When I caught wind of what travel720 was doing, I immediately sent a little Tweet to founder Jennifer Thomas to pick her brain on her awesome new startup. You see, travel720 is the platform that is helping students study abroad by helping them raise money for the trip and share their experience with donors along the way. It’s no secret that I have a serious case of wanderlust – in fact I’m currently writing this article in Bogota’s international airport – so any platform that will help send students abroad is alright with me. Jennifer was kind enough to share why travel720 is so killer, why studying abroad is so important for students, and why she thinks entrepreneurship is a lifestyle.
Tell us a little more about what inspired travel720 and what makes it so awesome.
In 2004 I took my first trip abroad to Portugal. It was the most amazing experience, but my budget was set at $800 which gave me 3 days to frantically run around Lisbon with my best friend from high school. The flight home was miserable as I kept thinking that $100 would let me stay a few more days. My birthday and Christmas were only a few months away, I’m sure I could’ve raised some money that way… Eureka! What if I could create a gift registry meets K-mart layaway solution. Save, raise and pay over time. Travel can be affordable for everyone and travel720 makes it possible by helping students to get creative and take an active role in reaching their budget goals. It’s not about asking for money, it’s about sharing the journey. Inviting your friends and family to experience something amazing right alongside you.
I feel fortunate to have such an amazing team: my technical co-founder Greg Williams, design co-founder Veronika Goldberg, advisors Michael Pottern & Kristi Leach and everyone else who has helped along the way are ingredients of the recipe that makes us so awesome. Another important component comes from when I talk to people who traveled in college, I ask them where they visited and every time their faces light up and I pause when they respond because in that instant they’re flooded with the memories of their experience. Our passion is spurred by knowing travel720 will play a part in helping to create these moments.
What makes travel720 different from the competition?
When we think of what makes us different, there are several aspects, but one that is really important is that raising money is stressful, for anyone. It’s important for us to design a space that encourages program participants in their journey towards meaningful travel. We’re building a community where you can enjoy sharing your excitement without feeling like you’re asking for a handout.
Why do you think traveling and studying abroad are so important for students?
You can have the most extraordinary teachers and the best written books but you can only learn so much from the classroom. The best way to understand our world is to travel and experience it first hand. Meeting new people, learning languages, being surrounded by other cultures and savoring local cuisine – the impact is life changing.
What’s your favorite travel quote?
There are so many great quotes; how to even choose! I recently read an article by Jill Robinson at Greenheart Travel that resonated with me personally. “The most difficult part of the journey is believing that you will commit.” It’s all about changing your view from ‘IF’ to ‘I WILL’ because when you believe you WILL then anything is possible!
Got any great bootstrapping tips for the lean startups out there?
I love the lean approach in that you can validate your idea enough over 4-8 weeks to see if it’s worth your time (and money). Once you decide to move forward and start a business, it takes true dedication. You’ll be tempted to give up, things will get hard. Bootstrapping requires patience and more time that you first thought was necessary, but it can be well worth it! Summed up, I’d say “Keep On Truckin’!”
Can you share a memorable travel experience with us?
One of my favorite places to visit is Zihuantanejo, Mexico (as seen in the movie Shawshank Redemption). In December 2010, my boyfriend and I visited family for the holidays and planned a trip to Zihua for New Years Eve. We began our journey at 4am the day after Christmas and due to leaving room for spontaneity along the way (i.e. not purchasing a bus ticket ahead of time from Mexico City), we didn’t arrive to our destination until 28 hours later – twice our estimation.
While it was quite exhausting and could have easily been avoided, we had an experience that was pleasantly unexpected. The journey really is the destination! Taking buses let us travel through the countryside, tested our conversational Spanish, and we experienced first hand how many locals travel regularly. By the time we arrived at our hotel, we already had such an adventure and story to share that it only enhanced the rest of our stay. We just booked another trip back to Zihua for NYE this year; this time we’re flying direct, but we made sure to leave a little room for spontaneity.
Biggest startup challenge you weren’t expecting and how did you handle it?
The time spent learning. Having an idea that you think is great, designing a logo and printing business cards does not automatically put you on a successful startup path. I believe entrepreneurship as a lifestyle. It’s part of who you are and it requires you to constantly be in a state of learning and action. I expect to always struggle but my confidence continues to grow. I’ve also become much better at research and keeping the right people close.
If you were stranded on an island what three essential items would you like to have and why?
Duct tape – proved essential by MacGyver & MythBusters. I’d also need my Kindle with an unlimited supply of power & downloads. Lastly, and probably most importantly, I’d bring my best friend in life, Sean, and hope that his essential items include a knife, food, and a boat!
Best startup advice you ever received?
Remain forever determined. Which is a combination of resilience and drive. Resilience keeps you from being pushed backwards. Drive moves you forwards. (thanks Jessica Livingston & my friend Jordan Leigh)
Where can our readers reach out to you?
If you’re participating (or think you want to) in a meaningful travel program, sign up at travel720.com. Organizations that would like to learn more about our partnership program can email me directly at jennifer.thomas [at] travel720.
Thanks Jennifer! I wish there was a platform like travel720 when I was studying abroad every other semester in college. I had to do it the old-fashioned way by sales-pitching family members and student loans. My amazing adventures abroad… worth it.
Courtesy of startup founder | travel720