Although she started out as a legal professional, Lucy Isoke Marunga discovered her passion when she ventured into tour and travel business.
As it has been said severally, passion is a push factor for any entrepreneur.
“I am passionate about children, travel, adventure and animals. This is why I opted for business ideas that revolved around my passion. I did not see myself permanently bound in a courtroom or law firm till retirement.”
Pearl Trek Adventures opened its doors in 2017. “I co-founded Pearl Trek Adventures with Joshua Agonya from the African Business Institute class, 2017, after conducting a thorough market research of the tour and travel industry in Uganda. Our niche is adventure sports, offering ‘mobile outdoor and adventure sporting experiences’,” she shares about the start.
Besides the two proprietors, more directors, Gabriel Angura and Gloria Odek were added and a team of about 14 volunteers was established in August 2018 to create the best experiences. “These volunteers were added to boost the company’s capacity and use sporting adventure as a tool to drive social impact among idle unemployed youth, especially, street children involved in petty crime, gambling, sports betting and drug abuse. Our aim was to engage them in more gainful employment that will get them out of reckless lifestyles.
Besides family contributions of Shs2.6m, the company secured a business loan of approximately Shs22.3m from African Business Institute. “We pitched the idea to the African Business Institute directors who determined the viability of the idea and approved it. We then pitched it to both local and foreign investors who invested the Shs22.3m.”
Marunga says it has been quite a struggle. “After two years in business, we thanks God we are still in business and pressing on towards the big vision of becoming ‘the go-to adventure destination in East Africa. We have experienced financial and market setbacks that stalled our progress but giving up was not an option. For instance, besides online marketing, we had planned to carry out an extensive offline campaign in the various segments we were targeting and this was costly. We have had to forego most of the plans.”
Marunga says entrepreneurship is not for the faint hearted. “You need to have grit and exercise every ounce of resilience in times of adversity because it is the challenges that determine whether you are really cut out for business or not.
On this business journey, she has learned a couple of lessons such as shunning mediocrity and lack luster attitudes if she wanted to be successful in business.
“Be courageous and execute tasks with excellence. Your team will either hold you back or propel you forward, so choose your team wisely. Besides you must be purpose-driven.”
The company opened up several social media accounts such as on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter through which they search for clients. They also call and visit potential partners and clients from time to time.
“We have travelled and participated in several entrepreneurship programmes such as the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme as part of the 4th cohort of the 10-year programme, where we scooped Shs18.5m seed capital in October 2018.”
Marunga adds that they have successfully conducted and participated in numerous entrepreneurship training programmes and workshops such as the African Entrepreneurship Award where they made it to round three, ITC SheTrades Initiative, Women In Business Programme, and Orient Bank Business Academy, that have been highly competitive.
“These have not only grown our business skills and networks but also refined our business model and practices with social impact entrepreneurs and organisations.
Marunga says her vision is slowly taking shape as several street children are enthusiastic about leaving the streets. “That gives us hope that they will one day abandon their reckless lifestyle. Seeing those who have been rehabilitated working with our partners affirms our conviction that we are on the right path to transform them into useful citizens through enabling them secure gainful employment.
“It connected me to other female entrepreneurs; women who are breaking barriers and making a contribution to community. We have been exposed to cutting edge business skills. In terms of entrepreneurship, book keeping and business practices have been polished,” Marunga says.
“We would like to refine our current model and complement it with a physical location where we offer unrivalled adventure sporting experiences,” she says.
She says the company’s financial and market growth targets have not been realised. “We have not been able grow the company the way we anticipated after painfully learning that January to June is usually low peak season. We have to wait for August when summer events are organised. However, we are using low peak season to market extensively,” she says.
“In a competitive world, we can grow together or fall alone. We seek partnerships that are beneficial for us and our partners.”