Passion, commitment and drive are vital ingredients for the success of any business. These are the key virtues that define Phoebe Maina, the founder of one of the best tour companies in Kenya.
WoK spoke to the entrepreneur on her journey to becoming the success story she is today.
Who is Phoebe Maina and what do you do?
I am an adventurous person and CEO of Steri tours, a tours and travels company that exposes people to hidden gems in the country and introduces them to different cultures in our country. We are located at Feruzi Towers, Off Kiambu Road.
What makes your company stand out from the others?
We are a people-oriented company in travelling for impact, creating jobs for the youth and creating an impact on communities through cultural exchange. Our clients get to experience different cultures and cuisines.
How do you deal with pressure from clients?
Being a service company, we deal with different people with different personalities. We really engage one on one with our clients to best understand how to deal with them and what suits them best.
What was the motivation behind starting your own tours company?
I have worked with many NGOs and organized many trips for visitors. I really enjoyed taking visitors around the country. Being an adventurous person, I realized that I could do this as a business. When my contract came to a close in 2020 at the height of COVID-19, I decided to open the business and do it full-time. That is how my entrepreneurship journey began.
How has the journey been for you since you started?
First of all, my decision to start the business was kind of crazy, since it was at the onset of the pandemic. I remember planning trips and getting a lot of cancellations due to the pandemic. However, when the President eased some of the travel restrictions, I started doing trips for women. After the mom-cations I started doing hikes of different mountains and hills in Kenya.
Later I began a golfing activities club for clients after I developed an interest in golf. As COVID-19 cases continued to reduce, we expanded to doing international trips. I can say that the journey has not been all rosy, but it is definitely worth it.
What are some of the challenges you have faced in this field?
One challenge is starting and working capital. As you grow and start engaging customers like corporate, you need to have money to pay for some expenses before you receive the payment. Another challenge is competition. There are numerous tours and travel companies across the country, but we try to find hidden gems and locations that are different from what most of the other companies have.
We also go out of our way to ensure that our clients are comfortable during their trips. We insert activities that are child-friendly and we also make sure we offer additional experiences other than just accommodation.
Having travelled a lot, do you have a favorite destination?
My favorite is when I visited Watamu as a solo traveller. I travelled during COVID-19 and I got to interact a lot with the locals. For me that was an eye-opening experience, especially getting to learn how they make a living and how I could make an impact through my company.
Travelling generally takes a lot of time. How do you make it up to your family for the time you are away?
When I am home, I make sure to drop my kids to school and ensure I’m home when they are back. I also create packages for children and take them along. For their birthdays I try to create something memorable and do special trips with them and their friends.
What is your advice for young entrepreneurs who want to get into the tours and travels company?
One, you have to have the passion for it. Entrepreneurship is generally not for the fain-hearted, so you have to be ready for both the good days and the bad ones. Creating a good package and understanding your target market will go a long way in ensuring the success of your business.