In this week’s segment of YabaCitizen, we got to talk with the popular tourist and CEO of Tourmate, Adaeze Vanessa Nnanna (@adatheexplorer). She reminisced about her childhood, the genesis of Tourmate Tourist Agency and her career as a lawyer. Enjoy the piece.
Tell us about your Childhood. What was growing up like?
Growing up was fun. I have 5 sisters and I’m the first so naturally, I had a lot of responsibilities. But that did not stop me from exploring. I played a lot as child. My parents always to took us out to have fun, so maybe that’s part of the reasons why I am very outgoing.
I attended Ladybird Nursery & Primary School, Gbagada. The proprietress was a German woman so our curriculum was very different and extensive. I studied history and geography in Primary school. Very odd, I know. I really loved Geography back then and would always go back home to study our atlas with all the continents and countries in the world. Now, there’s hardly anywhere I know nothing about. That is probably why my friends call me “The Map”.
I went ahead to attend Yaba College of Technology Secondary School and from there, I studied Law at the University of Lagos. So, you can see that my whole life has always been around Yaba, Lagos. I had to run to Abuja for my Law School program just to live somewhere else. I still live in Yaba now.
Where did you serve and what did you do post-NYSC?
I served in Kano state but redeployed to Ogun state after the 3 weeks camping experience. I worked remotely for a law firm in Abeokuta while also working as an intern in Airtel HQ, Banana Island, Lagos.
I left Airtel after one year. I could have stayed back but I was not in a good place at the time. I also had plans to go for my Master’s degree abroad but things did not work out as planned. So, I stayed back without a job for 4 months until I got a job at American Tower Corporation (ATC Nigeria) in 2017. I have worked there ever since. Most people don’t know I work a 9-5 job as well as running my business, but yes, I do.
What do you love about Yaba?
I’ve lived in Yaba almost all my life so I would say it feels like home to me. Whenever I go to the Island and come back, once I descend from Third Mainland Bridge into Adekunle, in my mind I’m already thanking God for bring me back home safely. Also, Yaba is calm and bougie. Just like everywhere in Lagos, we have some rough parts but most of it is just peaceful. We can now boast of several eateries and restaurants that used to be exclusive to the Island and Ikeja. Rent is very affordable, and we have the best schools here. Also, Yaba is the centre of Tech startups in Nigeria. You can even Google Yabacon Valley and you’ll see that its growing as Nigeria’s technology hub which steadily attracts angel investors. What’s there not to love about Yaba? (giggles).
What changes would you like to see in Yaba and what are those things you would not want to be retouched?
I would like Yaba to have more fun places to visit. So that people can come and chill here from all over Lagos. We also need to improve our standards in order for that to happen. More importantly, our roads need to be expanded, especially the major ones. This is so that we can have less traffic and people won’t associate coming to Yaba with sleeping in traffic all day.
I would not want the government to relocate any of our educational, research and medical institutions to anywhere else in Lagos. They are really our pride.
Tell us about your journey into Tourism, the concept of Tourmate and @adatheexplorer.
During my 4 months in between jobs, I thought hard about what I wanted to do with my life. As I was applying for jobs and going for interviews, I was also researching about starting a business. I knew I did not want to buy and sell goods, so it had to be a service-based business. I think what moved me to start Tourmate by Ada the Explorer was that everytime I went somewhere and did sometime new, people would always send me DMs to ask about it. So, I thought to myself, “why give out free information when I could make profit from this?”. My friend, Ope and I brainstormed about the name to use, services to offer etc, and then we went on our first tour to Omu resort in 2017. I named myself “Ada the explorer” after Dora the Explorer, the cartoon character. So that was how it started.
You are a lawyer too. Tell us what aspects of law you practice and how do you juggle law and tourism?
I am a corporate commercial lawyer. Simply put, I work as an in-house counsel for ATC Nigeria where I draft and review legal contracts. As soon as I started Tourmate by Ada the Explorer in 2017, I got this job and I struggled with which one to choose. But I didn’t want to be in the situation I was when I left Airtel with no Plan B so I decided to do both at the same time. It has been hectic but I am passionate about both law and tourism so I have been able to make it work, by God’s grace.
I concentrate on my 9-5 job on weekdays and set out on tours during the weekends and on public holidays. I also make very good use of my 25 annual leave days. I have had some help in the past: friends, family, assistants, interns, to help me with anything I cannot attend to by myself. I have an intern at the moment and she has been exceptional.
What challenges have you encountered in your lines of work and how do you solve them?
I am naturally very impatient. And it used to affect my interpersonal dealings with work mates and friends. But I have learnt to manage it. I would say that running a business was the best thing to happen to me as it has really shaped my character. To a large extent, I am better able to manage people and relationships both at work and socially.
What has been your achievements so far – personal and career wise?
Wow! Too many achievements to mention. I would say that every day I wake up and I am still in business, I count it as an achievement. People always reach out to me to thank me for something I wrote that helped them find a place or helped them have a fun weekend and it just warms my heart. That’s why I am still able to do the work I do.
Also, I have been interviewed several times, on TV, radio, podcasts and Instagram live shows. I have been selected as a brand influencer. I have given a presentation at KPMG on the importance of work life balance. I have given personal tours to high net-worth individuals from Nigeria and the UK. I have travelled to so many places and visited so many countries. I have also given back to the communities in these places I have traveled to, along with my Tourmates. All of these would not have been possible without Tourmate by Ada the Explorer and I am eternally grateful to God for allowing me to do what I love and impact people at the same time.
What are those things you do for fun?
I like to go dancing, so a good night out in the town or an owambe would do the trick! I also love eating out, there’s hardly any new restaurant in Lagos and Abuja that I don’t try out. I have a list of new restaurants to try and I always budget a sum out of my monthly salary dedicated to eating out and blogging about it. I also love a good massage session. I love to relax, so anything that helps me relax is my thing. Lastly, I always drag my friends out to explore with me. They are tired of me but discovering new places is definitely tops on the list of things I do for fun.
Are there any upcoming events from Tourmate?
Yes! We always have upcoming tours. Although, the Covid situation is really hindering us but we still try to do local tours, hangouts and experiences. I will share the calendar for 2021 with you. Thanks.
The month of March is meant for celebrating women world over. Is there a way Tourmate makes it special?
Absolutely! Everyone that knows me knows I am a feminist and I always advocate for women everyday. We always have an International Women’s Day brunch annually around the 8th of March. It’s called Girls That Brunch (GTB). It is a networking event where ladies come together to network, eat, drink laugh, play games, take pictures and encourage one another. We also always have special guests of honour to talk to us about how to navigate through life being a woman in the 21st century, especially being a working woman. All our crew are also always female, starting from the DJ to the violinist to the photographer to the masseuse and the waitresses. It is always an eventful experience.
Do you have any regrets? / If you could start all over again, what would you do differently?
I made it a principle a very long time ago not to regret anything. So, I do not have any regrets. However, if I could start all over again, I would focus on scaling my business faster rather than trying to accumulate friends. If you are not careful in business, friends would pull you down with debts and negativity. You have to be focused and remember why you started.
What’s the biggest factor that has helped you to be successful?
My tenacity. I do not quit and I do not take no for an answer. Also, my biggest fear is failure. I often wonder what people will say if I don’t succeed so I try my best to keep pushing so that I would succeed. I am not where I want to be yet but I have come a long way and I know I’ll get there. The only difference between where I am and where I want to be is time.
It’s funny how I got this interview simply because I wrote about some new spots I discovered in Yaba. I have been writing about many things since January and nothing came of it. So, to the Youths, I’d say, keep doing that thing you’re doing. Consistency will definitely lead you to success.
To the government (sigh), I just hope they get the courage to resist evil and do the right things.