Years ago when I started working on MindeloCaboVerde.com, I was on a mission to provide travelers with the information they needed to be able to travel around various islands of Cape Verde independently. I felt that although tourism on the islands of Sal and Boa Vista were a positive development, it was too much concentrated.
For me, the absolute power of Cape Verde as a tourist destination is it's diversity. This diversity is found when traveling to different islands of the country, to experience all it has to offer besides fantastic beaches. This also provides an opportunity for many other micro- and small businesses across various islands of Cape Verde, who can tap into a larger market thanks to tourists.
I think along the way I forgot a little bit about this mission I started a few years ago. It's time now to focus on that mission again, and I've been thinking about ways to do that. Through my organisation called Sonvela I'm launching the Sonvela Social Impact Investing program, which will allow me to invest in promising (young) Cape Verdean entrepreneurs. If you would like to join me, I'd love to hear from you.
Here, on the MindeloCaboVerde.com platform I'll be starting a series of stories & conversations with entrepreneurs from different islands, who are battling through the Covid-19 crisis and who are looking forward to the day that we can open our borders and welcome travelers from all over the world again.
Part 1: In this first interview we're visiting one of Cape Verde's most beautiful parts, the valley of Paúl. It's here, in the part called Cidade das Pombas, right along the stunning coast, that my friend Helga opened a new space just days before Covid-19 hit the country.
“My name is Helga and I'm 35 years old. I live in 'Pombas', where I run a tea house and restaurant called Cha d'Mot. I studied in Portugal and used to live in Mindelo on the island of São Vicente, but deciced to move here back in 2017. After spending an amazing holiday on the island of Santo Antão I was ready for a change, and felt that this move was something that I needed to do."
"I think I was in search of a certain quality of life that only this island could provide me. I felt stressed out living in the city of Mindelo, which is Cape Verde's second largest city. It still feels like things would not have gone well for me if I had not made this move. Of course there were plenty of obstacles right after moving here. While I kind of knew what I wanted to do, I made the move before having a job or project lined up."
"I worked on a few projects but I think I was in search for something for the future. That's when I started thinking about opening a tea house because herbs and other natural resources are a way of life for me. In my mind I could see myself opening up a place that would focus on bringing happiness to people."
"So I decided to participate in an event of the Tony Elumelu Foundation. The great experience led me to win a starting capital of $ 5000 to open my own place!"
"When I entered the competition I needed to work on a serious business plan and think about partnerships. This was very helpful for the process. So, at the end of 2019 I was ready for it when I found this fantastic space where I could open up. Because of the characteristics of the place I kind of pivoted the plan towards opening a restaurant and pizzeria. But always with the tea house concept and herbs in mind."
"I opened my doors on the 1st of February, only to close again on the 20th of March because of the Covid-19 crisis. We opened again on the 29th of May. What has kept me in business, is the fact that Chá d'Mót was not created as a place specially for tourists. The idea was always to have a nice mix of both local guests and visitors, and that's why we focus on the lovely local products (from various islands) we have so that Cape Verdeans can identify with what we do here."
"With everything that has happened this year, it feels as if we're only at 20% of things that I want to do and create. I call our place a laboratory, where there is always room for certain experiments to discover new things. I've received so much love from people that I know all over the world, people that tell me they can't wait to visit us."
"I also have a few very special partners that have done so much for us up until now. It all feels incredible, I'm very thankful for the support. Together we've been able to put up various cultural events, filled with music and art. And my doors will continue open for people who wish to participate."
"When I think about the future of Chá d'Mót, I think about growth and expansion. To me, we're not just a space, but a brand. This means that we could evolve to do many different things. I'm happy I've been able to create jobs. This is not to say that I'm helping people, it means we're helping each other. Together we all can achieve our individual dreams."
"With everything that foreign visitors can see, taste and experience here, you can say that we're creating a place that allows people to share a piece of Cape Verde with the rest of the world. With the crisis, we're using the time to create an even better experience for everyone who will visit us soon."