Start-up snapshot: Making it easy for tourists to discover South Africa’s townships

South Africa-based DiscoverIkasi is an online destination marketing company that lists and showcases township businesses, and helps tourists and locals find accommodation and activities. 

Co-founder Ntsebenziswano November answers How we made it in Africa’s questions.

1. How did you finance your start-up?

Our first step was setting up a Facebook page, and this we kept running for a few months where we tested and validated the idea. When people started liking the page and responding by asking questions about the places we had on Facebook, we started playing with WordPress and eventually invested in a website.

We financed this website with our salaries and savings.

2. If you were given US$1m to invest in your company now, where would it go?

We would invest it into things like:

  • Office equipment (video camera, camera, laptops)
  • Hiring skilled staff (graphic designer, video and camera man, sales and marketing team)
  • Buying a van for our tours
  • Paying for all legal bodies in the tourism sector
  • Trademarking
  • Conceptualising the DiscoverIkasi TV programme
  • Creating a magazine

3. What risks does your business face?

We face a number of risks, especially being a business working in the heart of the townships. Some of these risks are community strikes, new entrants to the market, and fraud – which can happen with B&B rentals.

4. So far, what has proven to be the most successful form of marketing?

For us the most successful form of marketing has been social media, especially Facebook. Search engine optimisation has also helped us a lot online.

5. Describe your most exciting entrepreneurial moment.

Our most exciting entrepreneurial moment was being part of the Telkom Future Makers, hosted by Citi’s Bandwith Barn programme, which has really helped us to shape our business to what it is today. Every day we went into class we learned something new about our journey in business.

Through this we have exposed another side of the townships that most people did not know and when we see our work being recognised, it keeps us motivated and excited about the idea.

6. Tell us about your biggest mistake, and what you’ve learnt from it.

Because we were employed at the time we started the business, we hired somebody else to run the business on our behalf. In the process this person was selling his own ideas to our clients and people did not understand what we were about. We were sold as an event company for the townships, and we eventually had to fire the person.

Our learning from this was that we now knew that whoever we hired or got to work within the business was well informed of what we are doing, our values, objectives and goals.

Since then we have also ensured that we do regular check-ins and updates on what they are doing and whom they are interacting with.