Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Ivan Saprov, Founder of Voyagu, located in San Francisco, CA, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
I'm the founder and CEO of Voyagu, an "Uber-like" travel management platform powered by self-developed, machine learning-based technology with a new-generation search engine. Voyagu connects premium travelers with travel advisors and suppliers to get personalized offerings cheaper than online prices, simplify trip booking, and provide quick access to human support. It also enables travel agents to increase revenue and replace time-consuming tasks with technology while finding fair offers. We started with the U.S. premium travel market because it is a rapidly growing segment and less volatile in value terms. Most of our clients have the time and financial resources for international travel, so the role of the travel advisor becomes more essential to help increase the quality of the travel experience. We are planning to expand to other market segments with time.
Tell us about yourself
As a former freelance journalist for a business newspaper and avid business enthusiast, I found my calling in the travel industry when I joined a young travel company in San Francisco as a managing partner. Through attending travel industry conferences, I saw the clear potential for technology to drive the industry's future and wanted to equip travel advisors with the tools to improve their workflow and client experience. In 2020, I took the reins of the company, acquiring it from its co-founders and pivoting towards a new market opportunity created by the pandemic. With many U.S. travel agencies downsizing and independent advisors facing commission losses, I saw a need for a platform to support them in their business. With Voyagu, I am proud to provide solutions for both travelers and suppliers, offering improved service quality, exclusive deals, and a more efficient and accessible path into the travel advisor field. This drives me to keep pushing forward and make a positive impact in the industry.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
As the founder of Voyagu, I take pride in seeing the positive impact my company has on others. With bookings more than doubling since 2021, we've helped more customers fulfill their travel dreams. Not only does Voyagu provide opportunities for independent travel advisors, but it also simplifies the process of entering the field. Instead of taking years to reach basic proficiency, our program can get you there in just 5-6 months. With a team of over 50 advisors and a rapidly growing network, we're dedicated to delivering exceptional travel experiences. Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, we've been able to assemble a talented team of engineers, product managers, and marketers from 17 locations worldwide. It's rewarding to see the positive feedback from our satisfied clients, a testament to the hard work and dedication of our team.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
One of the hardest things as a business owner is taking on the responsibility for people. Building a strong team and creating the right participatory culture are essential for the success of a business. This requires a lot of effort to ensure that everyone is aligned and moving towards a common goal. Moreover, it's crucial to have diversity within the team because different perspectives can lead to innovation and growth. However, this can also bring challenges, such as finding the right balance between individual and team goals and resolving conflicts. All of these factors make it one of the most challenging aspects of being a business owner, but it is also one of the most rewarding.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
First, don't be afraid of making mistakes: Starting a business is a risk, and there will be mistakes along the way. However, it's important not to be paralyzed by the fear of making mistakes. Instead, embrace them as opportunities to learn and grow. By making decisions quickly, you can quickly correct any wrong turns, and it's better to do that than to miss out on opportunities.
Second, build a strong culture: Your business is only as strong as your team, so it's crucial to build a participatory culture that values diversity, open communication, and collaboration. Make sure to hire people who align with your values and who are passionate about the work you do. For Voyagu, the key sticking point is travel, so we only hire individuals who have a genuine love for travel.
And lastly - measure, measure, measure: As a data-driven person, I always rely on metrics to make informed decisions. Regularly track and analyze key performance indicators to see what's working and what's not, and adjust your strategy accordingly. Whether it's retrospective analytics or payment-based metrics, having a solid understanding of your numbers will help guide your growth and success.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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