Founder's Corner: Justa Lujwangana

Hello Justa, Can you tell us a bit about yourself!

         I came to US at the age of 12 from Tanzania and did not get to see my motherland for another 10 years. Spending my formative years in the US had slowly begun to shape the way I was looking at my own country, internalizing the same negative views of my home that many westerners hold. However, on my first visit back home, I was amazed by the beauty in everything, not just the physical beauty that Tanzania is known for but also that of the people, of everyday life. I found myself being addicted to wanting to learn and know more about my country which pushed me to go back every year and discover new places.

Following a passion

         I soon discovered that many people longed for a deeper connection in traveling to Tanzania than the typical tourist attractions so I started sharing pictures on Instagram of her intimate trips which started to garner a sizable following. This sparked an idea that would become  Curious on Tanzania, which offers customized travel and adventures to Tanzania with a focus on sustainable tourism.

Curious On Tanzania's approach to offering unique experiences to travelers is built on a strong network of dedicated people. I work with a team on the ground to coordinate trips. Despite working across time zones and thousands of miles of distance, we make it work. 

How do you sell an experience?

          Curious On Tanzania's approach to offering unique experiences to travelers is built on a strong network of dedicated people. I work with a team on the ground to coordinate trips. Despite working across time zones and thousands of miles of distance, we make it work. 

Blue Waters

         The team based in Tanzania is comprised of tourism industry veterans from experienced tour guides to accommodation gurus who can put together personalized trips for individuals and groups. Some of the unique experiences that Justa has offered to travelers for example have been intimate and immersed trips with Masai groups, visiting local soap factories or if desired, luxurious stays at exotic resorts. Justa speaks directly with her clients to get a feel of their interests and puts together curated experiences that are meaningful to them, unlike cookie cutter vacations. In the Future, Justa hopes to offer a shopping cart style experience to planning a Tanzanian adventure. This will allow individuals to shop for specific experiences and have the ability to design their vacations with confidence without worrying about the details.

What are some challenges you faced along your journey?

         As an entrepreneur, transitioning from the ideation phase to a legitimate business endeavor is akin to climbing a mountain; and for Curious on Tanzania’s fierce founder, the path has not been easy.

Africa's only active volcano, the Oldonyo Lengai

         My biggest challenge was developing an enterprise without any prior serious entrepreneurial work and without a strong support base to guide or mentor me. I made unnecessarily costly mistakes such out trusting someone to build a website without much supervision and discovering that no one can capture my vision as well as I can. In contrast, having built strong relationships back home with many people in the tourism industry made it much easier for to do research for the business in Tanzania. As she learned how to develop my business, I had to become the business, live and breathe it. Perhaps this is the mark of a true entrepreneur. When you do not have help to create a solution, you roll up your sleeves and figure it out. This meant learning from my mistakes, investing in myself and learn what I needed to learn to meet milestones as well as position myself in the right environments to cultivate the necessary connections and resources to reach my goals.

I always try keeping in mind that I want the people I come into contact with in Tanzania to find benefits from their paths crossing. From working with local tour operators to offering cultural learning trips and assuring reliable transportation, Curious on Tanzania always assures that our local partners are reaping financial benefit. An example of that is an assignment we had helping to organize a trip to Zanzibar for a new year's celebration for Everyday People

How is Curious on Tanzania promoting sustainable tourism?     

          I always try keeping in mind that I want the people I come into contact with in Tanzania to find benefits from their paths crossing. From working with local tour operators to offering cultural learning trips and assuring reliable transportation, Curious on Tanzania always assures that our local partners are reaping financial benefit. An example of that is an assignment we had helping to organize a trip to Zanzibar for a new year's celebration for Everyday People. 

Curious on Tanzania works for local stakeholders.

 

         

What Advice would you give entrepreneurs who find themselves at the beginning at their journey?

          Take your time, put your money aside and try to bootstrap. Through the first iteration of my web platform, I spent a lot of money for design and development before I learned that throwing cash at problems without having a clear goal and the right amount of control won’t lead to a breakthrough. If your idea isn’t solid and your vision clear, pumping money will not do it.

          Lastly, as any entrepreneur who is lucky enough to have a mentor knows, mentorship cuts the learning curve and saves your time and pain. Strong mentorship has been part of what has kept me persevering through challenges. I do believe finding mentors is key. It doesn’t matter at what level you are. Just keep finding someone who is a little ahead of where you are and ask for their guidance. I do have mentors who have assisted me throughout this process. 

Learn More at CuriousOnTanzania ( link to startup page)

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