Sally Broom, Tripbod, Woman Entrepreneur

4840223When I was traveling in South Africa, I got an email from Sally Broom.  She had been following my travels on my blog and wrote that her travels to South Africa had left a mark on her.  She told me that she runs a company called Tripbod that connects visitors with like-minded locals to help them experience the real destination through the eyes of someone who lives there.  Would either Jessica or the both of us like to try out their services? 

I got on Tripod and played around for awhile asking Sally questions here and there over the next few days.  Eventually asking her if she had started the company by herself.  When she told me that she had I scheduled a time that we could talk.  Not surprising when we finally spoke she knows both Geoff and Julia at Editd where I have an investment as they all live in London.

Sally grew up in the Lake District of northern England.  So incredible beautiful there and Sally said there were tons of kids and lots of freedom.  She left to go to school at the University College in London.  Before going to UCL she did a gap year living in Madagascar doing marine research.  A gap year is big in England.  Everyone gets a student loan for that year but because she had always had a job mainly working as a waitress and she had been classically trained in music and sung at weddings and events so she had put away a decent amount of cash.  Even when going home at Christmas she would pickup a job a the local pub.  Good work ethic. 

UCL Is a very entrepreneurial school.  She majored in neuro and human sciences and considering going to law school after graduation.  The last day of her final exam she decided to take the money that she had saved and start an online business.  She launched which was a website designed to help young people taking a gap year plan their trip to do work overseas. 

The gap year is a very lucrative business rife with middle management companies being paid huge amounts of money that never go to the destination group ( the organization that the kids go work for ).  Sally was invited by the Guardian to write an article on this issue.  She uncovered how people were being ripped off and figured there had to be a better way. 

Sally began to connect people with local organizations that had been vetted and trusted to take volunteers.  When she made that connection kids were saving the $5000 that they were giving to the middleman.  Two girls were in the Phillipines called Sally to help them connect with an organization in Manilla.  She did and they took the $5000 they saved and gave it to the organization they were working with.  That money paid for 50 kids to go to school and one to have needed surgery.  She realized that she was on to something.

She began to connect visitors with like minded people.  She got involved with youth conferences to help kids refocus their lives outside of college.  Then she started to hear from the parents of these kids who would wonder if Sally knew someone in Rome that was local for their holiday.  She began to make more and more local contacts.  When you go somewhere when you know someone local the experience is totally different.  That is how Tripbod was created.

The travel industry is broken and I know I am seeing a variety of different sites and models trying to figure out what the next generation will look like.  When you travel to certain areas that are poor and the ability to get rid of the middle man and pay a local directly is empowering.  What Tripbod is doing is gathering a local army of volunteers.  Think Etsy for travel.  Each entrepreneur, in their local areas, create their own shop on Tripbod.  Each shop sets their own price based on what they will do from helping someone plan their trip, taking them somewhere special when they get there or just making reservations.  The website add 15% to the cost which they take for running the site and doing the diligence on the tripbods. 

Every local has to be approved and vetted by Tripbod.  Right now they have over 300 tripbods in over 80 countries worldwide.  The company has a team of six.  Liz Sutcliffe is Sally's co-founder who was with Rough Guides when they met.  They then found a tech co-founder, Pete Moran.  The founder of Rough Guides came in as a mentor and an angel investor put some money in too.  They also have an intern that is paid through UCL.  In essence they are boot strapped but will start to look for funding soon.  The next big opportunity is the Olympics that is coming to London in 2012. 

I love the whole concept.  Connecting travelers with on the ground experts in the local area they are traveling to.  Creating an army of entrepreneurial travel guides around the world is clever.  Loved speaking with Sally too.   She is super smart and loving the start-up world as she had taken her work ethic and experiences putting them to work to help others see the world in a different light.  Shaking up the travel industry at a local level. 



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