CREATIVES IN FOCUS
Hi friends, this week I had a “Creatives in Focus” interview with Funmi Oyatogun, a travel experience designer and CEO of TVP Adventures. We spoke about travelling across Africa, running a business and turning your passion into your profession. Grab a cup of tea and let us get stuck in.
Vicky: Hi Funmi, can you please tell me about yourself and your educational background? Funmi: I am an explorer, a writer and I organize trips and travel experiences to simplify travel across Africa. I hold a Master of Science (MSc) focused in Environment and Development from The University of Edinburgh and a B.A in Environmental studies from the University of Colorado.
Vicky: How has your educational background and past experiences prepared you for your role as CEO, writer, public speaker, explorer and travel experience designer?
Funmi: I had the opportunity to access resources and learn in an international environment. This has inspired me to think outside the box and try to solve problems. When I was younger I was always encouraged to speak my mind. My parents also used to encourage us to write essays and present to the family. We would write and discuss our experiences on school excursions or our travels. This certainly helped me to better articulate myself and improve my writing skills.
Vicky: What ignited your passion for travel?
Funmi: My passion for travel was definitely ignited from my childhood. My family encouraged me to travel with my mind open. Like I previously mentioned, mum was a teacher, so we knew that we really had to look, feel and taste when we travelled because we would have to write an essay on our experiences. I remember some weekends we would travel from Port Harcourt to Jos or other parts of Nigeria.
Vicky: What is your favourite experience from travelling across Africa?
Funmi: This is a hard question!!! Victoria falls took my breath away. I saw Victoria falls from the sky on the “flight of angels”. I have never seen anything more beautiful than Victoria Falls, I was so overwhelmed, I could only cry and sing. The natives call Victoria Falls, “Mosi-oa-Tunya”, which means “the smoke that thunders”. I believe this is so much more poetic than Victoria Falls.
Vicky: Do you recommend solo travelling in Africa?
Funmi: Yes, I would recommend solo travel and group travel in Africa. You need to be comfortable with yourself and be an adventure seeker to solo travel. If you prefer a defined itinerary, group travel will be better for you. If you are solo travelling for a long period of time. There is something called the “travel blues”, one minute you are high off the travel experience but then there are low moments when you miss family and friends. When you get back from your travels you start to wish you were solo travelling again. You just need to be okay with the roller coaster of emotions that comes with solo travelling.
Vicky: Which countries in Africa are you longing to visit?
Funmi: I want to visit Egypt, I am also hoping to visit Togo soon. I would like to see the Masai Mara migration in Kenya and visit beautiful islands like Mauritius and Seychelles. Honestly, I am trying to see all the countries in the world.
Vicky: What is the inspiration behind the TVP adventures?
Funmi: I have always wanted to explore the world, but I never knew I would run a travel business. I started off blogging about food and recipes inspired by my travels. I then blogged about places I visited, I soon discovered that people wanted to travel but did not know how to get to their desired destination or it was too much of a hassle to plan their trips. There was a gap and I decided I could make a difference. I believe a well-travelled population is an educated one. When you explore the food, language and culture of others, your walls of bias come down.
Vicky: Please explain the concept behind the incredible “Ease of Travel” map you have designed?
Funmi: For example, I have a Nigerian passport and a lot of travel guides are not tailored to the certain restrictions such as visa requirements. I wanted to break down which countries are easy to travel to in terms of visa requirements and which countries are easy to get to in terms of flight connections. For example, the ease of travel map can help you with research to determine that you can travel to Kenya and pay for a Visa on arrival or you can get a direct flight to Kenya from your location. The countries in red do not indicate danger, It just means that a little more effort is required to travel to that country.
Vicky: What is the inspiration behind the Open Your Heart empowerment programme?
Funmi: The Open Your Heart empowerment programme provides a day-long nature learning experience for underprivileged teenagers. I am passionate about the personal development of teenagers. I believe that there are at a very critical phase in their lives. I also believe that there are a group of teenagers in Nigeria that are forgotten. They are perceived as not smart in school, so they do not get the scholarships. They are not wealthy, so they do not have access to many opportunities. I wanted to give underprivileged and underserved teenagers or communities an experience that could potentially empower and change lives. This year we are focussing on teenagers from disadvantage and autistic teenagers from poor families.
Vicky: What do you enjoy about been part of TVP adventures?
I enjoy creating different itineraries, selecting locations and creating packages that will create unforgettable experiences. I meet the most amazing people, we have arguments, banter and create great memories.
Vicky: No man is an island, how have managed to form a strong team at TVP adventures?
Funmi: Our team is growing, and we are still learning. You have to have a clear vision and be honest with people. As you work with your team you should also to help them with their own goals. My team have a say in TVP adventures, I really cannot pretend to know it all.
Vicky: What are the challenges you face while running an African based travel company?
Funmi: Infrastructure is a challenge, we are running a business that has so many moving parts. You may have planned an amazing trip, but you may not get to your destination until a few hours later than intended because of road congestion. There is also running a business in a space that is still developing. The good news is that we get to be part of the development story, the bad news is that there is no roadmap. We are figuring it out ourselves and it can be brutal.
Vicky: Running a business can be time-consuming. How do you manage your time and what do you to relax?
Funmi: Honestly, this is the part of my life that I am least responsible. My social and work-life balance is not healthy. I am still at the phase where I am pouring my all into this business. I do not have certain responsibilities, so this is the time to be sacrificial in building my dreams.
“This is the time to be sacrificial in building my dreams”
Vicky: What steps do you need to take to turn your passion into your profession?
Funmi: I wish I had a magic formula, but I do not. I believe I am accountable to God for my time and my talents. How am I shedding light on the gifts I have been given? How am I creating opportunities? It is a luxury to be able to dream and have a vision, you better be responsible with it.
The steps are really simple. Be ready to make sacrifices and take your vision seriously. I have a vision board, and nobody can bribe me with a million naira a month job. Once you have clarity of vision, pursue it. If I am working hard, I better be working hard for my dreams, not for someone else.
Vicky: What advice would you give to a young adult dreaming of starting a business in a creative and competitive industry such as yours?
Funmi: Start but do not do it alone, I feel a lot of people are hindered because they are doing it in isolation. Our generation had an unhealthy sense of individuality in this country. I have business mentors and I gain a lot of knowledge from them. You are not the first person to walk the path that you are on. Find someone who can help and guide you. This goes for life in general, you should have people who you are accountable to. Finally, the earlier you start failing the better. If you fail with a 100 Naira you will not fail with 10,000 Naira.
“It is a luxury to be able to dream and have a vision, you better be responsible with it”
Connect with Funmi and TVP adventures by clicking the links below:
Check out Funmi’s interview with the BBC and AriseTV: http://funmioyatogun.com/2018/06/bbc_arise_feature/