We recently caught up with Shaun Moleea an RC Alumnus to learn more about his business - Socioolite Travel & Tours which he started in 2015. Shaun graduated with an IIE Diploma in Travel and Tourism Management qualification from Rosebank College in 2016. Shaun went from graduate to entrepreneur, and in our interview, he shared how he got started and what it's like running a travel business.
As we approach the festive season, Shaun is the appropriate person to get us excited about exploring our beautiful country and continent.
So, who is Shaun?
I am a self-driven hustler. I am a born entrepreneur and motivator. I'm also a hard worker and a people's person. I decided to launch my tourism company in 2015 and I have never looked back since. I have never been employed and have managed to do quite well for myself.
What made you decide to pursue tourism in the first place?
My family has always loved traveling. I grew up traveling from as early as 5. Before I was 7 years old, I had already been to 5 countries. I grew to really love travel and realised that travel is something I am very passionate about and something I want to pursue.
Did you know that you would one day start a travel business?
Not at all. Two years after high school I started doing community-based projects and that's where I met up with other entrepreneurs. They made me realise that you can make your dreams possible even if you don't have start-up capital. But I had no idea that I would pursue entrepreneurship this soon."
Why was looking for a job not your first choice?
I was always outgoing and looking for a job never crossed my mind. In my second year I was already organising trips for my school mates and by then I knew that being self-employed was for me. I had already made several contacts in the South African tourism industry and had been attending travel expos since my first year. In my second year I had a very good idea of what it took to make it in the travel industry. I think that's why running my own business and doing my own thing was so easy for me."
Tell us more about your business, Socioolite Travel & Tours
We are a tour operator and booking agent. We offer the best of both worlds. We offer accommodation and flight bookings, day tours like sightseeing, shuttle services and we offer guided tours all over South Africa.
How have you found the transition from student to business owner?
It's been hard to be honest, but it's also been good. Fortunately, some of the modules that I completed in college reflected the real world, which made things a lot easier. However, I had to develop some entrepreneurship skills on my own. I had to establish my own contacts and had to market myself and my business which was quite challenging.
What does a day look like in your business?
Well I have two types of days. It's either I wake up in the morning, go into my office, send out emails both local and international and talk to other agents. I also do some social media work or I'm out on the field. The field may be anywhere within South Africa or Africa. If I am on the field, I am guiding people or showing people places of interest.
How have you managed to grow the business?
I have been under two incubators, but 80% of the work that I have done on the business is all self-funded. The incubators helped with brochures and exposure and getting myself out there to make contacts.
My first year was the toughest. I had to register and do the legalities of the business. I had nothing, no capital but managed to hit the ground running. Lack of capital shouldn't be the reason why you don't start your own business. I guess it depends on the industry, but most industries just require your brain. At least approach people first and do your research before you worry about capital.
How do you keep the business running during the quiet seasons?
When we started, we only did day tours. Since last year we've been travelling to other African countries, an attempt to cut the seasonality gap because most SADC people travel when it's cold. We have also introduced events to fill in the gap.
How important are relationships and networks in your business?
It's very important especially as a black-owned business. I have never worked for anyone. It's very important to make those contacts because some people you come across have more experience than you. You may have the book knowledge which they are clueless about. So, we get to share information and they also get to guide you on how to get business and the running of the business. It's also important to get partners. When I am busy, I get my partner tour operator to help me instead of turning clients away, and if they are busy and understaffed, they can call me.
Let's talk about perseverance. Haven't you had moments when you thought this is too hard, let me just look for a job?
Yes, I have had those moments. The first year and a half was my worst ever because all the friends that I went to college with were working. They were getting money while I was at home only getting a few bucks. But perseverance is very important because I had a dream and I had 80% of the work sketched down. I knew that eventually I will have a breakthrough. I just decided to continue attending the seminars and getting as much information to run my business as possible.
I had to knock on several doors that never opened and that's when I thought I had to go and look for a job. But fortunately, things started to change.
Where do you see the Socioolite brand in the next 3-5 years?
In the next three years we are planning on branching out to Cape Town, Mpumalanga and Durban. I'm planning on securing a 50 fleet and having branches in those three major provinces as well as an office in America where we can do our own direct bookings.
What about re-investing in the business?
You must reinvest in the business before you can pay yourself. It's very important because that's how you grow. Also, I found that diversifying your business is also important to assist with business finances.
Which words of advice do you have for other aspiring entrepreneurs?
If you don't face your fears and believe in your dreams, they won't come true. I also plan to further my studies. I applied what I learnt in class, what I was reading and seeing at travel expos. School is very important because I applied a lot of what I learnt from college into my own business. I also encourage you to immerse yourself in the industry you want to break into while you are still at school.
Written by Karabo Keepile