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How Kenyan Entrepreneur Naomi Ogutu Runs High-End Tours in New York

naomi ogutu
Written by Teresa Mwangi

When Naomi Ogutu left Kenya for New York City in the US in 2012, all she wanted was a better future for herself and her three children. What she did not know is that 12 years later, she would be the reason Kenyan and global travellers would spend top dollar to tour the famous city in America.

Ogutu has an amazing story of a self-made entrepreneur who had nothing but a desire and a dream to do things differently. As it would be, the Big Apple is the place where her dreams turned into reality.

How Did Kenyan Naomi Ogutu Start Life in New York?

Unforgettably, the famous Hudson River stirred a strong feeling of success whenever Naomi Ogutu crossed it. She wondered how she would make money legitimately from the droves of people who visit the city and cross the famous bridge.

All that Ogutu ever wanted was to turn around her fortunes in life. For this, she settled for a hailing cab job as her first step to making ends meet in America. What stunned her was the meticulous vetting and systems in place for every Uber driver in New York. It is not as easy to register and operate this business in New York City as it is in Nairobi and many other states in the US.

Naomi Ogutu

Kenyan entrepreneur Naomi Ogutu based in New York City. Photo/Naomi Ogutu

She attended an 8-hour class for three days at Master Cabi Academy where they teach the best practices of taxi drivers. The class involves lessons on customer service, financial management and New York’s geography. Lastly, there is a practical exam and a thorough inspection of the vehicle. Eventually, the Kenyan entrepreneur got a Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) license to operate in this city.

She committed herself to learning the unseen opportunities in this business and she had a lot of conversations with other Uber drivers. The mother of three researched a lot about the business and other opportunities arising from it but it was never easy.

Uber driving is male-dominated but it paid her well. Still, she felt troubled because it is also a high-risk job for a woman and this is what opened her eyes to new opportunities.

How Did Kenyan-Born Entrepreneur Naomi Ogutu Start a Company in New York?

Most clients whom she picked from JFK International Airport requested a tour of the city before heading to their main destinations. This birthed her idea of offering tour services in New York City.

“Every time I picked people from the airport, I would show them around New York, and they would marvel at my knowledge of the city. They would then request me to give them tours around the city, and that’s how the idea of sight-seeing tours began,” she told Business Daily Africa.

Already armed with an idea, she drove less as an Uber driver and spent more time in the conceptualization of her idea. Naomi Ogutu dedicated herself to exploring the city and learning as much as she could and here lay her goldmine to her dream ‘soft life’.

“I began minimising my driving for Uber, and most of my driving became sight-seeing. In 2018, I was fully in the business. I would give you my business card if you are a great client. If you needed tours, I would take you,” she narrates.

naomi ogutu

Kenyan entrepreneur Naomi Ogutu based in New York City. Photo/Naomi Ogutu

How Does Naomi Ogutu Run Her Tour Business in New York City?

Ogutu who also runs a car rental company, Naomi Cars NYC has a brand that her country people support greatly. Her business model involves tailored tours for her clients in New York.  She has six dedicated tour guides who take visitors to the five famous neighbourhoods of NYC popularly known as boroughs. They include Manhattan, Brooklyn, Staten Island, The Bronx and Queens.

Her tour packages are capped at 10 hours, each starting at 10 am and stretching into the evenings. For business travellers, she has a special package for a tour of New York’s Financial District which abounds with stock brokerage firms.

How Much Does it Cost to Tour New York With Naomi Ogutu?

Deep-pocketed clients part with $20,000 for a 14-day tour of four American States. The charges include accommodation in high-end hotels within these states. And for a touch of luxury, she charges a further $228 for a chartered, 15-minute helicopter ride for clients who wish to view New York from the sky. CNN’s Anderson Cooper is one of her high-profile clients.

Ogutu requires all her clients to pay upfront 48 hours for the tour. She says she adopted this model after running into losses after refunds, last-minute bookings and cancellations. Yet, the nature of her business is capital-intensive. The Kenyan-born entrepreneur is planning on purchasing a three-decker boat with a capacity of 300 people to ferry them across the Hudson River.

About the author

Teresa Mwangi

Teresa is a journalist with years of experience in creating web content. She is a wanderlust at heart, loves travelling and telling stories about tour and travel in Africa by every angle.

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