Anita Mugisha relates that from observation, people who travel are not those who are so rich but those who are passionate enough to over time, in order to take a holiday. While at Cardiff University, she resolved to save enough money for a mini tour around Europe. In three months, she visited London, Amsterdam, Berlin, Paris and Italy.
“I got to stand at the top of the Eiffel Tower, saw the Berlin Wall, visited the St. Peter’s Basilica, the Colosseum and the Museum Louvre where the Monalisa Smile is kept,” she recalls.
Mugisha had only dreamt of visiting such places and the closest she had ever got to that dream was seeing them on television. The experience she got from that mini trip led her to appreciate that life is a lot more than making money and wealth but has a lot to do with the memories we create.
The trip gave her exposure. She developed a persistent passion for travel. When she returned to Uganda in 2012, she started looking for jobs but failed to find any. The jobs she got did not pay her well. In the meantime, she got married to Charles Mugisha and in a period of five years, she had three children.
“I realised I needed employment that allowed me to have enough time with my young children, so with the frustration from job hunting and lack of ample pay, I remembered that there is something called travel that I love.”
With her travel experiences, people trusted her with questions regarding travel and planning their travel, which she would do at no cost. “The only reward I got was the excitement I felt whenever I got feedback from people who had enjoyed their holidays,” Mugisha relates.
In February, 2016, she decided to turn her passion into a business. She told her husband about the idea. He loved it and was very supportive because this would enable his wife to work.
“He knows that I am an extrovert and thrive better in outdoor activities. He is a starter of things. He pushed me to get it started. In February 2016, we registered the name and company,” she explains.
When it came to choosing a name for their travel company, she wanted something suggestive of who they were as travel and tour. Likizo, a Swahili word for vacation, was the first name they considered.
However, a travel agent in Kenya had already taken it so. Mugisha thought of Holiday People Limited which was available and suggested it to her husband who liked it.
The couple were already running a car rental company, so it was easy to start doing safari tours. For a start, they would customise holidays for families and individuals, book their tickets, help them with visa application and acquisition. They would also do airport transfers and hotel bookings.
“We had two Land Cruisers and we started with those two by doing airport transfers. We had a starting capital of Shs10m to refurbish the old cars and register the company. I started with people that knew me,” she recollects.
For example, her first big trip was for a family who wanted to travel to Dubai. It was a group of 14 people. Mugisha made some good profit from which she bought some office furniture and accessories.
“I was lucky to get the group. That same year, I got a group of 10 women travelling to Dubai. These were women who knew me as someone who likes to organise trips out of Uganda. Word started going around.”
Her advice to anyone who has a dream or plans to start a travel company, is to have it registered and not have it as a briefcase company.
“People trust you when you are registered. It helps you get commissions from partners such as hotels, for example with Marasa, I have earned some handsome commissions,” she says.
She adds, “Don’t fear to start small. Whatever you have, start. I know of friends who did not have cars when they started and would hire from us, and they have cars now. Have the passion for what you are doing. If you are doing it because everyone else is doing it, it will fail.”
“Take the trips yourself so that you get to know a bit of what you are selling. In that way, you avoid clients getting there and getting disappointed. When you recommend something, people will trust you. Trust God. Let God guide you.”
Having finances and managing them well is also key. Mugisha has a registered account with dfcu Bank. All her clients are advised to pay through the account. She has a shilling and dollar account, and because money goes through that account, it is easy to track, budget and account for. All clients get a receipt, or an invoice.
“Dfcu has done a good job in training us, as women, on handling finances, especially for small scale businesses,” she adds.
Mugisha strikes a balances between work and family. “I love spending time with friends and family with whom I share travelling as a hobby, even in Uganda.
With time, she would like her company to become a household name. She looks up to Amos Wekesa of Great Lakes Safaris. She would like her company to grow bigger. She also likes the general area of Lake Bunyonyi because of the crater lakes and weather.
On her to-do list is travelling to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest because she has plans to start selling gorilla safaris since they are big sellers for Uganda. She would like to visit in Kyaninga Lodge in Fort Portal.
This article originally appeared in the Daily Monitor.
Written by Edgar R. Batte.