Startup in the wild: How one entrepreneur left the corporate world to start a touring business in Africa
Lisa Yamazaki is one entrepreneur that broke free from the corporate chains that kept her from pursuing her true passion – nature, animals and Africa.
Born and raised in Vancouver, Canada, Ms Yamazaki has always had a passion for animals and nature; and much of her childhood years were spent hiking and camping with family in the coastal mountains, lakes and shores of British Columbia.
But when it came to her career, the wind blew her in a different direction. She ended up working in the legal industry in various roles including legal assistant, paralegal and trademark agent; and in the years following that she worked in real estate sales and marketing.
Throughout those years, her heart was always elsewhere.
Ms Yamazaki’s first visit to Tanzania changed everything. The words she spoke upon return were, “…the beauty of the unspoiled wilderness and the kindness of the Tanzanian people beckon me to return again and again.”
And indeed she returned – again and again – until she saw an opportunity to start a business.
Though it wasn’t her cup of tea, Yamazaki is grateful for the years she spent working in the law as it strengthened her communication and organisational skills, and through the experience she developed a keen eye for detail.
Her years in real estate sales and marketing planted a seed inside her that grew into the entrepreneurial spirit she has today – the same one that provided her the courage to take a leap into the unknown and pursue her dream career.
And in May 2011, Hazina Afrika was born. The touring business is dedicated to showing its clients the true treasures of Tanzania – its wilderness, wildlife and varied culture.
Hazina Afrika which is Swahili for ‘Treasures of Africa’ provides:
- Private safaris to Tanzania’s northern circuit parks (Arusha National Park, Tarangire National Park, Lake Manyara National Park, Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro Crater);
- Cultural tours to visit local villages, indigenous tribes, local orphanages and schools;
- Kilimanjaro treks; and
- Arranges Zanzibar beach vacations.
“Today Hazina Afrika, only in its second year of operations, we are still a company in its infancy but we strive with each and every safari and Kilimanjaro climb to make the experience special to each individual, an experience that hopefully touches the magic of Africa,” says Yamazaki.
Her motivation for Hazina Afrika was not only to build a successful and well-respected touring company, but to provide young local tour guides employment and advancement opportunities.
Learning from previous experience volunteering at a local orphanage, Yamazaki says “even the smallest things can make a world of difference in people’s lives.”
The business is experiencing steady financial growth. Yamazaki says a 10-day deluxe tour costs between $4,000 – $6,000 per person.
While a large percentage of Hazina Afrika’s clients are affluent North Americans, the business is increasingly attracting clients from other countries.
“Every safari or Kili trek that returns with clients glowing with enthusiasm and thrilled by their experience is a success because with each happy clients we grow our business just a little more,” says Yamazaki.
Her proudest moments thus far has been creating jobs for local people and supporting staff to develop skills through educational programs.
While she is content with how the business is travelling, Yamazaki explains that there have been enormous challenges to starting a business in a developing country.
“Doing business in Africa has many different challenges compared to starting up a business in a developed country. The poor banking system, poor telecommunication, corruption, lack of educated and skilled workers are a constant challenge, not to mention the very slow pace at which everything is done here.”
The biggest challenge of her, however, was having reasonable expectations.
“I kept expecting things to work the same way as in Canada or the US. I found myself constantly frustrated and stressed when expectations were not met. I am learning not to sweat the small stuff and to pick my battles,” says Yamazaki.
Lisa Yamazaki’s top tips for entrepreneurs:
1) Pursue a career in business that interests you and utilises your innate talents or strengths.
2) Follow your passion.
3) Do the research, have a solid business plan.
4) Know what you don’t know and seek professional advice.
5) Give everything you do 110% effort and always keep your eyes and ears open for ways to improve.
6) Treat people well. Success will surely follow.
For more information on Hazina Afrika, visit www.hazinaafrika.com.