Joan Wamuyu, 43, has traveled around the world from the comfort of her living room through “beautiful souls,” as she puts it. She hosts business, research and intern travellers, a gig she started to supplement her income. She decided to venture into the business full time in 2016. Joan, who used to work in human resource management for a petroleum company, is also passionate about biking, and has been riding since 2014. She is planning a three-year biking journey around the world. Here’s her story.
“I did a secretarial course for a year soon after high school. In 1994, I got employed in the motor vehicle industry, then worked in a doctor’s office before landing in a bank for a year. In 2004, I got into the petroleum industry as an administrator, then I was promoted to depot manager. The company went under in 2007, and I came back to employment in 2010, taking on an administration job that entailed a lot more human resource management.
“After that I worked in the petroleum and energy industry in both the private and public sectors. Then I left to work in management for another company, and six months after that, I moved on again. I left employment in 2016. I had entered my 40s and I felt I needed stability.
“The genesis of my hosting was the fact that I was lonely. My life was getting very boring; living in a three-bedroomed house, I’d come home and watch television or sleep. I researched online on how to host people who were coming into the country but didn’t want to stay in hotels. I started in 2012 and got my first client towards the end of the year. She was an Italian working for a corporation under the Italian Embassy. We both worked in town so I used to give her lifts in the mornings and some evenings.
“As she was leaving at the end of her stay, she said her colleague had told her that someone else was coming into the country and asked if I could take her in. I was only comfortable taking in one person then because I was just learning to live with other people, let alone people who didn’t share my culture. I had installed a television and a coffee table with two seats in my first guest’s room, just in case she would want her own space, but we ended up sharing the common spaces. As the recommendations continued, I opened up the second bedroom too.
“I set up the rooms with desks for reading and working and reliable internet connectivity. I don’t provide food or toiletries, but the kitchen is shared and they can make their meals there. Consumables like water, electricity and gas are shared down the middle. My guests stay at least three months at a time.
“So far I have experienced German, Finnish, American and other cultures through the lifestyles of my guests. I have learned to cook different foods. They have influenced me to be a big saver and to experience life without spending so much. I have also learned to appreciate my city and places I never did before.
“We have an experience called ‘42 Tribes of Kenya’, where my guests invite people they know, local or expatriate, for game nights, cook nights (everyone cooks food indigenous to them), or afternoon barbecues. We talk about Kenyan history with the aid of books I bought at the Bomas of Kenya. The guests enjoy culture without necessarily having to travel, and also share their own culture.”
Joan’s tips for business success
• Love what you do. It’s very difficult to be motivated when you’re doing something you don’t love. Even in jobs, people leave where the leadership does not appreciate their vision or lack of job satisfaction.
• You can’t get rich instantly. Even if you’re making profit you need to reinvest to sustain it. If you use your profits on holidaying or to change your lifestyle you will kill your business.
• Learn to pay yourself a salary; stop looking at the bottom line. Your returns might look interesting but remember there’s operational costs and capital in those figures. Have a budget and limit on what you can spend in a month.
• Save. Prioritise your needs and you will never spend more than what you need to.