Meet East Africa's Top Travel Entrepreneur

by Ray Gutt / Oct 23, 2012 / 0 comments

Meet East Africa's Top Travel Entrepreneur

Last October, Vivien Wamalwa won the CfC Stanbic Bank Magnate Competition.  It is roughly the equivalent of winning Kenya’s version of Donald Trump’s “The Apprentice” combined with Big Brother.  She has the poise, grace and get-it done attitude that carried her through the competition.


She is a self-described type-A personality, a go-getter who is outgoing, adventurous, passionate, emotional, resourceful and hardworking.  This charismatic entrepreneur is not afraid of sharing her thoughts, ideas or emotions.

Vivien Wamalwa




She won her first award and scholarship in 2007 earning her seed capital for her idea by a government project dubbed “chorabizna” under the youth enterprise fund.  She also won a scholarship to further her entrepreneurship training allowing her to study at the University of Connecticut.


She has been featured in the two top newspapers in Kenya, the DAILY NATION and the STANDARD as well as YOU AND YOUR MONEY financial magazine.  Vivien is passionate about developing new ideas and preparing business plans to lay-out a solid foundation.  She is helping other upcoming entrepreneurs.


She is also taking the industry by storm with her new approach to domestic tourism with “Mkenya Mtalii Holiday” savings plan which cultivates a savings culture among Kenyans to book their travel arrangements and save up for their trips during the course of the year without stretching their limits on last minute holiday plans.  The local tourists also earn interest giving them some extra spending money for their holidays.


Vivien Wamalwa with team on Mt. Kenya adventure trip.  Pictured from left to right: Vivien Wamalwa, Rachael Njoki, Pridence Kibaya and Eric Angadia.

Vivien Wamalwa with team on Mt. Kenya adventure trip.  Pictured from left to right: Vivien Wamalwa, Rachael Njoki, Pridence Kibaya and Eric Angadia.




The CfC Stanbic Bank Magnate competition was made up of 14 young entrepreneurs or aspiring entrepreneurs with a burning desire to take their existing business or business plan to the next level.


The tasks were designed to test the candidates’ intelligence, business skills, will to succeed, and attitude. They also faced the challenge of living in close quarters with the others to test their social skills, balancing team work as well as their competitiveness.


The competition was the first of its kind in Kenya and attracted top business minds from around the country.  All of them with a business plan in mind.  It started by filling out an application form and passing through the first screening.  After that, a select group was brought in for interviews and the top 14 were invited to compete in the televised competition.  They spent the next 9 weeks sharing the same quarters in Nairobi where they had to eat, sleep, compete and work together with virtually no connection to the outside world.  What they did have was unlimited access to top business mentors to help them shape their ideas into polished business plans.


Coming from the city of Mombasa, Viviien had to struggle with loneliness and leaving her family, friends, and her business for 9 weeks while in the competition. 


Survival in the magnate house was tough. Each of the contestants had to adjust to living in the same house with 13 other strangers sharing everything from food to sleeping areas.  The house was under 24 hour surveillance.  Between all of the new roommates and cameras, there was no privacy.   There was also virtually no communication with the outside world, including no cell phones and very limited internet access.  They were allowed internet access for research purposes only and they were monitored while on-line.  The hardest part was being judged on TV from people who only had a glimpse of what was going on.  Then, there were the contestants.  Just think, 14 individuals sometimes working as part of a team, but each one with their own idea on how they will win the competition.  Of course some were less than ethical, like the guy who erased another contestant’s business proposal after taking their flash drive.


Vivien’s survival strategy was learned from previous competitions.   At first, she laid low and focused on learning the competition, their ideas and their weak points.  She paid close attention to the details in the instructions they received and capitalized on her understanding of the aim of the game.  She always played her part in team activities but, stayed focused on the big picture.


In the end, it was truly a unique experience.  All of the contestants had access to some top business experts.  She said, “I couldn’t thank Dennis Dennehy enough.  He worked with an NGO in Mombasa and helped me with my initial business proposal and preparation for my presentations.  I felt sad when he returned to Ireland to complete his PhD but on the bright side, he did help me grow as a business woman.”


The best advice that Vivien received was to not be afraid to try.  After all, it is better to have tried and fail than to not try at all.  Several mentors tried to keep all contestants with a good positive attitude letting them know that they are as good as they think they are.  The inspirational messages helped when things got rough and she thought of giving up.


Vivien’s advice to others is to follow your dream and make it now.  Don’t wait for the perfect moment because now is the perfect time.  Always be passionate about your ideas, believe in yourself and get comfortable doing uncomfortable things.


Vivien stood out from her competition because of her poise.  Since this was a TV show and part of the evaluation is how others see you on TV, poise and positive attitude were important.  She had the advantage of winning a business competition 5 years earlier that provided the necessary capital to start her own business.  This gave her the business experience and experience to fine-tune her business proposal.  She also had a sense of what was important to the judges.


Vivien Wamalwa

Vivien on vacation in Milan, Italy



During the competition, she realized that she can be a team player even though she prefers to do things her own way.  Her personality changed to fit the situation.  She was aggressive and outspoken when it was needed.  She was a leader when their team needed direction and she was a team player when cooperating with others helped all.  She is emotional but learned to control her emotions when needed. She showed her emotions in a positive way when marketing her idea and presenting her plan.


The winner of the 1st. CfC Stanbic Bank Magnate Competition was Miss Vivien Wamalwa.  Her winning business plan was simple, but most good plans are.  The Mkenya Mtalii project was pitched as a product of her own tourist business, Safari Hunters.  She noticed the cyclical nature of the International tourism market.  To grow her business, it was necessary to think locally.  There are many great areas to visit in Kenya, but too many Kenyans can’t afford a week-long vacation at one of their great resorts. Mkenya Mtalii is a savings plan that allows people to plan their trips in advance and save up for it little by little.  Since the savings plan pays interest, they then have some additional spending money for the trip.


She won the competition based on the strengths of her proposal which included good returns, a clear market plan and good financial market analysis.