What you need to know:
- At 25, Diana had worked in a tour company for two years as a reservations agent and salesperson.
- When the company changed hands, she found herself in a predicament as the former employer had to let go of employees.
Imagine walking into the office only to be told that your services are no longer needed. This became Diana Musembi's reality four years ago when she lost a job she passionately loved and valued.
"I sat at my desk, shocked and confused, and I cried. I later proceeded to a local joint in town for a few drinks before heading home," shares the 29-year-old.
At 25, Diana had worked in a tour company for two years as a reservations agent and salesperson. When the company changed hands, she found herself in a predicament as the former employer had to let go of employees.
I sat at my desk, shocked and confused, and I cried.
"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 admits.
A new opportunity
It did not take long before another opportunity presented itself.
"I became a regular customer at Tribeka, a popular joint in town as it was affordable. The General Manager then, Doreen, had marked me and would always say hello. One day, we had a chat, and she said that she was looking for a supervisor. I quickly accepted the job. I didn't care much about the salary. All I wanted was something to wake up to. I worked there for three months."
Saved for business
Despite the low salary, the new job also had its challenges.
"I had never envisioned myself owning a business. However, one day I had a very bad day at work, and I felt very demotivated. That's when I began thinking about what else I could do. My former job's memories came back to my mind, and I thought -why don't I start something similar? I started saving from that day," she says, adding that although the salary wasn't much, she received many customers' tips.
"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."
Having lived and gone to school in the same environment, coupled with an interest in travel, Diana knew that she wanted to pursue a Tourism and Hospitality Management career.
"I grew up in Katine, Kangundo Sub County, in Machakos County. I am the second born in a family of three girls. We lost our dad while in primary school, and mum recently in 2017. I did my primary and secondary school education in the same environs. 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."
Despite having succeeded in founding a tour company at a young age, there were challenges.
"The journey was quite rough in the beginning, and I had many self-doubts. But I had no option but to keep going. The biggest challenge was coming up with a marketing budget. I had not taken it into account that the business would not pick up immediately."
Diana adds that she is proud of her achievements so far.
"Four years later, consistency has started paying off, and I am glad of the route I took then. In 2019, our company won the Luxury Travel Guide (LTG) award under the category Bespoke Safari Operator of the Year. It is an African and Middle East award, and I am proud of our achievements so far.”
The young CEO remains optimistic about the future.
“Covid-19 hit us hard because most of our business was international. We've had many bookings cancelled. The county lock-down also brought domestic tourism to a halt, so we focused on the Nairobi National Park.
"With the counties' opening up, we are back to promoting countrywide tourism and can't wait for international business to resume. We cater to those working on a budget and even those looking for a more luxurious experience.
"Our slogan is that the future can only be brighter. We will make the most of what we have at every unfolding moment. We look forward to giving our customers more exceptional experiences, having satisfied employees, and winning more awards.
For those who want to venture into business, Diana has some advice.
"At times, you have to do it afraid, and when you start, take care of your employees as they also determine how far your company goes. To those who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic, have self-belief, you can make lemonade out of lemons."