I had the pleasure to interview Ruben Martinez. With over 30,000 accommodations in over 120 countries, Ruben Martinez, Co-Founder of GlampingHub.com believes we are just barely scratching the surface in this new and growing industry. While undergoing his MBA at Regis University in 2011, Martinez and friend David Troya, of Sevilla, Spain, was currently getting his MBA at the University of San Francisco, they first heard the term glamping. Seeing the potential of this very young industry, they decided to create a place where people could come and find these unique and incredible types of accommodations and ultimately reconnect with nature. Since launching in 2014, Glamping Hub has grown to become the world’s leading portal for glamping accommodations in the outdoor travel industry, and continues to grow and list new accommodations across the globe daily. From launching Glamping Hub’s Denver, Colorado office, to the first ever Global Glamping Summit in 2018 to the creation of the American Glamping Association, Martinez is constantly striving to connect travelers with a unique experience and to create a definition and structure for glamping that is here to stay.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the story about what brought you to this specific career path?
– I studied international business as both my undergrad and MBA. As it was something I really enjoyed, I wanted to pursue this as a career, but did not really have a plan laid out during the time of my education. After my undergrad, I worked for a company doing product development, and found that I was not very passionate about this field. I wanted to be more in charge of my destiny, but did not really know what this meant, so I went to Spain to take Spanish classes and try something different, when I met David Troya. We then together started working in a travel company, and ultimately returned to the states to each do our respective MBAs. While at USF David heard the term “glamping” and came to me wondering if this was something we could do, and together led us to create Glamping Hub. We did not start Glamping Hub because we were glamping experts, but because we had a passion for international business and saw a lot of potential in this new and fresh market to be innovators and become experts. It was the right time and no one was doing what we were about to attempt to do.
Can you share one of the major challenges you encountered when first leading the company? What lesson did you learn from that?
– One of the first major challenges we came across at the beginning was raising money. In the beginning when you do not have a lot of visits to your website, and you are in a new market and industry, people are not familiar with what you are trying to accomplish, and you have to go to them and ask for money and to trust us. We shared our compelling story and said, if we had funds we know we can move quickly and get this off the ground, but that is always a big challenge. This really helped fine-tune our story and what we needed to do to really grow quickly because when you have to pitch to potential investors, friends, and family, and tell them why this is going to be an important investment, you have to have your story straight and be creative and scrappy. A big lesson was that maybe people feel that raising money for a start up is straight forward or that it is as simple as asking for money and receiving it, but it really is so much more than that. You have to be creative, you have to network, and ultimately fail consistently in order to learn what the best way to achieve and succeed is. Unfortunately many young businesses get to this point and do not make it past because it is very hard and a lot to navigate and push through. Our perseverance and determination and ultimately, confidence, showed our potential investors that we were willing to do whatever it took to get things done.
What are some of the factors that you believe led to your eventual success?
I believe timing is a big factor. We took a chance early on, when no one, specifically in the US had a complete understanding of what glamping was. Even today when talking about glamping everyone has their preconceived notions of what glamping is and isn’t. When we started years ago it was still this new concept that people were grappling with, so a big part of our success is due to the fact that we took a big chance early on and that we knew this was going to take off and become an important part of the American travel market and industry. We knew if we planted the seed then, it would grow into something big. We are also very fortunate to work with extremely talented individuals on a daily basis and we have the opportunity to learn from them and grow with them. We are very fortunate to have employees that move in the right direction every single day, and allow us to learn from them. I also think the hosts of the properties take tremendous pride in what they do on a daily basis and offer, and we would not be successful if their properties were not successful and that people wanted to book them again and again. The fact that they do what they do has allowed us to become successful in result.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO”? Please share a story or example for each.
1. To really really trust your gut. Sometimes there are some pretty tough decisions that have to be made, and you are pretty sure you want to make that decision, but you end up waiting because it is a hard decision or waiting because you are not 100% sure it is the right decision. But eventually, you end up making that exact same choice later down the road, and you tend to wish you would have just made it months before. Usually your first gut instinct is the right instinct, but there is a lot of other factors that get played into it and can end up diluting it. Trust your instinct, and you’ll be in good shape.
2. It really is going to be hard. You know that the journey itself can have a lot of positive and negatives, but there are times when it can get dark and heavy, and that is okay. As an entrepreneur it is easy to hit a valley and feel that there is a level of failure, and failure is bad. But really it is an opportunity to move forward and that every business is built off both successes and failures. A lot of times there is a stigma around being able to ask for help or as a leader, it is easy to feel like you have failed in some ways, but that that is okay, and sometimes will be tougher than others, but during the lows it is time to build and move forward from that period because that is just part of the journey. Surrounding yourself with the people to help you move forward is very important too.
3. Focus on your continuing education and really be a lifelong learner. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the day to day and focus on the current, but in every industry things are constantly changing and evolving, so it is important to pick up new lessons, technologies, and skills because this will ultimately help both you and your organization. It’s always worth taking the time to dedicate yourself to learning something that will benefit your organization and its growth in a world that is constantly changing.
4. The importance of communication. How we communicate is just as important as what we communicate. This can be difficult, because as an organization grows things can move so quickly, but you always want to make sure your communication is done right and understand how people receive what you are trying to communicate.
5. To focus on simplifying. Not every business can be a million different things. Usually a business has a version of success in the beginning because they hit something early, and not that they hit 30 different things early, they hit one that struck one cord early on. As an organization grows, often they expand and take on different things and expand to more markets to get new revenue streams. Usually it is the thing early on that is going to really drive the business, but we sometimes forget that when we try to do too many things at once. Really stick to your North Star and to the thing that you do best and focus on doing it better than anyone else.
What advice would you give to your colleagues to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Reading. In my daily routine, every night before I go to bed, I read the newspaper front to back or any type of a business book I can get my hands on. I think that it is important to always be reading and figuring out what other people are doing or have done. Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, I think it is important to be a subject matter expert, so depending on what you are looking to accomplish, read more about that.
Another thing would be have a strong mentor or social network that is in your or a similar industry that at a moment’s notice you can ping some ideas off of. Having someone to take a look at something with a fresh pair of eyes or be there in moments of needed support is crucial.
Take time. It’s easy to put your head down and work 18 hours a day, which has to happen at various times in any phase of the organization. But it is important to have planned time to really disconnect and to take that time. That is done best by following a calendar. I am pretty religious about my calendar in order to make sure I get the priorities done even when things do pop up in a moment’s notice. Sticking to a schedule or calendar allows you to plan for the busiest of times and the times when you need to take a step back and disconnect.
What do you hope to leave as your lasting legacy?
When we first started Glamping Hub, there was a stigma around glamping that it was only for super rich luxurious trips. We hope that we have helped open up the door for new business owners who want to make new revenue streams. When you have the property and land, glamping is a way to make supplemental income or real income, and to really show people your property and what you can offer. For the consumer and the user, we hope we have provided a new way to travel and made that easier. That we have opened up doors for people to have a different style of vacation or experience, and for them to really jump into a meaningful and valuable holiday. This was not always as easy and available in the US beforehand, so we hope we have shined some light on it and made it more accessible.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would enhance people’s lives in some way, what would it be? You never know what your idea can trigger!
Something that I am specifically very passionate about is giving young people, high schoolers, access to the idea that they can start their own business at a young age, and in very specific demographics. I am involved in a program at Arrupe Jesuit High School in Colorado. This is a high school for students that have to be at or below the poverty level to attend the school. They attend school 4 days out of the week, and the 5th day of the school week they are involved in a paid internship at a law firm, or a hospital, or a bank, and several other fields. These paid internships then go on to offset the cost of tuition. It is a way to give students who would not otherwise have access to a private education, a private education. It’s an incredible program, and something I am involved with as a board member, as well as having started an innovation and entrepreneurship club which gives these 14 to 18 years olds access to other entrepreneurs. This allows them to change their mindset and start learning the skills and have the resources to not only allow them to pursue their education, but also to pursue a career path. I believe for this specific set of students, being an entrepreneur may not be front of mind because of lack of resources, but by giving them access to this is an important thing. One of the activities we set up is a pitch challenge, where they have to give a pitch at a local university alongside other university students, and one of the purposes of this exercise is to get them to believe they can do this and it is an option for them if this is something that they want and want to pursue. For us to be able to create a new generation of entrepreneurs you really have to start with a new demographic at a young age.
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