The following is a guest post from Esc member Neal Carter-James. 

For those thinking of starting a business, take heed, there’s a roller­coaster journey ahead of you with some surprising destinations. It’s not for the faint-­hearted -­ but wow, what a ride; mine has led me from rural africa, via Italy to Stand-­Up-Paddling in the Swiss lakes. It’s not quite as random as it sounds, underpinning all the ventures we’re involved in are 4 core principles, but more about that later.

But to the story of our journey, proving that with steely determination, a soft heart and unfailing passion anything is possible.

Amy and I met at university. We’d sit with a bottle of wine and put the world to rights. We were acutely aware of the opportunities we have in the UK after seeing poverty Iirst hand on our travels. There was nothing we couldn’t do and we wanted to make a difference. But how? Somehow the solution seemed simple; we’d build a hotel that would lift a region out of poverty and inspire the rest of the industry to shape up and do their bit too.

Taking the plunge…

So, the decision was made. It took us just under 10 minutes. A quick “for” and “against” list and an ever growing belief that nothing could stop us! We wrote a business plan, did some calculations, shook out our own piggy banks, and infected a few kind, wealthy people with our passion.


We looked for somewhere special; spectacular tourism potential but next to extreme poverty. Northern Mozambique seemed perfect – and when we stepped onto the beach in Guludo we realised we were right. A breath-­taking 12km white beach squeezed next to pristine African bush. A moonlit meeting with the community elders quickly ensued and under the bright light of a full moon, we had made an agreement and the community asked, “when can you start”. That was our beginning.

The Airst Product

Several years and an occasionally turbulent ride later, Guludo Beach Lodge ( opened and welcomed its Iirst guests. What a sight to see. A young, inexperienced couple trying not to imitate Basil Fawlty, surrounded by local staff getting to grips with a strange language and the fact that there should be more than one fork at the dinner table! A recipe for chaos surely? No. Never underestimate the power of a beautiful Mozambican smile to make all of the wrongs right.

In the Community

The Nema Foundation was next; a charitable arm to empower communities to eradicate poverty. With life expectancy at 38yrs, food shortages and little access to safe water, there was a lot to do. Projects centering around water, education, health and food security; today this work has transformed the lives of over 24,000 people, through a network of inspiring local staff and volunteers.

Importance of Success

The urgency for success was not just to secure our investment or for the future of the local communities but to use Guludo to shake up the industry. Change the way tourism was viewed. Both inspire and shame hotels to do more. And so, from that little lodge in Northern Mozambique, a leader in responsible tourism was born.

The Next Generation

Numerous awards for Guludo and Nema followed and Thin Cats Thinking ( -­ our consultancy – made its appearance. Hired by many of the top, leading brands in the industry, Thin Cats Thinking continued the work that Guludo and Nema had started, just on a larger scale. The big players were listening and changing. Our reputation grew.

New Ventures

New projects have appeared that we’ve got involved with. Tribewanted ( -­ cross cultural community building is one of them. Crowd funding real life communities. Global Angels ( a charity with donations going directly to the partners on the ground another. Both pioneering and breaking new ground, showing first hand what can be achieved if the will is there.

Stand Up

And now digressing into other sectors too. Stand Up Paddling (SUP). The fastest growing water sport in the world. Stood on an oversized surf board with a paddle, discovering oceans, lakes and rivers from another perspective.

Quite a shift from African philanthropy I know but after looking at the brand, C4 Waterman (, it really caught my attention. THE pioneering SUP brand, based on four core principles -­ Balance, Endurance, Strength and Tradition. Four principles that have been at the very heart of everything I have done over the last ten years. These principles resonate so strongly with me, I firmly believe they will be at the core of all successful businesses in the future. It just shows that a change in direction doesn’t have to compromise your true values – it’s just another way to look at them.

Escape the City are helping people to build these types of businesses too, ones with strong core values. They are one themselves, as are Guludo, C4 Waterman, Thin Cats and Tribe Wanted. These values should be part of your DNA; something to pass on to others.

A Way to Esc

As ESC members, benefit from an exclusive offer from C4 Waterman Europe to get you onto the water. See the world from a DIFFERENT perspective. View the offer here and make sure to quote “ESC with Core 4 values”.

We look forward to seeing you on the water and to what that inspires you to do…

Share This