Tastemakers Africa: ‘the sexy, dope way to experience Africa’
Every tour operator will claim it gives you ‘the true feel of Africa’. Few are special enough to be heralded on AFAR, Condé Nast Traveler as innovative travel startups. Only one offers products and services that deserve the title ‘the sexy, dope way to experience Africa’. Tastemakers Africa is about authentic, ‘connected’ trips in Africa that offer an opportunity for entrepreneurs and creatives in Africa to earn a living doing what they love.
Look at the tour offering of Tastemakers Africa to understand why the company proudly praises its products with the phrase ‘you won't find this stuff on TripAdvisor’. Fancy a visit to a private whiskey and cigar club with a Thai-Ghanaian fusion restaurant in Accra? Or would you like to learn how to make Ghana’s famous jollof dish, from start – a visit to the market to search for ingredients – to finish? A vintage shopping tour in Johannesburg with a local designer, or a mountain biking experience through the sand hills of Soweto, or a boxing class in Hillbrow (Joburg) followed by a neighbourhood walk?
Tastemakers Africa’s tours – better word: experiences – are currently offered in cities such as Accra, Cape Town, Dakar, Nairobi and Johannesburg, and soon also to places such as Marrakech (Morocco) and Zanzibar (Tanzania). The ‘go with the locals’ type of tours that the company offers are a huge success. Though officially still a startup, the company is seriously scaling up. Since launching its new website and booking tool in 2018, the company has grown to nearly 200 unique, authentic experiences that can all be booked on the Tastemakers Africa online platform.
These are unique tours created and hosted by artists, creators, and makers in Africa, founder and CEO Cheraé Robinson insists. “We help travelers connect with people in authentic ways whether you are exploring nightlife with a DJ, learning food traditions from a chef, or experiencing living history with an icon.” Tastemakers Africa is an online tour company that is different in at least one way. It puts a premium on culture. Robinson: “Culture, especially that created by people of African descent whether they are based on the continent or living in the diaspora - we are the keepers of the cool.”
Entrepreneurs and creatives
Business is going well. “We drove nearly $500,000 USD in earnings to creative entrepreneurs and local tour companies across Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, South Africa, and Tanzania.
African entrepreneurs and creatives are central to our mission. Our goal is to build the best platform for them to share their expertise, passions, and cities authentically. We've got an ambitious goal of hitting $2M in earnings to our curators next year.” The success of Tastemakers Africa has not gone unnoticed. Robinson, born and raised in the US, found herself on the Conde Naste Traveler's "50 People Changing The Way We Travel" List.
As for all startups – in Africa and elsewhere – finding money to support growth has been a challenge. In 2018, Robinson got the support she was looking for. “I'm ecstatic to share that San Francisco-based Precursor Ventures saw our vision and led our seed funding round. This funding has enabled us to build a better platform and look towards the future.”
For a company such as this, winning some cash in accelerator competitions helps a lot. Tastemakers Africa was successful in a competition by Booking.com. “1,000 travel startups applied and only 10 were selected - Tastemakers was among that selected few. We were able to spend a month in Amsterdam learning from the biggest online travel company in the world and gain a network of peers who are building the future of travel.”
Tastemakers also added pop-up experiences during this summer's Afropunk festival, allowing people to book an experience with a local insider in Atlanta, Brooklyn, Johannesburg, London, and Paris. These limited edition experiences are led by carefully selected members of the African and Caribbean diasporas in each city. Robinson: “We're now a team of 6 staff in Accra, Johannesburg, NYC, and Washington DC working super hard to grow Tastemakers into the only travel platform you need when you're looking to visit an African destination. We expect to expand our offering and team further and are looking for people passionate about our mission.”