Hazel runs a safari company in Tanzania.
Name: Hazel Mawadri
Company: Tanuga Safaris – safari company
Location: Arusha, Tanzania
Why did you start your business?
I started a safari company years ago for several reasons. I love nature and I love to connect with people, but most of all I want to show people a different Africa. The continent – home to 55 countries – is often portrayed in western media as a place of poverty, conflicts, where people are uneducated, powerless and live with flies in their eyes in a mud hut. You can focus on the negative, but Africa and African people are so much more than that. There is a huge misconception and I want to change that perspective. What better way to change it then by showing tourists another side of Africa during their journey. At the end of the day, all human beings want the same things in life: peace, health, love and family. That connection can be made when people visit communities in East-Africa for example.
Born and raised in Uganda, why did you decide to start a business in Tanzania?
When I was 8 years old, I went with my family on a trip to Mikumi National Park (Southern Tanzania) which made a huge and lasting impression on me. The people were so friendly and I was intrigued by the colourful Maasai who made beautiful carvings. I felt so connected with this tribe. Tanzania is one of the most diverse countries with topical islands, the Indian ocean, Africa’s highest mountain the Kilimanjaro and the most famous national park like Serengeti. On top of that there are over 120 different ethnic groups, who live peacefully together. For me Tanzania has it all.
The pandemic hit the travel industry hard, how do you survive?
Without a doubt 2020 was a tough year for the hospitality and tourism industry. At the same time this pandemic also offers time for reflection, to rethink and find new opportunities. You really need to adapt to the circumstances and be flexible and creative. I believe this pandemic will change the way we travel. Flight ticket prices are likely to increase, so we will travel less often but longer and more conscious. There will be more interest in private safaris and travelling slowly to lesser-known places, rather than racing through destinations. I like this development cause only when people take their time, they can really immerse themselves in another culture. This matches our offer perfectly, since we focus on cultural experiences, visiting local communities and sustainable travel off the beaten track. I use this time to build and maintain relationships with agents and clients in Europe, thereby building a strong foundation for the future.
What are the biggest challenges you face as (female) entrepreneur?
One of the main challenges most entrepreneurs face in Tanzania are the complicated rules and regulation of the government. There are a lot of rules that don’t make sense and take a lot of my time. The main challenge I face as female entrepreneur is being accepted and respected as chief of an enterprise. As a woman in Africa you really have to fight for equal opportunities and respect. There are so many prejudices. You need to be smart; instead of using force I prefer to work together, show them on a daily basis I have the capacity to run a successful business as a woman. We need each other to make a change. I’m fortunate to be raised in a family with strong and business minded women like my grandmother and mother, who were my supporters and role models. When I struggle, I always think of them and realise they had to face wars and so much more obstacles than me. It always gives me the strength to continue. We as women can be such a support to each other.
How does living in Africa, as well as abroad, benefit you?
It gives me a broad awareness of how other people in the world live and think and it challenges me to open my mind and learn to see things from a different perspective. I travelled a lot and lived in many different worlds and cultures, from Uganda to the U.S. and from Tanzania to The Netherlands. I learned to connect with people from different cultures and backgrounds and to think outside the box. I have developed a global mindset and can just as easily relate to my safari guides in Tanzania as well to tourists from western countries. Worldwide we are so focused on the differences between our cultures, but there are also so many similarities. We are all human and share more similarities than differences. Let’s connect and build together.
What is one of the biggest lessons you learned?
To be persistent and never give up. You need to be determined and hold on to your goals. If it means going back to that same institution for the fifth time to get a license, just take a deep breath and do it. Keep going, even if success seems hard to find, in the end you’ll find a breakthrough. Another important lesson I learned is to not be afraid to fail, but to just see it as a learning experience. I know I only fail if I didn’t learn from it. Adapting to your changing environment is also an essential mindset you need to have as an entrepreneur to become successful, since nothing stays the same forever.
What advice do you have for other female entrepreneurs?
First of all pick something you’re passionate about. When you run a business that you’re passionate about, working hard is no problem and failure is not an option. You look past the challenges: whatever comes your way, you bounce back and will succeed. I would also advise other entrepreneurs to find an experienced entrepreneur who want to be your mentor. Someone that helps you understand the troubles of your business and gives you general guidance to grow the startup. Great mentors give you the tried and tested ideas and help you reach your goal faster and with lesser hassle. And finally, I want to say to all female entrepreneurs: know you matter as an individual. You have the right to live the life you want!