Michelle Alfred. P. Diete-Spiff, is a Professional Travel Consultant and the Director of Askmeafrika Travels Management. Michelle aims to promote travel Culture and help people travel easy by making affordable travel deals available. She is also the founder of ASK TRAVEL BOSS NETWORK which is aimed at building a network of successful travelpreneurs.
This week, she sits as our ladyboss, and we had fun chatting with her. Enjoy!
It’s great to have you on LLA, Can you briefly describe yourself and your business?
My name is Michelle. Alfred. P. Diete-Spiff, a native of Twon-Brass Bayelsa State, Nigeria. Growing up in a reputable family with ambitious people all around me inspired and motivated me to want to have big dreams. My entrepreneurship journey became official when I started my travel business in the year 2016/2017. I got training and got certified with a NCCA (Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority) approved and IATA recognized certificate. When I launched my travel company, ‘ASKMEAFRIKA TRAVELS MANAGEMENT’, I didn’t have the funds to Startup but I did it anyway.
Starting up a business is not an easy one, especially a travel business. Most people say you need at least 5 million Naira to startup a travel company. I met people I believed could sponsor me but to my greatest surprise, they all said ”just go and get a job MICHELLE, you can’t survive as an entrepreneur… you can’t start a travel business without visiting at least 10 countries..” These and so many other things were said just to discourage me, but NO! I wasn’t going to stop my plan because of what anyone said, I knew I could make my dream come true.
So I registered for the VC4A (VENTURE CAPITAL FOR AFRICA) Business Model Canvas Workshop with Thomas Halen and that was a turning point for me. The workshop made me realize that what I needed most to startup was KEY PARTNERS which are; the Airlines, Hotel providers, Embassy, Tour services providers, other travel agencies, etc and I approached them for Business to Business (B2B) Partnerships and they were so receptive and encouraging and also with the help of the social media platforms, I created a business page and started posting available travel deals.
The first day I launched my business page on Instagram, I got my first client who booked a return ticket to United Kingdom and I said to myself “YES! This is a sign that I am starting right, with or without a Startup fund” and that pushed me to do more.
You are a travel boss, can you share what inspired you to go into the travel/tourism industry?
The name ‘Askmeafrika Travels’ is inspired by the level of poor travel history of Africans, given that travel itself is education and exposure and Africans don’t travel as much, due to certain factors, such as lack of finance, opportunities. This informed my decision to embark on a journey to make travel as affordable as possible, so both the middle class and elites can all enjoy luxury travel, irrespective of the cost.
Askmeafrika Travels Management is here to promote travel culture in Africa and to educate people over here about traveling. Travel education is important. As a child I had phobia for heights and I often said I will never enter a plane, this and other reasons, could be the mindset of some Africans but here I am not just traveling in a plane, but helping others travel easy and affordably. I actually paid for my first flight and I said if I fly and enjoy it, I am flying forever (Laughing).
When you launched your business, did you have prior knowledge on how you could run one? How did you make it work?
When I launched my business, I had knowledge on how to run a business because I am business oriented but even though I had the skills, I didn’t know how to run a travel business. So, I did more research, studied how other successful travel businesses started, what challenges they face and how they try to make things work, putting one or two together and using my knowledge as well, I was able to achieve the level we are today as a business.
Why entrepreneurship and what’s the biggest misconception about entrepreneurship that you’ve heard?
Entrepreneurship is my calling, although I have worked with some good companies and businesses but there was this feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment when I started my entrepreneurship journey. Most times, we hear entrepreneurship is not a good idea, you can’t survive it, you can’t do big if you don’t have enough money, you can’t earn enough, it’s a big risk and also most families believe it’s better to opt for professions like Engineering, Medicine and Law because society respects it more. But I never let those sayings discourage me and today I’m glad I didn’t give up.
What innovation have you introduced to your business recently and how has that worked out?
The Travel Industry is a big one and to stand out from the rest, you need to do something extraordinary from the norm. Our cutting edge as a company is the knowledge we create and curate to educate people about ‘travel.’ We also train individuals interested in tourism to enable them startup a tour operator business (part-time or full-time), In addition, we offer a ‘Travel 4 Penny’ program where one can start planning a trip with as low as NGN10,000, this is to encourage people to travel without being scared of the cost and so far we have helped a lot of people travel, especially when they thought it was almost impossible for them to travel abroad due to lack of funds.
We also launched a Travel Network in August, 2019 ‘ASK TRAVEL BOSS NETWORK’ where we have travel business owners, affiliates, enthusiasts, service providers in our network. This has made it much easier to get travel deals, partnerships, training’s, clients, etc.
What will you say is responsible for your success?
Askmeafrika Travels Management is a one-stop enterprise that offers a complete range of travel related services. Superior knowledge, efficient planning, and the ability to anticipate and resolve potential problems along the way, are the reasons behind our success. This is what sets us apart from the competition! We don’t just sell travel and tours, we also listen to, manage expectations, find solutions and provide an amazing tourist experience to our esteemed customers.
What unique challenges have you faced in your entrepreneurship journey, and what’s kept you going?
As an entrepreneur, in a travel industry, you encounter up to or more than 100 persons in a day, either one on one, phone calls, online chats, email, etc and in doing business transactions, we face some challenges like some clients not giving genuine data for the travel process or the embassy not approving some applications due to different reasons and this is one of the major challenges because most people can be difficult despite knowing that visa issuance is at the discretion of the embassy. Nevertheless, we have been able to handle such situations the best ways we know how to and this has kept us going strong and doing better.
Do you have any beneficial plans for women looking to go in your sector? What’s your five-year plan for your business?
Yes we do. We have a Travel Academy ‘ASKMEAFRIKA TRAVELS ACADEMY’, where we have trained 30 ladies so far and supported them to startup their travel business with little or no capital. We partner with them and provide them with travel deals and products, booking platforms and links for business to business partnership with international travel services providers. We also support them in getting their business registered and also business orientation to enable them startup well.
We also have a Travel Network ‘ASK TRAVEL BOSS NETWORK’ a digital travel professional service team providing exclusive travel deals, trainings, consultations, partnerships and networking opportunities for our corporate members and sponsors. Our major goal is to build a network of successful travelpreneurs.
We have a whole lot planned out but I will say we expect to be a multinational Travel Company with outlets in different countries within and outside Africa and also attain some of our goals in promoting the Travel Culture in Africa.
Can you share some strategic tips for upcoming female entrepreneurs to be successful in this path?
The best advice I can give is that you must have passion for the business before you venture into it because there are days when you may want to give up due to the pressure but if you are passionate about it and know why you started in the first place, you just hold on and make things work. Also, consistency and integrity will take you along way if you apply it to your business transactions.
The LLA Lady Boss Series is a weekly interview series that highlights the achievements and entrepreneurial journeys of African female entrepreneurs. The idea is to showcase the Leading Ladies who are transforming Africa and the African narrative through enterprise and business.
It is an off-shoot of Leading Ladies Africa, a non-profit that promotes leadership, inclusion and diversity for women of African descent.
If you know any kick-ass women of African Descent doing phenomenal things in enterprise, email firstname.lastname@example.org, and she could possibly be featured.