Winnie Kimathi is the Managing Director and Co-founder at Cloud9xp, a leading online marketplace, booking service and distributor for leisure experiences
Company Name: Cloud9xp
Year Founded: 2016
Winnie Kimathi is the Managing Director and Co-founder at Cloud9xp, a leading online marketplace, booking service and distributor for leisure experiences.
A socially outgoing personality, she’s a graduate of Pwani University where she studied Hospitality and Tourism Management. She has also previously worked with travel companies right before venturing into entrepreneurship.
What in particular drove you to venture into entrepreneurship / starting your own business/company?
While in Campus I developed a strong desire and the Knack for business. I didn’t want to stay idle and not doing anything in my free time. A lot of times I found myself thinking about the businesses I was passionate about and that I’d start. A Tours and Travel company was one of them. The other was in food and Fashion.
5 Months into my first job in travel, I was jobless as the business was very seasonal. I was still eager to start and run my own business. So I set my mind to register a business in travel and did just that. In less than a month I did my research, registered Heartbeat Adventures, started with a Facebook Page and immediately worked on building the right partnerships with industry providers so as to serve my clients.
Towards the end of 2017, I took another job in management with a travel company, as I needed finances to build my business then. Unfortunately, there were mismanagement issues that led to the closure of the company. In a job that lasted over 5 months, I hadn’t received over 2 months salary and there were no hopes of the business bouncing back. I was frustrated and did what anyone in that position would. I quit.
At this point, I had little hopes in employment, so I made the decision to Work on my travel company. After all, what I was doing in the other companies is what I’d have to do in mine.
I was so motivated and unstoppable. Clients followed me to the new business because I had great client relationship skills and offered excellent end to end services. I was able to make my business work. I set up an office, and worked really hard to make the business profitable and grow.
A year later in May 2019, a business friend who was in almost the same industry as me, proposed a merger of our two companies.
He is Tesh Mbaabu, founder of Cloud9xp. We had been in partnership for a while, and saw the need to merge our companies. Cloud9xp was a travel Tech. The founders were tech experts and had innovated in the leisure and tourism industry. Very enthusiastic about leisure experiences but didn’t have proper know-how of the travel industry.
That was my speciality. Long story short, we saw a great opportunity to merge our companies, increase our product basket, become a one-stop-shop for everything travel and leisure, while using technology and innovation to empower us to be the # 1 experience provider in Africa. We are the only travel company in this part of Africa with a Mobile App and carrying out business as we do.
Current impact/milestones reached for the company.
From the launch of cloud9xp Mobile App, the merger with Heartbeat Adventures that saw us grow our product basket and revenue streams, to successful partnerships with international travel companies including Trip Advisor, Expedia, and more.
The Only Way is up!
How do you know if your tech startup idea is good or not?
With Technology, the point of innovation or automation is to make lives or processes of operation easier and seamless. If your Tech Company offers a solution to an existing problem or gap, if well packaged, anyone in need of that solution will buy it.
With Cloud9xp, as pioneers in the rise of experiential travel, we help connect leisure seekers and experience providers through our web platform and mobile App. Leisure seekers can easily discover and book experiences at a tap of a finger, while experience providers generate greater revenues, as our platform exposes them to thousands of visitors to our platform and we offer extra services to grow their awareness. Our business model serves both parties and hence is a winning idea.
Every business needs to ensure that they have that figured out; the solution they are providing, and packaging it into a product that can sell.
What kind of a mindset should a first-time entrepreneur have?
Get into business with purpose and impact as your main motivation. Not just for the money.
Most businesses take a while to become profitable. Often times, It is a tedious process, with mistakes that are costly, and a lot of do-overs trying to establish the right method for your business. Be prepared to adjust as you go. Very importantly seek a mentor’s guidance early enough and keep them along in your journey.
When you serve a greater good, the money will come after you. Lastly, being in a business you like and are passionate about makes everything much easier.
What sort of general advice would you give to an aspiring entrepreneur in Africa?
The African market is a goldmine with much-untapped opportunities and potential.
See that your idea is helping serve lives, businesses or communities in Africa, as there’s much need. If it improves other people’s well-being, it is viable. Create a business model that will be sustainable and with potential to grow.
Do not try to do it all alone; You can only go so far alone. Structure your business and bring in individuals who foster faster growth, whether through employees, partners or shareholders whose role grows the business into the direction you need it to.
See that your idea is helping serve lives, businesses or communities in Africa, as there’s much need. If it improves other people’s well-being, it is viable
Mentors will save you a great deal, on the negative and positive side. Seek and keep mentors. Keep making the small steps of progress. Consistency brings exponential results at some point.