Q & A | beth santos + erin goodman

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BETH SANTOS, FOUNDER + CEO OF WANDERFUL

Q: When did you realize you could create your business as a sole source of income? What was your “fallback” (Plan B) until that point?

B: In a perfect world, I would have had a thriving business before I let go of my day job. That was the plan, anyway. Reality is less perfect — I was struggling to make two incredibly validating full-time jobs (my "day job" and by "business" if you will) work, and I had to make a choice. Luckily, I was young and still pretty malleable, so my fallback plan was fluid, doing whatever it took to make ends meet. I did a lot of freelancing. I taught a blogging class. I even refinished furniture and sold it on Craigslist (yes, I did!). They say entrepreneurs jump out of planes and build their parachute on the way down, and that's pretty much what I did.

Q: What advice would you give someone who is considering getting into the tech-travel industry?  

B: Travel tech is hard, really hard. It's an absolutely fascinating, booming industry. It's also surrounded by thousands of failed startups. My advice is to talk to as many people as possible and hone deeply into product-market fit as early as you can. Make sure there's a real need for what you're doing — not just a vitamin, but medicine for a pain.

Q: Is having your businesses be a “women-only” focus an absolute? Has there been any backlash?  

B: We are built by and for women, but anyone is welcome to join us if they find value in what we do.  We are about building a supportive, kind, global sisterhood and filling an absence that many travelers feel around the world.

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ERIN GOODMAN, FOUNDER OF cubaConnect

Q: When did you realize that you could create your business as a sole source of income? What was your “fallback” (Plan B) until that point?

E: I realized that working with adults is not too different from working with college-aged students. I thought that it would be fun to design learning programs for people that would engage them in a fun yet informative way with Cuban people, especially at a time when relations are very strained between our two countries. At the same time, after about a decade of being a literary translator in my free time and having a couple of books get published, I realized that I wanted to dedicate more time and energy to this. Today, in order to pay the bills, I accept both literary jobs (often unpaid, at least initially), and other translation projects such as academic articles, case studies, etc. I try to keep both my translation fees and the cost of my trips very accessible, which makes it challenging to generate enough income to keep the business growing. However, it’s a principle I’d like to stick by. I have found that doing more steady part-time work on the side is a good way to add routine and to have a small income flow. I worked part-time for three months while transitioning out of my full-time job and into becoming a full-fledged small business owner.

Q: What advice would you give someone who is considering getting into the tech-travel industry?

E: Come back to me in a year to see what I’ve learned! For now, my main takeaway has been the importance of collaboration. Though it’s very helpful to know a bit about digital content and social media, it’s equally useful to be on the radar of folks who can share content and who are likely more savvy than I am. I found attending Wanderful’s WITSx day-long conference quite helpful in this regard! There’s just not time in the day to do all of your own marketing while also generating content (in my case, organizing the trips and actually translating).

Q. Is having your businesses be a “women-only” focus an absolute? Has there been any backlash?

E: Attending a women’s college, and having experienced some gender-biased situations in my career, I have seen first-hand the importance of women helping women. Sharing experiences in a new place is a very powerful tool in getting to know other people and understanding their perspectives. In this way, travel is unparalleled. If I can bring together small groups of smart, independent women who may or may not know each other before engaging in the very different cultural context that is Cuba, I’ll be satisfied knowing that I am helping to foster ongoing relationships in a profound way, while also teaching people something about a fascinating place. No backlash so far —just people wondering if I’ll branch out (I’ll think about it, but women-focused travel will always be my priority!).


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