iTREKKERS aims to get people outdoors, help them make new memories, and inspire them to care about the environment to help to preserve wilderness access for future generations.
Location: Tampa, Florida
Product / Service Offering: Guided outdoor adventures throughout Florida
Co-founder Interviewed: Tom Mulliez
This article is part of our Business Startup Spotlight series featuring entrepreneurs and their companies. We hope that these founders’ interviews will inspire and motivate you as you undertake your own entrepreneurial journey.
Tell us a little about yourself with a focus on what motivates you?
Tom is a proud father of three who was born in France and raised between his French hometown and a small town in the state of Georgia. A career with Capital One led his family to Tampa. Tom left the corporate world to create iTREKKERS in 2014. Tom’s motivations are three-fold: getting people outdoors, helping them make new memories, and inspiring them to care about the environment to help to preserve wilderness access for future generations.
When did you establish your company and where did the idea originate?
After going on a disappointing chartered fishing trip, Tom realized that there should be a better way to book guided outdoor adventures. In 2014, he launched iTREKKERS.com with a clean, interactive website design that allows everyone to book a guided outdoors adventure with a professional vetted Guide.
What need or needs does your company seek to fill for its customers?
iTREKKERS removes the barriers to booking guided outdoors adventures by running a clean and transparent website for the booking process, connecting you with a professional vetted Guide, and providing all gear and equipment necessary for the adventure. Easily enjoy fishing, paddle sports, hiking, or camping in Florida with the help of iTREKKERS Guides regardless of your age or experience level. In short, we make it simple to get outdoors and make memories.
What is the one thing that sets your company apart from its competitors?
Each and every Guide we partner with has been personally vetted by our Trek Director, taking the guesswork out of planning your outdoors adventure. No Guide can pay to be on our network. We are extremely selective about who we partner with to ensure that our guests can enjoy a great experience. We sell an experience, not the guide. Everyone else sells the guide and not the actual experience.
What was the biggest challenge you faced while getting your company up and running, and how did you overcome it?
Our first attempt at the platform was terrible, leading us to revamp from the beginning and start all over. With very little technology background, I picked the wrong partners for the wrong reasons. Our product was subpar at best and not made with the right final customer in mind. We started all over again, making better decisions along the way and learning from our mistakes. “Good judgement comes from experience; unfortunately experience comes from bad judgement.” We are in a much better place now!
Are there resources you have utilized that other founders might find compelling or useful?
- Elements of Scrum → The process has revolutionized our company. We have produced and shipped more work in the past four months then we did all last year, driving real change to our operation.
- Traction Channel focus – The bullseye framework. → We were struggling with being involved with too many different traction channels. This spread our resources thin. The bullseye framework allowed us to focus on the channels that are producing results or that have potential. This in turn focuses our funding and drives better decision making through testing.
- No more “Big Design” up front → We spent so much money and effort trying to make amazing products, landing pages and such. In doing so, we designed based on what we thought the customer would want to see and use, not based on what they actually see and use. Now, everything is done in steps and customer feedback is what drives our next layer of design.
What steps have you taken to secure funding for your company and what, if anything, would you do differently if you had to start over?
We sought investment from an Angel Investor in 2015 and received $1.5M; we are currently seeking further investment for the next 18 months to expand our Operations and Guide bases.
Have there been any questions you have had as an entrepreneur of a fledgling startup that you had a particularly hard time finding the answers to?
- Judging talent correctly
- Dealing with the mental strain of letting go people who no longer or have never been the right fit
- How to best pick outside third party vendors that will have the greatest impact on your business
What challenges, if any, are you grappling with?
Our biggest challenge currently is getting the word out to the public and letting them know that guided adventures for “the rest of us” are more than possible. They are easily accessible with our help!
What is the most helpful tip or “hack” you’ve ever learned, stumbled across, or been given?
If you want to take a chance at starting your own company and you think you have a great idea, have 100 meetings with different people of different backgrounds prior to launching and pitch them your idea. Ask them to ask hard questions and have them tear your idea apart so that you can have the best startup ever. This is how you refine a business plan and get an end product that has been thoroughly vetted, created and ready to launch.
Is there anything else you would like to share about your company?
A guided trip is always going to mean great new memories, whether it’s with your family, friends, clients or coworkers. iTREKKERS specializes in corporate retreats and professional company chartered trips in Florida. Research has shown that engaging in outdoors activities positively benefits people of all ages.
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