This week’s interview is special. If you’ve ever visited South Africa you know how much the country has to offer. I remember dreaming of becoming a park ranger on one of my visits there.
Well the formidable didn’t stop at the dreaming stage. She actually took the decision to make it happen, and she did! Her achievements in the past 10 years are remarkable. It goes to show that when we dream big and when we play big we make big things happen.
What was your BIG thing?
To share my love for South Africa, its wildlife, nature and its people with the rest of the world.
Tell us about your moment of truth.
In 2000 left South Africa and moved to London for a few months. On my return flight back the South African flag burned in my heart. I longed to share my passion and love for South Africa with the rest of the world. Without me knowing it, the seed of my own safari and tour operating company was sown and a dream was being birthed.
How did it feel?
I was under no illusions that this dream would take hard work and dedication but I was up for the challenge. Even though I did not have money saved up to invest in my new business venture I knew I would make it happen.
What was the hardest thing about following through?
The hardest thing was to commit to building a good and strong foundation for my business even though this would take a lot of time. The first step was to become a qualified wildlife/tourist guide, which took four years of part-time study while working full-time.
Balancing my day job with getting Imvelaphi Safaris off the ground took hard work and dedication. In 2006 I registered my company, Imvelaphi Safaris. I took small but purposeful steps, until in 2007 I took that final leap and resigned from my full-time employment to forge ahead with Imvelaphi Safaris.
It is no small feat to be an emerging entrepreneur and to break through the South African Tourism Industry. With no financial backup or family support I sold my cycling equipment in order to start funding Imvelaphi Safaris. (I used to be Road & Track Cycling Champion but had decided to stop pursuing this career as it was not bringing in any income).
Even though this was the most difficult time of my life it taught me discipline, commitment, perseverance and that after every uphill there’s a downhill – to never quit!
I was determined to avoid the typical ‘get a job and work from 8 to 5.’ I tried it, got the T-Shirt but it did not work for me.
It has taken years of hard work to build a business with a good reputation that clients know they can depend on. My passion helped me stick to my commitment and persevere until I started to see the fruit of a successful businessStanding my ground in a very competitive industry as also meant that I have had to set my own course for Imvelaphi Safaris. As a woman, I have had to be strong, yet never lose my feminine touch in delivering personalized tourism services.
What helped you overcome this?
Well, I’ve always been a person who will go out there and find a way to do things when I get told I cannot do it. As the saying goes,
your true potential is outside your comfort zone.
I had enough of dead-end jobs, of thinking small and playing it safe. I had enough of being the kind of person who spends most of her time doing a job she hates. I was going to do things my way. This decision helped me stay focused and keep working on turning Imvelaphi Safaris into a successful business.
I wrote down my vision for my business and have let it guide me and my actions ever since. My vision is for Imvelaphi Safaris to be a leading tour operator for Port Elizabeth, the Eastern Cape and South Africa. To show clients things they have never seen before. To give them a sense of belonging and make sure they have the time of their life on their South African Safari.
What was the best bit about making this happen?
The day I resigned from my full-time employment forced me to take my vision seriously and make it stick. Creating something out of nothing, paving the way for Imvelaphi Safaris having only a vision to work with was scary but also very exciting.
What was a surprising outcome?
Here are some of the awards I’ve won since I started working in the Tourism Field.
2003- 4th in the Eastern Cape Province for Best Up-and Coming Tourist Guide
2007 – Finalist – Regional Business Achievers Awards; Finalist – Business Person of the Year Awards
2008 – Finalist – Business Person of the Year Awards; Finalist in South Africa – Begin Began Become Entrepreneurial Competition
2009 – Finalist – Regional Business Achievers Awards; Semi-finalist – Best Tour Operator, Welcome Awards
2011 – Winner – Best Tour Operator – Adventure Province Eastern Cape Tourism & Conservation Awards
These awards reassure me that I am doing something right, and that my decision to risk it all paid off.
What advice would you give to others who are yet to start their big thing?
What is keeping you back? Perhaps the fear of failure? What can you lose? Perhaps you have family that you have to support? Turn it around and use it as a motivator to encourage you to get started being a successful entrepreneur and create a better future for you and your family.
Be the best you know how to be! As the name ‘Imvelaphi Safaris’ implies, we know where we come from and we know where we are going. What is your vision? Be confident in what you believe because if you are not, how can you expect people around you to?
If I can provide guests with a world-class service and assist others by sharing what I have learned, then I am helping to grow the future of not only the tourism industry but the business industry and entrepreneurship and that is success indeed.
Next time you visit South Africa, join us on a safari. Let us share our magnificent country with you. Find out more about us here.