As the co-founder of SWAGGER, I wanted to share with you how we started this brand and this entrepreneurial adventure in the challenging year of 2020.
People believe that the universe provides us with signals - sort of like "whatever is supposed to happen to you, will happen", or "if things don't work out, maybe it's not meant to be, and you need to let it go".
I believe in the karmic powers of the universe as well, but I find it necessary to follow your dreams, even if - or maybe - particularly, when they present challenges.
When I started my journey as a female entrepreneur, offering travel products for women, I knew I'm bound to face challenges and make mistakes at the beginning. I was ready because I knew that challenges and mistakes also mean learning and growth.
Except, there was obviously this one huge challenge I could not imagine I'd face…
It was at the end of 2019 during a "detox" solo vacation in a yoga retreat in Thailand, where I decided to take a new path in my career. There was something magical in the atmosphere at the retreat, just before the new year 2020 was about to kick in, and that gave me an extra push and affirmation that made a good choice and was taking the right turn in my career.
I was already a well-traveled businesswomen for nearly a decade and I felt I needed a change.
For me, traveling is a passion, even the business trips. It's like an escapism from life routine. I would even say, having to travel often even saved my relationships!
I loved my job, and I love the travel, but I wanted to do something that I'm passionate about while giving value and inspiration to other people, especially Gen X women who are like me.
When I told people, I was going to start a travel brand made for women, I got mixed responses. The close circle of friends and family were encouraging, but some were doubtful. They didn't see the value in this business:
"There are plenty of travel brands out there, you're never going to make it."
"You already can buy anything on Amazon. Why bother make a website?"
"Some brands offer beautiful gear that are available to women"
But I knew. After traveling the world for over 10 years, watching women in airports, on airplanes, at business lounges, observing their travel styles, travel wardrobe, gadgets and habits, I knew there is something missing for the classical Gen-X female traveler.
I wanted to give female travelers the attention they deserve, to add value to the community of female travelers. Not just to launch another brand of travel accessories, SWAGGER was meant to be a brand that answers the specific needs of Gen X female travelers, offering quality and style, and contributing to female empowerment causes around the world.
With a lot of optimism in heart and sparkle in my eyes, I started planning.
I had envisioned the typical female traveler and started researching on her needs. I wanted to learn how I could contribute to the experience of female travelers and empower them to be more adventurous in both their travels and travel style.
Lesson #1: Even the smartest advisors cannot predict the future.
Plans and dreams aside.
After months of research, planning, and execution, when SWAGGER was already ready to be launched, the unforeseen pandemic landed in our lives and caught me unprepared.
At the beginning, I was sure it is a passing disease. Like most of us, I thought it was a matter of a few months until it was over. No one had imagined it will spread so fast and so far, to cause global disaster, affecting the lives of people all over the world on so many levels.
When the dimensions of this crisis started to unfold, and I came to realize how it will affect my newly launched business, but I refused to give in.
I know, this year is not exactly the right time to talk about travel. Selling travel products in 2020 is like selling ice to Eskimos.
It's not the time to talk about travel products, for Gen-X women who are now struggling to balance their career and family life in the new reality, more than ever before.
Lesson #2: A brand is more than its products. The values you offer go beyond the physical products.
Now I had the best excuse in the world to give up on my business now. It was like a strong flashing red light saying:" don't do it!"
But I chose to stick with my plan against all odds.
As a frequent flyer, who used to board a jet every couple of months, being grounded and having to stay at home for a year has been an unbelievable struggle. Being passionate about traveling, I know there are millions of women on the other side of the screen who feel the same and experience the same frustration.
I could imagine how it must feel to other female travelers, and I wanted to be the inspiration and set an example, rather than be the one who gave up. I wanted to bring optimism to those of you who had to stay home and are longing for some new frontiers.
Some of you may be dreaming on their vacation somewhere exotic, some of you probably didn't see their relatives who live far away, other may not afford to travel right now because of financial concerns, and I would guess there are also women out there who would love to just feel again the excitement of boarding a plane.
Lesson #3: Set an example - inspiring other women to be bold, requires you to show some courage yourself first.
Then I realized that SWAGGER is not just a travel brand for women as I initially thought it to be. It is not only about the products, the high quality and the mature designs. Owning a brand holds so much more than the products and the nice designs. It holds a responsibility for the women it seeks to serve – empowering women and setting an example by its own actions.
I believe in bringing and doing the best for female travelers. I am here to set an example and be the inspiration for Gen-X female travelers who, like me, can't wait board a plane again, and travel carefree.
Seeing this community constantly grows brings me a lot of hope and encourages me to continue and I am committed to give back by contributing to causes that promote and support women around the world.
I am grateful for everything that I have learnt during this crazy rollercoaster called "starting a business in 2020", and I am mostly thankful for all of you women who are part of this community!
Wishing you all the best for 2021, which will definitely be a better one!! May all your travel dreams come true.