Business owners Eat your sprouts! – Inspiration from Africa encourages UK entrepreneurs

Paradise on Lake Malawi

Being an entrepreneur behind a small business start-up can sometimes seem overwhelming. Whilst bigger competitors storm ahead seemingly unhindered by the struggling marketplace, the ambitious people behind the fledgling companies of the UK can begin to feel a bit deflated and isolated. So what’s the antidote to this predicament? Where do we look for inspiration to put fire in our bellies and ensure we stay the keen-beans who started out on our ventures in the first place? Cuckoo Vine’s Mike Carthew searches for an uplifting story of values and determination in the face of adversity and finds that The Responsible Safari Company fits the bill perfectly…

I distinctly remember in my formative years, before I discovered that sprouts were actually delicious, having a rather heated debate with my mother. Her argument, which at the time seemed completely irrelevant was, ‘Eat your sprouts, because some people in the world don’t even get a dinner.’ 1+1=3. Irrelevant mum, objection overruled.

Man up - sprouts are part of life

In retrospect there is actually a legitimate moral behind Mum’s sentiment which I couldn’t grasp at the time. You may not particularly enjoy what you have to do in order to leave this table. You may find the job in question quite hard to swallow. But elsewhere, outside your little bubble, there are people dealing with adversity on an altogether different level, so crack on and stop making a fuss – you awkward little b*stard.

This lesson translates perfectly into the world of business. Attending entrepreneurs’ networking events there is often talk of ‘hard times’ and how difficult it is to make a start in the current climate. At these times however, it’s worth taking a look outside our bubble, at some young businesses elsewhere in the world which are forging a path in far more challenging circumstances, and making a remarkably good job of it.  Inspiration to us all no doubt.

Kate and Dom Webb have been running The Responsible Safari Company for 3 years in a social and economic climate more challenging than the wildest fears of UK businesses. A country where filling your car up with petrol often involves queuing overnight, and bureaucracy levels make the Inland Revenue look positively streamlined. They’ve encountered so many hurdles on their journey that to still be in operation at all is testament to their approach to business. So what is it that keeps Kate and Dom focussed and positive?

Dom 'Dreamboat' Webb

“We provide personalised tailor made travel across Malawi and Zambia, and at times that’s a seriously challenging brief! It’s absolute belief in what we’re doing which keeps us on track. Of course we get deflated and feel over-faced at times, but it’s always the detail which makes you feel like that. Those are the times when we force ourselves to step back – we look at how far we’ve come and what we’re trying to achieve out here and reflect on that. It always makes us feel positive about handling whatever’s thrown at us.”

There’s a lesson for all business owners and managers here, and that is to step back and reflect on what you’ve already achieved. Whether you’ve only just launched or you’ve been going for ten years, a pat on the back never does any harm. It’s worth remembering too that risk and reward correlate very closely – if everything was a walk in the park, how much satisfaction would your business bring? Kate agrees;

“The logistics of running sustainable travel in Africa whilst exceeding the expectations of Western travellers are never ending, but when it all comes together the rewards are just huge.”

Thriving as a business in such demanding circumstances takes true determination, and emulating The Responsible Safari Company’s approach could help UK businesses can learn a lot. But for Kate and Dom, the motivation to keep going is fuelled by an underlying set of values – something which Cuckoo Vine endorses over everything else in business.

If UK entrepreneurs think tax returns are a pain in the arse, try buying petrol in Malawi

“Over and above staying afloat as a company, we aim to use tourism as a vehicle to conserve culture, environment and improve the lives of the people living within the diverse destinations we are selling. We’ve set up some fantastic community projects over here and seeing these goals marry perfectly with great experiences for honeymooners or corporate groups is a dream for us. We give people lifelong memories to take home with them, and benefit Malawian societies and environments in the process, there’s nothing more satisfying for us.”

Big fish, little fish, cardboard box - how to impress on dancefloors across the globe

Kate and Dom take these core values outside their own business too; sitting on the board for The Geotourism Development Foundation as well as through involvement with grassroots projects. Not only does this help RSC provide the most considered solutions to sustainable travel, but it ensures they stay right in the thick of it.

“We couldn’t operate from a satellite office. We refer to the business and local staff as ‘our business’ and being at the heart of our operations keeps our partners and team just as passionate and motivated as we are. Apart from its strong emphasis of values, one of the reasons we joined Cuckoo Vine is because we wanted to complete the circle by bringing our past clients into the mix too. Keeping in touch with them helps us improve our offering as well as increase business through good reviews and social media integration.”

Since The Responsible Safari Company joined Cuckoo Vine, they’ve been getting some glowing feedback from their clients and are replying for all to see their personable approach to customer relations. Initially this is what made me take a closer look at The RSC and I’m extremely glad I did.

RSC - star members on Cuckoo Vine

So, from an entrepreneurs perspective, next time you feel the challenges are stacking up against you, just remind yourself what other businesses have overcome with the potent mix of passion, values and good old-fashioned hard work. When you’ve levelled with that, you’ll have to do the hard bit. Just like mum said – man up and eat your sprouts. As the age-old saying goes, you’ll grow up big and strong.

Cuckoo Vine – Businesses with Values

Cuckoo Vine aims to be the collective for UK businesses with integrity and values. It’s a platform to celebrate the good guys out there. If you have something to say about a great company, or you think your business belongs in the mix, get on Cuckoo Vine. It’s free!