Lucy and Marnus Roodbol
Marnus and Lucy Roodbol are a husband and wife team who have a passion for wildlife and Africa, which led them to set up Outbound in Africa offering bespoke tours and an insight into the real Africa.
Tell us about your business, what does it do?
We are a specialist safari company offering bespoke trips to southern Africa, ranging from regular safaris to walking safaris to spot the Big Five (where you can get up close but not too personal with the African lion, elephant, leopard, Cape buffalo and black rhino), cross country train travel in luxurious, wood-panelled coaches, gorilla trekking, photography safaris, and anything and everything in between.
Our tailor-made trips are designed to suit an individual’s needs, whether that is staying in a luxury lodge or taking a walk on the wild side through the African Bush. Safaris are what we know, it’s where our hearts lie and we have a real passion for sharing our experiences with others. We offer a truly authentic safari experience.
What did you do before you started this business?
Lucy: I’m originally from Brechin in Angus in Scotland. I went to Africa on a gap year after school and didn’t leave! I stayed for 10 years working in tourism and hospitality.
Marnus: I grew up in Pretoria and have been guiding safaris for 15 years. I started out at the world-famous Sabi Sands Game Reserve in the Greater Kruger National Park, and have qualifications in game ranch management and eco-training. During four years in Botswana, I launched the non-profit organisation, Walking for Lions, that works to ensure southern Africa’s lions survive and thrive.
What inspired you to start up?
We’ve seen ourselves how some trips can be so impersonal – our greatest motivation is to help people enjoy a proper, authentic safari experience and cater a trip specifically to their needs. We offer a very personal experience, sharing the real African Bush that we love so much. We want to help people make really special memories.
How would you describe your business to your grandma?
We create tailored tours to southern Africa that allow visitors – both young and old - to get to know the real Africa, and benefit from our knowledge and experience, as well as the good working relationships we have built up over the years. We are also passionate about wildlife and only work with lodges that combine tourism with ethical conservation.
Where do you get advice, support or help?
We are constantly in touch with lodge owners and specialist guides as well as conservation experts, so we know what is happening with regard to the best areas to visit and the best times to go.
Finance is one of the most common barriers to starting up. How did you access the finance you needed?
We looked into the possibility of obtaining business loans and grants to help us start up, to use towards fees such as website design, insurance, marketing etc. In the end, we made the decision to use money we had saved, and funds from our family to invest in the company. Some could say this was a more risky move of investing personal money into a small start-up business, but this is a company we believe in and are willing to fully commit to it to make it successful.
What has been your biggest achievement so far?
Since the beginning of Outbound in Africa, our sights have always been on appreciating the small achievements, recognising them and acknowledging them. These are from customer satisfaction reports to a simple letter in the post office from previous clients thanking us for an amazing experience. Being recognised in the tourism sector does build confidence and reminds us that hard work is worth the extra hours spent at night.
How do you differentiate your business from others?
Our emphasis is very much on the personal aspect. Our tours are tailor made, bespoke and completely based around the visitor’s requirements. We have tried and tested all of the lodges we work with – essentially, it is about finding what the traveller’s hope and expectations are for their trip, and being able to meet them. We can point visitors in the direction that best suits their needs and wants. You will also deal with the same consultant from start to finish of your trip – the benefit of working with a very small team!
What’s it like to be your own boss?
The most challenging aspect of being your own boss is being able to constantly push yourself for greater achievements, and to never become complacent and stagnant. At times, it can be extremely difficult to stay motivated and driven, especially when you don’t have a superior to provide guidance or moral support, but this is what makes one grow as a person and as a company; it teaches you to fight and grows your passion more. The bad days become minimal once you get yourself out of the situations that bring you down and before you know it, you realise why you wanted to become your own boss and see your own product grow. Hard work and dedication are the success to any company.
Where do you see your business in five years’ time?
Our aim is always to grow, but whilst growing, continue to provide our customers with the familiarity and security of our brand. We never want to lose what we stand for and stay humble. Outbound in Africa has grown significantly since its birth and our focus is on providing customers with the best service possible. People are not numbers and behind each email is a person that has worked hard for their dream holiday. If we can help them experience their dream vacation, that will always be a reward in itself, regardless of how big the company grows.
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
It’s not easy, it’s hard work and it involves plenty of overtime trying to get it right. If you don’t want to fully commit yourself with your heart and soul, then think again about whether you want to be your own boss. But, having said that, the smallest of achievements makes it all worth it; when it’s a company you trust and believe in, it will go all the way.