Lujaina Kharusi, 36, founder of new adventure travel app Envago talks to us about realising your ambitions.
I have always been ambitious. From a young age, I was so inquisitive (still am) always exploring different interests and trying out new ideas. I started learning more about business when I was thirteen, helping my parents with the family fashion business, and fully managing one of the branches at eighteen. I remember competing with my mum who managed the other branch by trying beat her sales record every day- and I did most of the time! Nowadays, as a mum of four kids ranging in age from four to fourteen years old and a full time job as an economist, time is at a premium, but I haven’t let that stand in the way of realising my ambitions.
Born in the UK in Southampton (my dad was an air traffic controller) we moved to Oman when I was young and travelled pretty much every summer. It’s a tradition I’ve kept up with my own kids, we explore different places in Oman and further afield and enjoy activities such as camping, boating, and hiking. Our favorite remains going to the desert every winter- it’s too hot in the summer. In many ways it’s the simple memories of family holidays and my somewhat nomad lifestyle that inspired me to create Envago, the ability to use an app to find awesome adventures no matter where in the world you happen to be.
The idea for Envago came from my fascination of how smartphones and data in general have changed market structures and created new opportunities for people to make better choices, I had to be part of this fascinating world! Really though, the turning point came for me when I saw Airbnb and Uber emerge into their respective marketplaces. These were game-changers for their industries, turning on their head the traditional ways of doing things. And so, I thought, why can’t I do that with adventure? Making it possible for everyone with a passion for offering outdoors adventures able to sell their services through an app, and in the same sweep opening up the world of adventure.
Of course, the road to creating the app wasn’t easy. In fact, Envago wasn’t my first business adventure, I’m a bit of a serial entrepreneur! Back in 2010 I set up a baby boutique, in 2013 another store, then in 2016 I created an antenatal services venture with my sister. But each venture taught me something, whether valuable marketing expertise, industry knowledge, even staff management. I don’t believe that any experience is wasted, it helps us to evolve and forms our decisions of the future. With time, I learned more about what I want to achieve and what I am passionate about. And in all three business, I realised my passion and interest is to create new concepts and tackle markets that haven’t been tackled, even if it is small in its size such as a baby boutique.
To my mind, the best businesses build on what you know with a fresh new concept that is all your own. This is what I’d tried to do with my child focused businesses, building on all that knowledge about children I’d amassed! I’m not going to say it has been easy to get to this point, or that I can foresee it calming down in the near future! I wear multiple hats, my economist hat at work, my mum hat at home, and the Envago hat as I source those unique one off adventures like reindeer sledding to see the northern lights in Norway with the Sami people or trekking to see the endangered mountain gorillas in Uganda. It’s a constant juggling act, and you have to possess a real passion for your idea, whatever it is, and a determination to see it through.