set books, dramas, and even appeared in commercials. However, she didn’t see this career path going anywhere and opted to become a hair stylist.
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Alison Caroline Institute took her in as a spa therapist and hair stylist. The institute sponsored her to do a course for one year which she would pay for once she got employed. Unfortunately, as she began working at Baobab Resort she was involved in an accident and couldn’t work for two years.
When she recovered, the company hired her as a spa therapist. Her colleagues did not like her and her boss piled into her misery. She had not fully recovered from the accident, and could not keep pace as the others. Her colleagues told her clients complained about her services and this led to her salary being slashed.
She began despising the beauty industry but prayed for God to intervene. As fate would have it, some of her colleagues who mistreated her were fired and others remained spa therapists while she was promoted to the position of a spa manager. She relocated to Tanzania as a spa manager and the challenges she had encountered before had strengthened her for this position.
With time, she got interested in the world of travel, and set up her tour company.
Seraphine was very good at offering invaluable advice to friends whenever they traveled. They would reach out to her to offer advice on the best places to tour. With time, friends referred her to others and her referrals multiplied.
She realized that this could turn into a very profitable business and in 2015 she partnered with locals to establish Maridadi Tours in Tanzania. Because she was a foreigner in the country, it was imperative that she join forces with local businesspeople and they opened their first office in Zanzibar.
They market various destinations across the continent and sell packages to clients in countries, like, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Ghana, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Botswana.
When the company began making huge strides and getting a lot of clients, the partnership fell apart teaching her the importance of exercising extreme caution before getting into partnerships in a foreign country. She told Business Daily that the partners even wanted to withdraw clients money. Despite the challenges, she pressed forward and even began attracting black people in the diaspora who want to travel to Africa and familiarize with their origins.
Instead of offering what every other tour company is offering, safaris and ocean tours, she set out to distinguish her company by offering tours to unexplored places. She also believes that cultural tours don’t have to include the Maasai alone yet there are so many unexplored cultures.
The company prides itself in offering prices depending on their clients’ pockets. They have packages for both low budgets and high budgets.
Seraphine did not start out with a lot of capital. She first started with the registration fees and focused on marketing heavily on social media groups.
Sasha Seraphine Mbote was made head of Upendo Women’s Foundation in Tanzania. The foundation empowers women and provides sanitary towels to girls who have no access to it. The experience of working with underprivileged women has taught the 42-year-old to appreciate life as people go through so many challenges.
She reaches out to women who have no formal education and empowers them through the spa business and so far she has empowered over 10,000 women who work in three star, four star and five star hotels.
Photos with Raila Odinga
In 2017, she was subjected to cyber bullying after she shared photos on social media she had taken with ODM leader Raila Odinga. The businesswoman had met the former Prime Minister at a restaurant in Zanzibar by chance. She later excitedly posted it online not knowing it would create such a huge circus.
Instead of people taking it as a Kenyan excitedly taking a photo with a popular figure, they dubbed her his side chick. She was trolled with various local publications slandering her leading to a lot of misery for both her and her family. Others would threaten to kill her saying she was being used to try and ruin the leader politically and others called her a pr0stitut3.
Nonetheless, Sasha Seraphine Mbote pressed on and even got the opportunity to speak to Ida Odinga who encouraged her that people would soon forget and move on and it is just one of the many hurdles people in the public eye encounter.