It can be daunting for even the most experienced traveller to visit a new city on the African continent without practical knowledge or experience of what to expect on the ground. That’s where the African City Guide comes in. The brainchild of three enterprising entrepreneurs and passionate travellers, Megan Bowren, Eva Shuman, and Frances van Hasselt, their website is packed with information and recommendations provided by travelers who have been there and done it!
LoA chatted to Megan, Eva and Frances to find out more….
What does your company do?
Our company runs a website called African City Guide which provides independent recommendations for discerning travellers to African cities. The recommendations cover an initial group of 23 African cities across seven categories - Prepare, Stay, Eat & Drink, Shop, See & Do, Tips, and Give Back. They come from travels by the founders, research, and from a group of “Insiders”, well-known locals who are supporting the venture.
“African City Guide or “ACG” was born from our own need for a single, reliable, source of curated information, advice and recommendations for African cities.”
What inspired you to start your company?
African City Guide or “ACG” was born from our own need for a single, reliable, source of curated information, advice and recommendations for African cities. When Megan’s colleague raised a fund for early stage consumer businesses in sub-Saharan Africa, they couldn’t find a single quality source of information on where to stay, eat or drink, or what they should do in their off time, when travelling to African cities. Seeing the opportunity, they decided to create a website which would suit their own needs and at the same time help the growing number of discerning visitors to African cities. Megan Bowren, who works out of the Cape Town office, teamed up with ex-Condé Nast writer, Eva Shuman, from London and their friend Frances van Hasselt, to create African City Guide.
Why should anyone use your service or product?
We decided that we didn’t want to be a TripAdvisor type website with thousands of listings rated by users. Instead we chose to make a small number of quality recommendations which would give the user a good choice of options. Our recommendations are not biased by advertising or promotion money. We look for influencers across the spectrum of African business, NGOs, media, culture, sport and entertainment who will give us their top African city travel recommendations in any of our seven categories. They are proving amazingly supportive and are a great source of new and interesting recommendations.
“We decided that we didn’t want to be a TripAdvisor type website with thousands of listings rated by users. Instead we chose to make a small number of quality recommendations which would give the user a good choice of options.”
Tell us a little about your team
We are three friends from different parts of the world who got together to develop this website. Eva Shuman is an ex-Condé Nast writer, Megan Bowren works for an African Investment fund and Frances van Hasselt is an African textiles entrepreneur. In spite of our different disciplines that range from fashion to finance, we've all lived and travelled in Africa and hoped to create a platform that would help fellow travellers and visitors explore these African cities.
Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And, do you come from an entrepreneurial background?
Frances is an entrepreneur focusing of growing the South African mohair industry and developing sustainable employment and preserving tradition skills in rural communities. Megan also has a strong entrepreneurial background mentoring startup businesses across Africa. The African City Guide is a collective entrepreneurial effort. We have identified a need for a platform offering accessible, reliable information on African cities. This is a fully self-funded venture. It is really important for us to see this site succeed and grow.
“We've all lived and travelled in Africa and hoped to create a platform that would help fellow travellers and visitors explore these African cities.”
What are your future plans and aspirations for your company?
We have an ongoing program to add new Insiders, recommendations and cities. We will develop a business model in due course but for now we are focusing on building a user base by providing a visually attractive website with great recommendations. Whatever we do in future, we want to ensure that our independence isn’t compromised by advertising money. We are right now a people-light business and we want to remain a scalable, efficient platform. But of course we hope to be able to bring on staff in future to increase our capacity to serve African city travellers. We hope that ACG is a business success in due course and so we have set aside 25% of the initial shares to be gifted to charities. We have asked our users for their advice on how we should do this and whom the beneficiaries should be.
What gives you the most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?
Sharing the journey with others and getting positive feedback from a product or service that you put together.
What's the biggest piece of advice you can give to other women looking to start-up?
Put in the hours, do the research, actively seek advice in areas you don’t understand and then ‘start’.
Don't spend your time overanalyzing everything. Just start and see what it leads to; it may be exactly the right thing to do at the right time.
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Why LoA loves it….
At Lionesses of Africa, we spend our lives travelling across the continent, visiting different cities and experiencing everything that makes them unique. So we know only too well what it feels like to touch down in a new place and not have that unique insight knowledge that tells you where to stay, or where to get the best cup of tea or coffee, or where to enjoy a great meal. The African City Guide is a much needed resource, and what makes it different is that the recommendations come from business travellers just like us. This a must-read guide for anyone who wants to get to know t.he African continent from a different perspective. --- Melanie Hawken, founder and ceo of Lionesses of Africa