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How To Build a Social Enterprise in Tours and Activities with Zakia Moulaoui of Invisible Cities

Four years ago, Zakia Moulaoui founded a tour operator business with a difference. Her tour company Invisible Cities recruits, trains and hire tour guides who have been affected by homelessness, addiction, and other tough life circumstances.

In this candid and in-depth episode of Tourpreneur, the podcast for tour operators, we learn how to build a social enterprise in the tours and activities sector. 

This is not an interview with an academic or lecturer. In today’s episode, you will hear from an inspirational tour operator who started her own social enterprise with no cash nor any previous business experience. Since she started in Edinburgh, Zakia has now expanded into 5 British cities.

Zakia Moulaoui talks us through the highs and lows of starting, running and growing a social enterprise in the tour sector. 


“Like any other type of business. We trade, we make profit, we pay business tax and all of this, but at the same time, everything that we do is around social impact. 

So we support people and we put 100% of our profits into the social mission, which in our case is to support people who have experienced homelessness and break down the stereotypes that exist around homelessness .”

Zakia Moulaoui – Founder Invisible Cities.


What you will learn…

  • What exactly is a social enterprise?
  • That 100% of Invisible Cities profits support those who have experienced homelessness. 
  • What inspired Zakia to start a tour operator that helps the homeless?
  • How did she start a social enterprise tourism business from scratch?
  • Zakia reveals she had no business background and had no savings to start her business.
  • How she approached other individuals, companies, and organizations to invest in Invisible Cities.
  • Some of the most powerful advice she received from mentors.
  • How she approached those who had suffered from homelessness to consider joining her and becoming a tour guide.
  • How it is tough and ‘bloody hard’ at times to train tour guides who have suffered homelessness and/or addiction.
  • How they train tour guides.
  • What is their salary structure for their tour guides?
  • How Airbnb Experiences and Booking helped Invisible Cities.
  • How to give tough feedback to tour guides in a constructive way.
  • Why they expanded their tours into other cities.
  • Why Zakia called her Tour business Invisible Cities.
  • How Zakia deals with the stress and low moments of running a social enterprise tour operator. How she stays so motivated.
  • How did she build the Invisible Cities website?
  • Why they decided to stop building their own booking engine and work with FareHarbor.
  • Why they picked FareHarbor for their online tour bookings.
  • What channel gives her the most online bookings.
  • Why Tourpreneur Host Shane Whaley thinks Zakia should create an online course for those who want to build a social enterprise in tours/activities.
  • Words of wisdom for other tour operators.
  • And Much More!

Resources

Invisible Cities

Zakia Moulaoui

Zakia’s TEDx talk – Zakia Moulaoui shows us new perspectives and describes her work in changing the lives of those affected by homelessness. Her talk helps us think of the invisible people in our cities and see our cities and their people in different lights.

Why This Tour Company Employs Homeless People As Guides 

Invisible Cities hires tour guides affected by homelessness. Here, founder Zakia Moulaoui talks about the impact of giving someone “a first chance.”

Ladies who lunch: “Tour guiding gives people who have experienced homelessness a purpose in life” | The Social Enterprise Magazine.

In their shoes: Who better to show visitors around a city than those who know the streets intimately? – Big Issue Magazine

FareHarbor Booking Platform for Tour Operators

Arival Event for Tour Operators