After five years of building my online magazine, painstakingly growing a social media following, and nurturing relationships with global brands, I had found a comfortable niche in the media landscape.
The night after my magazine’s 5th-anniversary party, I quietly reflected on the journey. I read the congratulatory messages I had received, some reminding me that many online sites and magazines that started with – or even after – Ayiba no longer existed.
But was survival enough of an achievement?
Making my dream my reality was significant. Building a team to drive that vision forward had significance. I mean, I had gone from shooting the first cover of Ayiba Magazine on my college campus to having celebrity photographers shoot the cover with Hollywood actresses.
The growth was undeniable, that had to count for something. And perhaps it did. However, my side hustle was still a side hustle bringing in side hustle revenue. Was that the best I could do? And more importantly, what was next?
Almost a year to the date of my quiet contemplation, I have built Girls Trip Tours, a social venture that is a direct manifestation of my magazine’s mission. It leverages Ayiba’s readership, brand equity, and professional network to design unique travel experiences across Africa with a focus on female empowerment.
Our trips have the goal of empowering future female leaders through mentorship, while taking in the sites and dining around town in the company of high profile business women and local industry leaders. I like to think of it as ‘Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants’ with less soul-searching and more self-actualization.
Where once you could read about Lagos’ nightlife, Nairobi’s startup ecosystem, or Rwandese artisans in the pages of Ayiba, now we can arrange for you to experience these things first-hand through group or solo travel with Girls Trip Tours.
The idea came from the opportunity I observed for digital brands to bring online experiences offline and create deeper more meaningful connections with their virtual communities in real life. The concept of Girls Trip Tours emerged from a perceived customer need. Ayiba readers were emailing to ask for travel advice.
Our articles had inspired our readers in the diaspora to want to visit the continent and they were looking to us as an expert resource. My mission with Ayiba is to connect Africans in the diaspora with those on the continent through storytelling. I have consistently done this through online and print mediums, but now I have the opportunity to create those connections in real life.Lifestyle brands thrive when they figure out what their customers end goal and design their brand around the experiences that their customers desire - @AyibaMagazine Click To Tweet
Figure out your customers desire, along with the people, places, things, and ideas that inspire them to action.
After surveying 100 plus women in Ayiba’s online community, I decided to organize trips to Kenya and Nigeria in 2019. As per their feedback, there are a mix of experiences to satisfy those seeking ancestral travel experiences to West Africa, wildlife and adventure in National Parks, as well as urban exploration in Africa’s most vibrant cities.
In addition to satisfying a customer need, by expanding my media brand to include travel experiences, I now have a new avenue for creating content. On each trip, there are multiple opportunities to connect with new talents to feature or more contributors to write.
I also will be creatively inspired by my surroundings to shoot video series, photography campaigns, and write OP-EDS on social issues I am confronted with. In the long run, I believe it makes sense for Ayiba to become a lifestyle brand.
I am creating a customer journey that can start with exploring content online, which may lead to booking a travel experience or vice versa. The magazine and the trips will feed into one another. In this next phase of my entrepreneurial journey, I look forward to listening to my customers, as well as looking to broader industry trends for my continued evolution.
For any entrepreneur that may feel stuck with their businesses, I hope you find this article at the perfect time and it encourages you to keep pushing.
If your growth has become stagnant and you are looking for a new direction to go in, observe customer behavior, look to the industry for inspiration, and most importantly, ask your audience what they want/need, then test it out.
I did a soft-launch with a Girls Trip to Ghana in July. It was that small group trip, the women I met, and the girls I mentored that gave me the confidence to do more.My advice
- Consider what other verticals may be profitable before you give up on a business you have put time, money, sweat, and tears into.
- As tough as it may be, if you have a good foundation: reputable brand and loyal audience, there are many ways you can consider monetizing and scaling up.
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