The player: Lucille Cremens
The business: Cresco Tours (2007)
The concept: Tour operator for international visitors.
Contact: +27 (0)11 472 2442 or www.crescotours.co.za
After leaving corporate to run her own marketing company (Cresco Marketing, 2006), Lucille Cremens decided a year later it was time to follow her true passion and start Cresco Tours too. Cremens talks us through what it’s like to be an opportunistic entrepreneur.
Before she made the big leap with her marketing company, Cremens saved up at least two years-worth of capital and made sure she had absolutely no personal debt. Like a lot of start-ups though, she hit a serious bump in the road very soon after starting. “Business was doing great even though we only had two clients really carrying the business. It’s always a risk when you put all your eggs in one basket because what happened was one client hit a cash flow problem and that was a disaster,” she explains.
Cresco Marketing was able to overcome this hurdle though, breaking even after two years. But with the recession causing purse strings to tighten in marketing spending, Cremens decided to take advantage of the fact that business people still needed to travel, after all ‘cresco’ means ‘grow and expand’ in latin. A year in with Cresco Marketing, Cremens began researching Cresco Tours and the complex legalities of the tourism industry.
The business model
Through her own marketing experience, networking, referrals, offering airport transfer services for locals and providing exceptional tours to international visitors, business grew 86% and quickly over-took the marketing company that originally supported it.
Unlike other tour operators, Cremens does not charge clients a booking fee, instead earning commission from hotels and a 10% commission when using tour operators in other provinces. This allows her prices to remain competitive in a low entry barrier industry.
Setting herself apart
Tourism is a big money spinner in the South African economy, making the travel and tourism industry both highly legislated and networked. “Researching the legalities of the industry took almost a year, but it’s also essential to develop networks with other operators” Cremens explains.
“What also sets our service apart from other operators is our personal involvement with all our clients. We’re not just a middle man in booking packages and taking their money, we offer personalized tours and give our clients a genuine experience of South Africa and cater to their personal interests,” she explains.
With an industry like travel and tourism, Cremens advises getting involved with the local Chamber of Commerce, networking and never being afraid to seek advice since the legalities are complex and numerous.
While many entrepreneurs have to face hard times Cremens points out the importance of having a friendly ear. “Try your best to find an SME owner who can be your friend. When they’ve been in the business longer than you they can provide you with encouragement, support and a sympathetic ear when other people in your life don’t understand what it’s like running a business,” she says.