- Player: Karabo Sepharatla
- Company: Camping Khapela
- Launched: 2014
- What they do: Camping butler service for holidays, weekend getaways and festivals.
- Visit: www.campingkhapela.com
For as long as I can remember, I’d wanted to be an entrepreneur. The problem was that although I knew I wanted to be a business owner, I didn’t know of what.
My first foray into entrepreneurship was instant photos at events. I left SAB, bought a camera, and started photographing kids’ parties. I’d met a guy named Bruce, and he had an instant photo booth that he set up at clubs and events. I thought this was a great idea for the black market, and for a while it was; it paid the bills. But that was all it did. It took me a few months to realise that although I was now my own boss, I was coasting along. I certainly wasn’t passionate about what I was doing.
It wasn’t an easy decision, but I closed the business and took a part-time position as a brand rep for Glenfiddich.
Find Your Passion
I realise now that I needed to figure out what I was passionate about. I’d always loved camping, but somehow I never saw any black women at campsites. It became a bit of an agenda for me: Where were the black honeys? With this percolating in the back of my mind, I went with a few friends to a festival in Mozambique in June 2014.
We packed tents and meat. That’s it. Meanwhile, we went with a group of mates who ran a VIP security business, and they were kitted out: 4×4, tents, full camping equipment — they even hired someone at the campsite to clean the camp and cook for them. They were having a full-service experience. We didn’t even have a cup of coffee.
On the way home I started taking stock of things: I knew I was passionate about people, travelling, my country and camping. There seemed to be a noticeable lack of black people camping. And camping with all the bells and whistles is infinitely more comfortable than ‘roughing’ it with nothing.
Was there a business idea here? Would the middle and upper-middle class black market pay for a full-service camping experience?
I started asking around. Why did black people not camp? It turned out that a lot of the reason lay in the misconception that camping is all about roughing it, but I knew it didn’t need to be. Another problem was lack of knowledge: Where to go? What was available? And finally, equipment. This was a market new to camping, and so investing in expensive camping equipment wasn’t an option. My business idea started to take shape.
By September I was ready to leave my job and dive in with both feet. I had one paycheque and no clear plan, but I knew that it was now or never. I’d already bought a Kombi, but that was the sum total of what I had: A vehicle and an idea.
There’s No Time Like The Present
And then I had a stroke of luck. I was sitting in the car listening to Powerfm, and Azania Mosaka was saying that black people don’t camp. So I called in. As it happened, I had a company that helped black people camp in style. We took care of everything.
They asked me for my details. While I was live on air, I’d been updating my twitter profile and handle to Camping Khapela. I gave them my twitter account, email address and phone number. And just like that, Camping Khapela was in business.
I received my first eight enquiries within an hour. One of those would end up being my first client: A gentlemen with four friends who wanted to spend New Year’s Eve in Coffee Bay. Five nights, five people — could I do it? Absolutely I said, googling like mad and hoping that Coffee Bay was in South Africa. I told him that I was currently on a trip, but that I’d have a quote ready for him in two days. And then I got busy.
The Power Of Word-Of-Mouth
Vusi Thembekwayo always says that the best businesses are built around clients who pay upfront for your product or service. With that in mind, I went out and purchased everything I needed, and then took that bill, and divided it by five people over five nights. And that was my quote.
The next day I received a deposit, with the remainder of the invoice due at the beginning of the trip. I didn’t make anything on that first trip, but my equipment was paid for, and that’s all I really needed to get started. I also set up an Instagram account and we uploaded images throughout the trip.
That’s really been how this business has grown. Word of mouth referrals and social media have been incredible tools for me. My guests post photos of their trips and tag us; you can’t pay for that kind of marketing.
In many cases this is something new for the market I’m targeting, and so referrals are all my potential guests care about. If someone they know and trust had fun, they’re willing to give me a chance. Every trip we do is a walking billboard.
Selling The Experience
At the end of the day, you need to understand what you’re selling, and what we sell is an experience. We’ve made it completely hassle-free, and take care of everything. We’ll go where you want to go, or make suggestions based on what you’re looking for. We book everything, set up the camp and cook for you.
We also support local communities. On the way down to wherever we’re going, we stop at the local produce markets for all of our food. It’s a great way to experience South Africa’s local communities.
And what I’ve learnt about myself and entrepreneurship is that it’s all about the passion. I always knew I wanted to run my own business, but it took finding something I’m passionate about for that dream to become a reality. Never discount the importance of passion. Once you have that, the rest will fall into place.
Entrepreneurship can be tough and lonely. If you aren’t passionate about what you’re doing, it’s unlikely to be a success.