Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
TheTravelSecret gives you access to pricing on travel that is not available to the public. Membership automatically gives you access to our platform where you can book hotels, cars, cruises, flights, vacation rentals, homes, activities and even travel insurance at a discount. Unused timeshare inventory is also made available to our members where you can book weeklong stays for a steep discount at more than 500,000 different properties around the world.
We serve a wide array of demographics, from solo travelers to large families across all ages. Since you can basically book anything that you book right now, even business owners are now starting to use the platform to save money on travel.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
My previous business was a consulting business for companies looking to outsource their call center operations. While I appreciated this experience, I found it difficult to build and maintain client relationships. Because of this, I was always on the lookout for a more meaningful career. What I had always wanted to be a business that could really change peoples lives and hearing stories from our clients now when they come back from their trips really feels good, especially when you enable someone to make that trip of a lifetime or a dream trip they had always wanted to do with their kids. Hearing those stories is what keeps us going to this day.
While on vacation in Puerto Vallarta, I had the opportunity to attend a timeshare presentation in exchange for a $2,000 discount on my hotel stay. While the discount was nice, the whole experience of sitting through the presentation and the sticker shock I got when they offered me the timeshare for $60,000 was not.
When I left, I thought to myself, wouldn’t it be nice to get the same $2,000 discount on EVERY trip I take without having to sit through these presentations? If the hotel has the ability to hand out those discounts to presentation attendees, there must be other hidden discounts as well.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
My existing contacts and experiences in the hospitality and travel industries were very helpful when doing research. This is when I learned about Rate Parity and all the different ways in which travel is priced, then I got access to those prices and launched our own portal.
Some of the deals we were able to get for friends and family saved them thousands of dollars, in just one trip! I myself had taken my family of 5 for a full week vacation (again to Puerto Vallarta) for just $500 for the whole week (not including flights), saving me almost $4,000! Our first sales were to those friends and family, but once we started utilizing Facebook, that is when things really started to happen.
Describe the process of launching the business.
In the beginning, I was working on TheTravelSecret part-time while also working on my other business. During this time, I was using personal savings to pay for what I needed. Once I saw that this could be valuable for many people, I decided to go full-time.
I want TheTravelSecret to be the one-stop-shop for everything related to travel and beyond that, I want to help people travel more for less money. At the end of the day, those memories are more valuable than any amount of money. They are memories that last a lifetime!
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Our biggest sales today come from Facebook Ads, but we are currently breaking into other marketing channels.
My advice is to always be on the lookout for new, creative ideas and don’t be afraid to employ an omnichannel strategy. Yes, it will be difficult and yes, you will lose some money trying out those new ideas, but one of them might be the key to unlock your exponential growth.
So don’t settle and always look for new ways to drive traffic to your business. Also, you don’t want to have all of your eggs in one basket, so always diversify where your traffic is coming from and never forget to work on the long-term organic traffic sources as well.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
In the two years since the company was created, we have gained close to 1,000 members and booked more than 4,500 reservations on our system. We want to take the company to 10,000 active users in the coming years, which is going to take a massive push from everybody on our team.
We are all very passionate about what we do and we love coming to work every day. Customer service is one of our highest priorities, and it is one of the things we pride ourselves on. At the same time, we work tirelessly to make sure our own employees are happy and enjoying this journey.
This is more than a job for us, we consider ourselves a family and we treat everyone as such. I know that I cannot take this company to where I want it to be alone, and I will need the help of our whole team. Having a cohesive and unified vision makes that much easier.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
When first starting out, you will quickly realize that you cannot do everything yourself. You are not the best at every aspect of your business, so finding good, reliable people to support you in those areas will make a huge difference. This does not mean delegating tasks and forgetting about them. In fact, it can be extremely helpful to keep a close eye and see how it is done so that you will have that knowledge in the future.
This was an expensive lesson I had to pay when I tried to hire an agency to handle my Facebook Ads. Now that I’ve learned how to do it myself, I have someone in-house who handles it, but I have much better control over our spend because “I’ve been there and done that”, which if you think about it, also helps when you are looking to hire someone for the job!
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
Our favorite apps are :
Slack: This is where the entire company communicates with each other. We like having a record of discussions and requests that we can go back to if need be. Also, it has countless integrations, so you can use it for thousands of things.
HelpScout: This is an amazing ticketing/customer service platform that we use for all of our customer service trackings. They have a seamless onboarding process and would highly recommend them.
AirCall: This is our business phone system and is great for remote employees because you can coach agents remotely and even whisper into their ear to help them on calls. Great for sales and customer service calls.
Zapier: This is my number one of all time. The best invention ever. If you like automation, this is your thing. It is the connector between all your operations and helps you automate hundreds of mundane tasks that you would otherwise have to do manually. We have automated 80% of our processes and the system is flawless.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
Some of my favorite books:
- The Four Agreements - Don Miguel Ruiz
- 10% Happier - Dan Harris
- The Lean Startup - Eric Ries
- Never Split the Difference - Chris Voss
- Grit - Angela Duckworth
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
My advice for someone just starting out would be to just go for it. Countless ideas have been forgotten about because they were never acted on, and we will never know how many of those could have changed the world. You will never know if you do not at least try.
We live in a world where it is easier than ever to get real-life feedback on your ideas and see if they are viable or not, so you can conduct that initial research quickly. Do not wait until your idea is ‘perfect’ because it never will be. The best ideas are constantly changing and adapting to new information.
The game is an adaptation. You will figure it out as you go, but you need to get started. Take the first step.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
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