Being in the hospitality and tourism industry, it’s normal to see men CEOs and founders. That needs to change. Men are dominant, competitive, and more likely to be taken seriously which makes it easier for them to gain respect and funding. Women, on the other hand, are intuitively compassionate and caring. These attributes are likely to cultivate a healthy company culture, in-depth storytelling and inspiration, and open-mindedness to new ideas and ways of doing things. There need to be more female founders because it also inspires young adults and children to dream big and have the confidence that they can achieve and create anything that they want in life if they work hard enough at it.
As a part of our series about “Why We Need More Women Founders”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sahara Rose De Vore.
Sahara Rose De Vore is a Travel Coach and Consultant and Founder of The Travel Coach Network. She uses her decades of travel expertise to help people have meaningful and transformative travel experiences that improve their overall wellbeing, personal, and professional life. Sahara Rose is a published author, global speaker, and has been in more than 70 media outlets including Forbes, Business Insider, Thrive Global, and Authority Magazine for the mission to reshape how and why people travel. Visit her at https://thetravelcoachnetwork.com/
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
I grew up as an only child to a single mom. We could hardly afford to keep food in the cabinets, let alone see the world. Therefore, travel seemed so far out of reach for someone like myself. Plus, no one in our family or community was a traveler. Our idea of traveling was family road trips from the north of the U.S to south Texas to visit my grandmother’s family near Mexico but, I was so young that I only remember bits and pieces of those adventures. I had a wanderlust soul and no idea where it came from.
I have always had an artistic eye so every time that I would see beautiful photos of lush green rainforests and colorful tropical birds in Costa Rica and other incredible places around the world, I was simply in awe. I saw movies with sky-high waterfalls and the most stunning white-sand beaches. I knew that there was a whole world out there that I needed to explore but, how could I ever make that happen?
Well, I was determined to and I did.
When I graduated over a decade ago from university with a degree in hospitality and tourism management, I was very underwhelmed by the lack of diversity in career options. At the age of 22, I was unsure of the life that I wanted to have and what my passions were. I was struggling with anxiety and bouts of depression and knew that whatever it was that I was going to do with my life, I wanted it to bring me happiness, purpose, and I wanted to make an impact on the lives of others and the world.
I decided to take a very unconventional route and ignore what pressures society and family were placing on me. I booked a one-way ticket to Europe, packed a suitcase, and set off to find the answers that I was looking for.
I wound up falling in love with how much travel was helping and healing me that I spent over ten years traveling on and off to over 84 countries by the age of 31.
The first half of my worldly adventure was the most difficult. The amount of travel resources, tools, and technology was limited. I remember traveling with a flip phone, paying to use internet wherever I could find a computer, and using a paper map to navigate around new cities.
Throughout the years, I got hands-on experience with shifts in the travel industry. Talking with other travelers and having my own experiences, I learned what travelers used, liked, desired, and didn’t like. I also learned what problems, voids, and shortages existed in the travel industry and for travelers. Being a millennial in the midst of the rise of social media, it has shown a light on how and why people were traveling as well as the growing desire for more freedom-based jobs.
Despite having a degree in tourism and years of traveling under my belt, I struggled for many years trying to figure out what travel-related career I wanted. I was aware of what existed; travel agents, booking managers, working for a company that paid me to travel for business, becoming a blogger, or growing my social media to become an influencer just to get free trips.
I wanted to do and be some more. I believed that my travel experiences, skills, knowledge, and perspectives were far more valuable and impactful than what I was told I could use them for.
I knew that since I couldn’t find what I was looking for, I had to create it myself.
That is when I decided to become a travel coach and specialize in helping business travelers and corporate employees have better and more meaningful travel experiences while bringing a fresh take on wellness travel
I am also pioneering the path for other ambitious and passionate travelers who desire to become certified travel coaches. I founded The Travel Coach Network™ because I wanted a place for travel coaches around the world to connect with other like-minded travel coaches and experts, list their business and niche, and for people and companies to find and hire a travel coach. I designed and accredited the very first travel coach certification program to make their journey easier and clearer as a travel coach and entrepreneur.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
Like many other companies, my businesses grew new legs during 2020. Business owners had to pivot in different directions to stay afloat and some even soared by doing this. The interesting thing for me was that I didn’t have to pivot in either of my businesses but rather, my unique niches really worked in my favor. My network of international travel coaches grew last year because travel experts were looking for new ways to connect with and attract travelers in the future. Many passionate travelers finally took the leap to start a business because they had the time to do so and they realize that they wanted to have a meaningful career instead of conforming to what has already been done. In my work as a Wellness Travel Coach, I had new industries reaching out to me for insight, guidance, and educational resources on the wellness benefits of travel, so much so that my work transformed into a consultancy.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
One of the silliest things that I did when starting my business was when I launched a new group program and offered a payment plan, I accidentally set it as a one-time payment which meant that I had to contact each client each month for that month’s payment until the three months were over. I learned to double-check everything before making it available to my audience.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My biggest fan and inspiration is my mom. I know that sounds cliché but I am very blessed to have a mom who always supported me in whatever it was that I wanted to do in my life. I am an only child and she is a single mom so me choosing to travel the world solo for so long, of course, wasn’t easy for her but she always supported me. She always instilled in me that I can do anything in life that I want to do and become whomever I wanted to be, so I ran with it!
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. According to this EY report, only about 20 percent of funded companies have women founders. This reflects great historical progress, but it also shows that more work still has to be done to empower women to create companies. In your opinion and experience what is currently holding back women from founding companies?
Confidence and the fear of asking. As women, we are used to managing a lot of things at once and although this is a helpful attribute for female founders, this mindset can also prevent us from reaching out and asking for help. When I say help, I am referring to help in every sense of it. Women are strong, we can take a lot but, we often fail to get help with our mental wellbeing, with managing our daily schedule, asking for guidance and support, and financial help.
We have families to take care of and jobs to do so it’s easier for someone to dream about starting a business than to make it a reality. Women don’t want to ask for money to help with a start-up unlike men, who are much more likely to seek investors.
This ties into my other point, the lack of confidence. Yes, as women we are fierce and we own it but, when it comes to entering a scary world like entrepreneurship, it can be intimidating, especially when it’s run by men. Will we be taken seriously? Are we smart enough? Will anyone believe in my vision? These can be daunting thoughts running through our heads and holding women back from founding companies.
Can you help articulate a few things that can be done as individuals, as a society, or by the government, to help overcome those obstacles?
We need more female founders like Bethenny Frankel, Sara Blakely, Arianna Huffington, and women CEOs in companies to speak out on the importance of women entrepreneurship, breaking down barriers, and building confidence for women across all industries.
The more organizations and companies that create women entrepreneur programs and event, the better. Having free resources and access to mentorship is crucial for women at all stages of their career journey to be able to have.
As a society, let’s encourage and support one another. Instead of being competitive, it would be even more impactful if women came together to collaborate, teach, and inspire one another.
This might be intuitive to you as a woman founder but I think it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you share a few reasons why more women should become founders?
Being in the hospitality and tourism industry, it’s normal to see men CEOs and founders. That needs to change. Men are dominant, competitive, and more likely to be taken seriously which makes it easier for them to gain respect and funding. Women on the other hand, are intuitively compassionate and caring. These attributes are likely to cultivate a healthy company culture, in-depth storytelling and inspiration, and open-mindedness to new ideas and ways of doing things. There needs to be more female founders because it also inspires young adults and children to dream big and have the confidence that they can achieve and create anything that they want in life if they work hard enough at it.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a founder. Can you explain what you mean?
I think many people hear that someone is a founder and they assume that their business is raking in cash. Truth is, it usually takes years for a business to break even or make a profit, depending on what it does and its business model. Starting and growing a business is really difficult. I hate when I see all of those social media advertisements from business coaches trying to sell people on the idea that they will make an X amount of money within a certain time frame if they purchase what they’re selling. Truth is, what works for one person may not, and probably won’t, work for someone else. Everyone’s business is different. Every business owner’s effort and determination are different. So often, new entrepreneurs get swiped into the online world of “buy this” “buy that” “make this much money in this amount of time” and all of those other misleading but catchy headlines. Every entrepreneur’s journey is unique to them. It takes time to build a solid foundation for your business. It takes time to establish your brand, build a loyal following, gain credibility, market effectively, build a team, and generate revenue. Don’t fall into the quick-fix schemes online and instead, have patience, be authentic, don’t be afraid to fail and try again, and just keep ongoing.
Is everyone cut out to be a founder? In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful founder and what type of person should perhaps seek a “regular job” as an employee? Can you explain what you mean?
Definitely not. Not everyone is cut out or meant to be a founder. Honestly, most founders fall into the role as a founder. This is because of our common determination to formulate a solution for a problem or to create what we are looking for ourselves but couldn’t find. Founders have a unique motivation to not wait until someone solves the problem for them or they desire something that has been created yet. In order to be a founder, you can’t be afraid to be challenged. Founders are also very authentic and have a sense of exploration in either the world or ideas.
For those who do not have it in them to be a founder, which is completely okay, they are usually people to like to leave work at the office and not have to think about it when they are at home or traveling, they are okay with the set pay that a company gives them, and many need someone to tell them what to do and when to do it.
Again, there is nothing wrong with having a “regular job” and not desiring to be a founder. It’s difficult and definitely not for everyone.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- It will be a mental struggle
Running a business is hard. You have to learn how to find a balance and define that balance for yourself because it looks different for everyone. There is a lot to think about and juggle when you have a business and then, you also have a personal and family life to factor in as well. I didn’t really think about the mental aspect when starting my business but I soon learned that it wasn’t going to be easy.
2. Be prepared for your business to evolve.
Some of the most popular companies out there not what they started out to be. For instance, think of how Facebook and Amazon got their start and how they evolved. This can be for any business, no matter the size or concept. No one expected their business to shift as it did during 2020 because no one knew that the pandemic was going to happen. But it did. Evolution happens in business, pandemic or not. My businesses scaled into areas that I didn’t initially think that they would but over time and through opportunity and exposure, it branched out. Had I kept a closed mind and tunnel vision to my mission, I wouldn’t have been able to scale as I have in either of my businesses. I’d recommend not jumping to decisions right away in your business when it comes to your website domain, business registration name, your title, or your ideal audience. Give it a little bit of time while you build your foundation for clarity to come because it will be harder to go and change everything and rebrand rather than evolve.
3. Staying organized from the very beginning is essential
Whether for tax purposes, personal reasons, or for onboarding team members, it’s important to stay as organized as you can with your documents, folders, information, and finances from the beginning. I say this because you may scale fast than you think or you may need to transfer computers or platforms and before you know it, you realize that your stuff is all over the place. It makes things much easier if you can stay organized because it will do you service mentally and strategically in your business.
4. Prioritizing is key
You may find yourself receiving many opportunities or you may have new ideas for your business but don’t overwhelm yourself or fill your plate too much. If you try to do too many things at once, you’ll end up not accomplishing anything to the level that it needs to be to succeed. Instead, learn to prioritize. Figure out what can be done one year from now, one month from now, one week from now, and today. Find a system, whether it’s a list or a spreadsheet, that keeps your to-do list organized. Stay focused on your money-making tasks and evaluate what’s most important.
5. You will need a thick skin
Who knew that you needed to think about your emotional stability when becoming an entrepreneur? Like I said, having a business is not easy, especially when it’s an online business. You are opening your business and yourself up to the opinions and critiques of others. It’s inevitable. You need to have a thick skin and learn how to take other’s opinions and either ignore them or use them to help you grow. This can be really hard for people. It’s not fun having friends, family, or the whole world tell you that your idea isn’t great or that you won’t succeed. This can make you doubt yourself and what you’re doing. You also can’t compare yourself to others. That will eat at your ability to thrive and do the work that needs to get done. All that matters is that you believe enough in yourself and your mission. Then, enjoy your journey and know that you are right where you are supposed to be at each step of the way.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
It is part of my mission to inspire, guide, and educate other entrepreneurs, especially women in the travel industry. Within The Travel Coach Network I do what I can to bring opportunities to my members, to give them a space to share their stories and experiences, to encourage understanding and acceptance of others, and to connect such amazing human beings. An example of this is my Cultural Exchange Days within my membership club. The world would be a much better place if we all understand and accepted that we are all different in culture, belief systems, traditions, appearances, and ways of life.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
A part of my mission is to grow a movement in my Thrive Through Travel Initiative. This movement is about the acknowledgment that travel has a powerful impact to improve the mind, body, soul, and work-life. My goal for this movement is to inspire people to share how travel has impacted their lives and why they turn to travel for their own unique reasons as well as encourage companies to take travel off of the back burner and move it to the forefront for thriving in wellness and in the workplace.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
I would absolutely love to have lunch with Arianna Huffington, the founder of Thrive Global. She has always been an inspiration to me since the beginning of my business journey. It is a dream of mine to collab with Thrive on a future project for travel wellbeing.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.