HOW CAN WE PREPARE OURSELVES mentally and physically to break ground on our very first business venture? Travel gives us some pivotal answers. I got first-hand advice from three young, remarkable business women in Silicon Valley, whose passion for the adventures of travel lead to successful and profitable startups.
1. Take initiative.
Deciding where to eat, sleep and what to see in a place you’ve never been before can be hectic and stressful. Esther Pun, a former corporate lawyer and human rights activist, recalls the beginning of her travels, when she waited for a fairy godmother to appear out of thin air and do her trip planning for her. She soon realized that no mythical creature was coming to the rescue, and that it was entirely up to her to step up to solve the problem of a million browsers coming at you with enticing offers. She created Tripcipe, the ultimate trip planner.
The truth is that in business, much like in travel, nobody will hold your hand. Those who make it to the tallest peaks and into the cutthroat startup world are the brave souls who are tired of wishing for something great to happen and carry out an innovative idea themselves.
2. The internet is your friend.
Growing up in 1990s secluded Vietnam under a US-imposed embargo, Huong Tran could only dream of trekking the Grand Canyon or watching the sunset over the Golden Gate bridge. So she went on virtual tours of Paris and Barcelona through the Internet, which she would later go on in real life. Huong explains that we’d be missing out if we didn’t take advantage of the infinite pool of information that is the World Wide Web both in travel and in business.
Before committing your time and money to a project, you have to know your audience, its needs and what problem you can solve that no one has done yet. Whether you’re looking for the cheapest route from Boston to Bali or starting a female travel club, research is a powerful ally. Thorough preparation helped Huong create Magpie, an exclusive club for women, which aims to bring adventuristas together and offer support at any point in the world.
3. Go out.
Most of us travel to seek inspiration. Whether you connect with your creative flow in a crowded café in Prague or on the trails of Yosemite, movement and new scenery are the ultimate stimulants for the traveler and entrepreneur. Quitting her job to go on a round-the-world trip, Sasha Cox found solace in Bolivia, where a business idea hit her like a sack of bricks: so many girls don’t know how to camp. She began offering camping lessons to friends and family, with a strong emphasis on women, in an effort to reject the notion that camping is a predominantly male venture.
It wasn’t long before her small business expanded into the profitable venture that is Trail Mavens. The company not only offers wonderful outdoor escapes for urban women, but also educates and builds a whole new skill set of confidence, leadership and self-sufficiency, leaving no harmful ecological trace behind.
4. Talk to people.
“You don’t have to have the means to travel the whole world, you have to be willing to learn,” advocates Huong Tran.
5. Be bold or broke. It’s your choice.
“If you had asked me whether I would have started my own business before I began traveling, I would have said ‘hell no!’” Sasha Cox sees travel as a rite of passage, helping us figure out what we want to do and gain the courage to actually go for it.
“Travel brings the inner courage that’s already there,” Cox adds, explaining that once you find your passion there’s no way you’ll idly sit back instead of pursuing it with everything you’ve got.
6. Be present.
With the risk of sounding like your yoga guru repeating “stay in the moment” over and over again, in order to start a successful business out of nothing, you have to be aware of your every step in order to plan the next. Sasha says that it was on the road where she finally achieved a state of consciousness that would help her strategize and prioritize not only her next camping expedition, but also the building blocks of Trail Mavens.
7. Be open to the different.
Studying in Singapore on a scholarship, Huong saw people unlike her own for the first time. The mix of Buddhists, Christians and Hindus was just one of the many aspects that were very strange to her, and she soon realized that becoming culturally-sensitive and dropping all judgment of the unfamiliar was the only way to deal. As a startup entrepreneur, you’ll constantly be learning the mechanics of business as you go and your willingness to accept unconventional ideas and advice is essential to making it big.