They say the ethos of a business can often be found in its name, and that can certainly be said of South African entrepreneur, Sarien Lategan’s company, Travelling Tortoise. It conjures up images of leisurely and languorous journeys to interesting destinations at a pace which allows for the discovery of new and wonderful things. Sarien’s love of Africa and a passion for encouraging more people from around the world to discover the continent’s unique beauty, is at the heart of her business.
LoA caught up with Sarien, when she was back on ‘terra firma' instead of at the wheel of her trusty 4x4 traversing the continent, to find out more about her wonderful entrepreneurial adventures.
Great name for a company - tell us a little more about Travelling Tortoise
Our slogan "Plan, Navigate, Stay" is in a nutshell what we do.
PLAN - Compiling and publish travel guides and maps. Thus far we've done a map of Angola and the guidebook is in process.
NAVIGATE - We are the agents for DeLorme navigational instruments in Southern Africa. The hot product at the moment is the Inreach satellite tracker and navigator.
STAY - We were awarded 2 tourist concessions in Namibia. Currently campsites are already in operation and the lodges under construction. Recently added to the Travelling Tortoise portfolio are 2 curio shops at prominent destinations, namely the Agulhas Lighthouse - the most southern curio shop in Africa! and Harold Porter Botanical Garden in Bettiesbay - home to the beautiful Red Disa (for those who don’t know it, the Red Disa is a famous, stunningly beautiful, rare and protected red orchid).
"The Tortoise is one of the oldest surviving species on the planet. He is self sufficient, with his own home wherever he travels. With eons of wisdom and knowledge, he has a different perspective on the world due to his size. This is exactly how we approach all our products and services."
What inspired you to start your company?
My love for my job, travel and the outdoors, was and still remains my main motivation for what I do. my company, Travelling Tortoise, was born out of my other business, Geostratics, a consultancy specialising in planning, environmental impact assessments and geospatial services, combined with my love for travel, maps and navigational gadgets. A 4 week over-landing trip through Angola in 2010 motivated me to compile a tourist map of the country. This turned out to be a much bigger task than I initially anticipated, but 4 years later the map is finally published. The question was, should we do this as a once off product or should we establish a new company? As a result, Travelling Tortoise was born and one thing lead to the next. Geostratics had focused on tourist facility planning and it was just natural that the next step was to use our great ideas to develop our own properties. Just "by chance" the Namibian opportunities passed through our mailboxes and Travelling Tortoise Tours & Safaris, a Namibian registered company, was born.
Why should anyone use your services?
Its all in a name! The Tortoise is one of the oldest surviving species on the planet. He is self sufficient, with his own home wherever he travels. With eons of wisdom and knowledge, he has a different perspective on the world due to his size. This is exactly how we approach all our products and services. Each product and service attempts to turn learning about our beautiful continent into a fun and memorable experience.
"My love for my job, travel and the outdoors, was and still remains my main motivation for what I do."
"The cab of our trusty 4x4 is our boardroom, where ideas turn into projects."
Tell us a little about the Travelling Tortoise team
My business partner is also my husband. The cab of our trusty 4x4 is our boardroom, where ideas turn into projects. In Namibia, TK is our lodge manager - he is a born Zimbabwean but was raised in Namibia, and studied in both Namibia and the UK - he is young, energetic, ambitious and motivated. Zack, born in Democratic Republic of Congo is our IT specialist. Then I have a fantastic team at the most southern tip of Africa, Mariska and Chanel - bubbles of energy and ideas! So we are really an 'African' team. Johandri our graphic designer is not employed as staff member directly, but has her own design business - however, since she does all our design work, she is pretty much part of the team.
Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And, do you come from an entrepreneurial background?
I was raised in a shop. My dad was a businessman and died at 74 still running his businesses. Retirement was never even considered because he just loved what he did. My mother assisted him in the business. When you're a business owner, your whole family is part of it and the lines between home, private life and business are very thin. As children, we had various tasks in the business, from delivering bills with our bicycles, to working in the shop. As a student, I transported sheep to the market as my 'down payment" on my university studies. My dad did not believe in hand outs, you had to earn what you wanted in life. My mother is an extremely strong and independent woman and till this day is my role model. I started my career as a town-planner at Strand Municipality from where I went on to work on contract for South African National Parks, before starting my own consultancy. I simply followed my heart - developing the consultancy in the fields that I loved, namely maps and travelling.
"When you're a business owner, your whole family is part of it and the lines between home, private life and business are very thin."
What are your future plans and aspirations for your company, Travelling Tortoise?
I want Travelling Tortoise to become a household name in Africa, synonymous with family travelling. Also, for tortoises to be the ambassadors for iconic destinations across Africa. We already have Tortoise@Lighthouse and Tortoise@Garden, and with the development of the two new lodges, we will soon have Tortoise@PopaFalls and Tortoise@Etosha
What gives you the most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?
The freedom to make ideas become a reality!
What's the biggest piece of advice you can give to other women looking to start-up?
Just do it! I know this may go against all the good advice given in those "how to start a business" speeches. However, don’t wait until you have drafted the finest detail of a business plan - by that time, the opportunity is already gone.
Contact or follow Travelling Tortoise
Email Address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Why LoA loves it….
Passion is an essential quality of any entrepreneur combined with a real love for what you do in your business, and Sarien Lategan has it in bucketloads - and you can feel it in her business, the wonderfully named Travelling Tortoise. In the world of African travel, tourism and navigation, she has found a way of turning her real passions into wonderful, thriving and rapidly growing businesses that are uniquely inspired by her philosophy in life. Sarien is a real inspiration to other aspirant women entrepreneurs in Africa who have a passion and want to make that passion a successful business reality. --- Melanie Hawken, Lionesses of Africa founder and editor-in-chief