Glamping entrepreneur’s pitch gains global recognition

International business award winner Gugu Sithole describes the entrepreneurship world as lonely, but she believes that with boldness, resilience and innovation you can reach milestones beyond your imagination.

Born from a pandemic-era dream to make South African travel more accessible, Sithole founded Glamping Adventures. Offering an elevated experience from traditional camping, the initiative aims to empower local community members while giving both rich and poor the opportunity to travel and see different parts of the country.

Recognised for her inclusion and impact, Sithole was one of the women who walked away with the Bold Woman Award by Veuve Clicquot last month. The award honours and features women who have built, taken on or developed a business. Sithole is among 410 winners in 27 countries worldwide. As one of this year’s winners, she will travel to Reims, France — the home of Veuve Clicquot — for an immersion in the history, tradition, and luxury of the famous brand. The Mail & Guardian caught up with her ahead of her trip.

What does winning this year’s Bold Woman Award mean to you?

Winning the Bold Woman Award by Veuve Clicquot is such an honour. It is a milestone well-timed in my business trajectory. It gives that stamp of validation in the purpose that Glamping Adventures stands for. With the opportunities that come with this award, it is also a hand-up moment for me and the organisation that I lead. The opportunities and exposure will open us to a new market, new trends and new global networks. This will turbo-charge our work that filters down to rural communities where we seek to empower women to have a stake in Glamping Adventures by having their glamping pods to give travellers authentic experiences. It also means that our conservation efforts through Glamping Adventures Foundation will also have a far-reaching impact.

With this award and the recognition of your business, how do you look at these achievements and inspire other women?

This is two fold. Firstly, it gives women like me a relatable aspiration that it is possible to make an impact regardless of background, circumstances and location. Entrepreneurship is such a lonely journey. Sometimes one doubts the validity of their vision. This award shows that it is possible. It shows that with boldness, innovation and resilience, one can go far. 

The Bold Woman Award will also empower the women we work with in rural communities. As we gain more traction, it means we grow together. We always believed in inclusive development. If we are to make structural change on the economic scale, then we need, as women need to handhold each other and grow as a unit.

In light of Women’s Month, what are some of the values or life lessons you as a businesswoman have found to keep going in the industry?

Resilience is key. Odds are against women in the business environment. We deal with structural barriers, traditional bias and constantly have to prove that we are capable. These impediments are choking. Resilience and self belief are key values. I have also learned the power of unity. It is crucial to belong to support structures and networks that spur you on. These can be resources, ideas and even motivation. Do not operate in your little corner. Connect with other women business leaders and be keen to learn.

What do you look forward to with travelling to Reims and France?

Firstly, the trip will be an inspiration. To see how Veuve Clicquot operates, to walk where Madame Clicquot walked will be a shot in the arm. That real life inspiration will give me more energy to do what we do. The trip to France and access to a network of global women business leaders that have won the award will expand my networks and business perspective. I am also particularly enthused by the potential of getting business-to-business linkages.

Can you give a sneak peak of what the rest of 2022 has in store for you. Any expectations from your Glamping Adventures business?

Glamping Adventures is an exciting business journey. We have exciting roving trips coming up in the year to some exciting destinations like Kruger National Park, Garden Route and Mpumalanga. More importantly, we have added itineraries that travellers can do anytime. These offer unique stays around South Africa. We have also expanded our team to cater for customised glamping experiences. Travellers won’t need to wait for our roving trip. They can travel anytime. We are expanding our conservation work in rural communities of the Drakensberg, Clarens and Coffee Bay. We are training young people to film and tell conservation stories. This is an active way of including them in the conservation paradigm. The “us and them” approach on conservation does not work, inclusion does.

Lastly, we are developing a digital marketplace for rural artists to list their products. This will expand their market reach and revenue from the purchases will go to the artists.

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