Ebonie: The day I decided to become my own superhero

Ebonie Mbeteni is the founder and chief executive officer of Duteni Tours and Duteni Company Limited. PHOTO | COURTESY

What you need to know:

  • Having an educational background in business management and entrepreneurship, Ebonie always knew that she would one day become a business owner

Dar es Salaam. Some moments define a person’s life in its entirety. One of those moments was when Ebonie Mbeteni wrote on a paper ‘the day that someone told me what I could not do, where I could not go and what I could not be, that when I decided my hero would be me.’ She was nine years old.

Little did she know that such a note would inspire the birth of her business empire.

She is the founder and chief executive officer of Duteni Tours and Duteni Company Limited.

She is also the vice chairperson of the board of directors at the American Chamber of Commerce in Tanzania.

She wrote this self-affirmation to remind herself that she can be whoever she wants to be. Ms Mbeteni’s career journey in tourism began with her love for adventure in different countries across the world.

She met her Tanzanian husband in America and the two lovebirds both loved travelling.

She visited Tanzania for the first time in 2009 after she started a family and during her time in Tanzania, she began sharing her memories and experiences on social media.

Alongside her family, she travelled to seven other countries across the world, including South Africa, Germany, Paris and Eswatini.

Her camera kept on recording different experiences that raised curious eyebrows.

Ebonie’s friends and family who desired to travel to African countries began to reach out and ask her how she did it and if she could help with their trips to those countries she visited.

“That was the beginning of Duteni Tours. I started facilitating trips to Africa, specifically Tanzania, from the US. When I noticed the number of requests to arrange those trips was increasing, I decided to turn it into an official business,” she narrates.

In 2020, when Tanzania, as she puts it, ‘went viral’, people started to reach out to her for Ebonie to facilitate their trips to Zanzibar and Serengeti.

She arranged several packages and itineraries to suit the tastes of the visitors. She was still based in the US at the time.

“I was already travelling to Tanzania for over 10 years at the time and had made a lot of connections, so whenever our guests would arrive, they would have people on the ground to do everything in terms of accommodations and tour guiding,” she details.

Her services began getting noticed in 2020 through the reviews on Google. This motivated Ebonie to formalise the business.

She relocated with her family from the US to Tanzania in 2021 and set up a business in tourism in Dar es Salaam, where her husband was born and raised.

Having an educational background in business management and entrepreneurship, Ebonie always knew that she would one day become a business owner, even though she did not know that it would be in tourism.

“My father was a lawyer and years ago, he opened his law practice. With my educational background and experience, I helped him open his law practice and also worked for him on and off for 10 years. On the other hand, I was also a stay-at-home mother for 13 years while I was also running several businesses, one of which was a successful clothing business,” she recalls.

In this clothing business, Ebonie was managing over 200 employees and making about $10,000 per month.

Her father got pancreatic cancer and Ebonie chose to close her business so that she could take care of him until the last minute.

He passed away in 2018 and in 2019, Ebonie and her husband chose to move back to Tanzania with their children. Then the coronavirus pandemic happened. So they postponed.

In 2021, Ebonie, her husband and three children eventually moved back to Tanzania. Her tourism business inspired Ebonie to open a corporate company with the same name, ‘Duteni’.

This came as a result of the clients she interacts with in the tourism company, most of whom are directors, vice presidents, and executives from the US.

They would often ask questions about private transportation, corporate capacity building and the work environment in Tanzania.

“I had already started to develop solutions to challenges I came across in the corporate culture in Tanzania. Those kinds of questions led me to provide services that cater to the needs of some of those challenges, such as private corporate transportation, even though it was on a small scale,” she narrates.

“Through that, some of the clients I served requested additional services, such as real estate. That is when I launched Duteni Company Limited,” she adds.

Ebonie explains that her motivation is aligned with the saying ‘be the change you want to see in the world’, whereas she has always been ambitious.

“A lot of times I had to make a personal decision to either permanently or temporarily close a business that I developed as a sacrifice to tend to something or someone important to me.

A good example is my father. There reached a time when I asked myself, ‘when would it be my turn’, but one of the challenges I faced was the constant acceptance of the path that my life took,” she details.

Ebonie further says, “I knew I could not give up because I always knew that I had more to offer the world. Life taught me that there are many layers to Ebonie. Such acceptance taught me to trust the process and the rest is history. I love what I do and my contribution to the tourism industry in both Tanzania and the world.”

She emphasises that women should be supported financially because they are the centre of life itself.

“Women think differently and from a broad perspective. It is time the world realised and stood by that,” she says.