As a part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change The World In The Next Few Years” I had the pleasure of interviewing Galena Stavreva, the CEO of SpareFare.net. SpareFare is a secure secondary marketplace for flights, hotel rooms and package holidays. Travel is great, and SpareFare’s marketplace is all about turning the less fun parts of it — such as cancellations — into new deals that improve the status quo for everyone.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I started my career as a corporate solicitor in London, working for a busy American law firm. I had to cancel several holidays due to work commitments and were unable to find anyone to sell my flight and hotel reservations too.
I saw the need for a reliable platform that provides the opportunity for people to resell their travel reservations. So I created SpareFare with two other co-founders.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
The most interesting story is about one of our first sales. The seller’s name is Rob, and he is from London.
Rob had recently broken up with his girlfriend and was left with a £3,000 romantic holiday in a five-star resort in Spain. He’d bought the romantic package, complete with silky sheets and couples massages. Rob couldn’t take his mom or sister on a vacation like this, and his male friends refused to go.
Luckily, he was able to sell the flights and hotel to a couple who’d recently gotten married but were unable to afford a fancy honeymoon.
It was a total win-win situation. Rob was able to save money and receive good karma by helping a fellow traveler along the way. The newlyweds were able to go on an amazing trip. I felt like, by providing this service and platform, I was able to make a tangible difference in the lives of three people. For the first time in my life, my job had a real purpose.
Can you tell us about your “Big Idea That Might Change The World”?
SpareFare.net connects people who have bought flights, holiday packages or hotel rooms but can no longer use them, with people seeking discounted travel options. By transferring their booked non-refundable reservations to SpareFare buyers, sellers can partially or fully recover the money paid for the trips, while buyers get a true discount of up to 50–60% of the original price. We offer fraud protection for both the buyers and the sellers.
Keeping “Black Mirror” and the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this idea that people should think more deeply about?
Not really, because the idea behind SpareFare has been around for centuries — a marketplace where people sell what they have to other fellow citizens. Sure, we do use technology to facilitate the transfer, but the underlying idea is not new at all.
What do you need to lead this idea to widespread adoption?
Publicity! Many people are not aware that many non-refundable flights and all hotel reservations are transferable. We see the ‘non-refundable’ on our tickets and assume we have no other option.
In reality, many airlines and hotels allow their customers to change the name of the passenger so that the reservation can be sold to another travel, and the seller will be able to recover some of the money.
Not all airline allows name changes, but many do. We have compiled a list of over 60 airlines here. The airlines are mainly European low-cost carriers and may charge a name change fee varying between £25 and £115. Hotels, on the other hand, are much easier to transfer and do not charge a name change fee.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
1. No matter how good your idea is, you will still get a lot of “no’s.”
I believe SpareFare is a brilliant idea. Many of our clients agree as well. There is a genuine need for such a service in the market, and it creates win-win situations for both sellers and buyers. I thought everyone else would love it too! Reality check-I receive rejections daily. Just don’t take it personally, and remind yourself that it’s all just part of the game.
2. It always takes longer than you think
There are always going to be unseen factors that you can’t control. Don’t feel like you have somehow failed, keep going.
3. Remember to enjoy life
When your company is in the infancy stage, you have to be prepared to dedicate all of your time and energy to it. Your startup is your life. You will give up time with your family and friends. But you also have to enjoy it!! Otherwise, what’s the point?
4. Sometimes you have to fail to succeed
Again, do not take rejections, delays or setbacks personally! There will be many mistakes you make, and they are an important part of the learning process.
5. Celebrate little victories
Little victories are what you will have in the beginning anyway! A business is a grind-it’s a lot of the same things over and over again. In the beginning, little victories will be few and far between. Make sure to celebrate the little victories as you continue with your ambitions and plans.
The future of work is a common theme. What can one do to “future proof” their career?
You have to keep changing and growing. If you work for a company, make sure it is an organization that invests in the development of its people. You need to continue learning new things. And remain tech-savvy. Technology will be important in all scenarios of our future. You need to push yourself to keep your technical skills current (even if your company isn’t doing so).
Based on the future trends in your industry, if you had a million dollars, what would you invest in?
The tourism industry has changed from being a service offering you flights, rooms and some food to offering complete experiences. Travel is about rejuvenation, adventure, fulfillment, learning new skills, and ‘being more of who you are.’ It is no longer just ticking off places and things and flopping in the sun.
I want to invest in initiatives that promote responsible tourism, helps local people, and protects the environment. Along with enjoying paradise, you can learn about the poverty the local people live in, and be educated about ways you can help.
Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career?
Treat others as you would want to be treated. I have to admit, I don’t always to manage to follow that principle, but I do my best every day. I play by the rules and treat people kindly. And I have received nothing but generosity and kindness in return. I do believe that we reap what we sow and I have seen this time and time again in my life.
Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets”?
I have just one. Choose to stay positive. Happiness is a choice I consciously make every morning. Life is not easy. Building your business is not easy. There will always be problems, issues, and setbacks. If you let circumstances dictate your emotions, you will experience very little joy in your life. So choose to stay positive.
Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say?
You can see how SpareFare works here
How can our readers follow you on social media?
You can stay up-to-date with our deeply discounted holidays and free giveaways by searching SpareFare on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.