During a visit to East Africa for her Master’s degree in Environmental Ethics, Lizanne du Plessis investigated the culture and environmental ethic of the Pokot people of Laikipia, Kenya. Lizanne was able to conduct interviews through a translator across traditional villages, and she explored how a local tribe took what is unique in their environment, developed it into something that appealed to tourists, and eventually made some money out of it!
This sparked a thought in du Plessis – how could community entrepreneurs be empowered to reach far beyond local markets without first having to gain specialist knowledge or spend a fortune? How could the seemingly incompatible concepts of ‘nature and ‘digital’ be combined in a profitable way? This inspired her to spend the next 13 years finding ways of empowering local communities and nature-based lodges through creative, personalised marketing strategies, and so Eco Africa Digital was born.
Today Eco Africa Digital is a leading online marketing specialist in the tourism industry. With clients across South Africa and Africa, this dynamic team is creating a fast-growing business that is pioneering this vision.
Four ladies and single thorn amongst them forms the team that focuses on tourism establishments and the marketing thereof through social media management, web development, graphic design, online advertising and analytics of marketing efforts.
They have done work for the likes of: Mont d’Or Hotel Group, Strand Beach Lodge and Gkhui Gkhui River Lodge, among others.
Thriving In Ground-breaking Area
Recognising that a common pitfall of entrepreneurship and startups is trying to do everything yourself, du Plessis and her team have created strategic alliances with web developers, graphic designers and allied professionals to whom certain functions are outsourced. One such alliance that is incredibly successful is the collaboration with Springnest, a company offering website development and a hosting platform specifically optimised for tourism ventures, and is linked with the online booking system Nightsbridge. By hosting their client’s companies on the Springnest platform, and combining it with blogs, special offers and social media marketing, one of Eco Africa Digital’s success stories enjoyed an incredible 70% increase in traffic to their website!
The Eco Africa Digital team achieves their success through meaningful personal interaction. They develop close working relationships with their clients, provide customized solutions according to need and budget, and cheer as clients enjoy significantly increased bookings from their digital channels. Most clients see a 20% increase in direct bookings in just the ﬁrst few months.
So what qualities does du Plessis have that makes her such a successful entrepreneur? “I’m business minded and innovative,” says this lifelong learner.
“Thriving in ground-breaking areas and unchartered territories means I can balance my intellectual ideals with practical, hands-on and creative solutions. I believe obstacles in your personal and professional life breed strong social and emotional skills and create the resilience that you will definitely need during trying times in your business. It makes you a better owner/manager of the business as you can empathise with and communicate effectively with people at all levels.”
In offering advice to other women in business, Lizanne says: “Nothing in life comes easy anyway – you can just as well put your efforts into something that you love and build a company that you would WANT to work for!”