Raise your hand if you, like me, have ever scrolled through your Instagram feed and all-but-drooled over photos of epic scenery in the far reaches of the world. Don’t be shy, I too am raising my hand.
Now raise your hand if you’ve ever dreamed of quitting your day job, ditching the fluorescent-lit-office life and business clothes, and traveling to some of those epic destinations for a living. Again, my hand is raised!
Meet Coach Cass
Enter Cassandra Nuamah (Cass). She may not be able to help you with ditching that gawd-awful cubicle. But, I assure you, she can definitely get you some prime photo-ops to juice up that humdrum instagram feed of yours! Cass, along with her mother, is the co-founder and co-owner of ‘Africa With Us’, a travel company that curates group tours to countries within the African continent.
When I first met Cass back in 2014, she was curating annual trips to only one location: the country of Ghana in West Africa. Now, almost six years later, her tour business has grown to include several more destinations: Morocco, Zambia,Tanzania, and Kenya, to name only a few.
How did Cass expand her business exponentially within just five years? One phenomenon that may have helped is that past participants return and book multiple tours with the company year after year. During a recent chat, I asked Cass to share with me some insights about starting a travel company as a woman of color, and how the Africa with Us travel experience is unique.
The Africa With Us Experience
“It’s the community aspect of the experience,” Cass tells me. That’s what makes the Africa With Us travel experience so special. “It’s about US. ‘Us’ meaning: Travel with Us, Eat with Us, Be one of Us. We’re like a family when we’re out there. Always having fun.”
In five years, she’d like to expand her tour business to include at least 25 more locations within the continent of Africa. “You know most Americans only know about five countries in [Sub-Saharan] Africa? Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, Ghana, and Ethiopia. But there are so many more countries than that! I guess it kind of makes sense” Cass says, “since most Africans probably wouldn’t be able to name all of the American states, either. It’s just different cultural reference points.”
Fittingly dubbed “Coach Cass” for her fitness and wellness-centric brand, Cass is not only a travel guide and business owner but also a certified fitness coach and nutrition expert. Cass, who has been teaching dance since college, learned the craft from her mother. “She’s a legend,” Cass gushes.
Cass’s mom, Kukuwa, founded a self-named dance movement over 30 years ago. “I was actually born while my mother was dancing. [She went into labor] while she was teaching a class.” When Cass travels she incorporates elements of fitness into the tour’s daily itinerary. Whether it be through a Kukuwa dance morning workout or a 5k that Cass recently ran while traveling through
*Kukuwa in Swahili (Kukua) means “to be” and in the Ghanian tribal language means “born on Wednesday.”
I asked Cass about her favorite place to visit. “It’s hard because I have a favorite thing in every place I visit. But if we’re talking Africa specifically, I’d have to say my favorite in terms of beaches and beauty are the Seychelles and Zanzibar.”
For food Cass prefers Ghana “no place like home” and her favorite safari is Chobe National Park in Botswana. She loves Durban, South Africa for day party vibes and tells me that Kenya, Tanzania, Ghana and Uganda are the best for dance, fitness and community service.
As for her most memorable moment: “dancing with over 500 Zambian children in the village. [It brought] unexplainable joy to my soul.”
This year, Africa With Us has teamed up with Girltrek, an organization spearheading a health movement with the mission of inspiring women to exercise by taking daily walks. The two companies, will host a series of journeys designed to trace the transatlantic slave trade.
“Girltrek is taking 150 Black women on an epic journey across the African Diaspora to learn the healing traditions of our foremothers,” reads Girltrek’s website. This year marks 400 years since the first African woman was enslaved. For Girltrek and Africa With Us this epic and tragic anniversary is an opportunity to revisit African history in a meaningful way.
The women-only journeys start this November when the first group will touch down in Ghana. Soon after tours to Kingston, Jamaica; Bahia, Brazil; Savannah, Georgia and the Gullah Sea Islands; and New Orleans, Louisiana will take place. Each tour has space for 25 women and will be led by Coach Cass herself.
Advice for Travel Entrepreneurs
Cass didn’t finish our interview up without imparting a bit of wisdom for those of us with entrepreneurial ambitions. If you’re looking to take your first steps into either business ownership or the travel industry Cass has some wisdom to share:
First start with what you know; if you know a country start there. Plan an informal trip with family and friends at the beginning, advises Cass.
When someone tells you it’s not possible it’s only because it’s not possible for them, not for you. Keep going!
Don’t talk about your plans. Instead, write them down and make actual schedules to make them real.
Always remember your ‘why’ when you get discouraged, because you will get discouraged.
Find your strengths and do that/those thing(s) well. Then, delegate your weak areas to others that you know can do those things well.
It meant a lot for me to be able to pick Cass’ brain for all the better part of an hour. I’ve admired her for a long time. I mean, to me anyone who’s doing what they love EVERY DAY is definitively Living the Dream. And is, therefore, aspirational.
I hung up the phone from my interview with Coach Cass feeling fully motivated and empowered. Her story rekindled a bit of the ‘entrepreneur’ fire in me; stay tuned to see what it brings about!