By Andrea Vidler WG’15, Founder of LocalAventura
While she was a student, Andrea Vidler received an award from the M&T Innovation Fund to help found her company, LocalAventura, with fellow Penn students Eugena Brown WG’15 and Cait Breslin C’15. She was also a member of the Venture Initiation Program. We checked in to find out how her startup is doing today:
What does your company do?
LocalAventura is an online booking platform that connects passionate local guides with adventurous travelers for more authentic, unique, and reliable experiences throughout Latin America. Our mission is to economically empower local entrepreneurs and promote sustainable and eco-friendly tourism throughout the region. By vetting and interviewing all of our guides for quality and talent, we are making travel to the region more accessible, allowing our clients to find truly off-the-beaten-path tours with reliable, English-speaking guides. Whether it’s a cooking class in Lima or a trek in Patagonia, there’s no better way to experience the beauty and mystery of Latin America than with a trusted and knowledgeable local.
What has been your most exciting moment so far while building your company?
The best moments for me have been those that reaffirmed my belief in the company. Working everyday on the small, nitty-gritty aspects of running a business, you tend to forget what you do it all for, so I think many of the most exciting moments for me have been just talking with both guides and travelers around Latin America. Through working one-on-one with both our guides, we’ve discovered just how much our guides really value our collaboration, support, and advice.
For example, when we started our initial search for local guides, we posted all over the internet hoping to find a few interested guides. To our surprise we got over 200 responses in one week! While it was overwhelming to respond to all these guides, at such an early stage it was really incredible and humbling to know that so many guides believed in what we were trying to do. Other moments of affirmation come when I go on a tour with an exceptional local guide, and they share their struggles with me, whether they be building a website or climbing the ranks on TripAdvisor. I love knowing that we are building a company that can actually have a tangible effect on truly deserving and passionate people.
Similarly, working directly with our clients, scheduling phone calls with them before and after the tour to speak, has shown us how much they value our travel expertise. I’ve realized that many of them really struggle to find the off-the-beaten-path, quality tours that they are hoping for. They tell me stories about how they accidentally took a big, impersonal bus tour, or when they got scammed by guides who didn’t speak English or didn’t offer what they promised. These moments prove to me that our vetting process is worth all the time it takes. By going on tours with all our guides we can really guarantee the best, most reliable tours. This way our travelers don’t have to leave it up to blind faith when booking a tour.
If you could travel back in time to day one of your startup, what would you tell yourself?
Don’t be afraid to “break things.” Coming from a background in consulting, when I first started LocalAventura we were very detailed obsessed, everything had to have a process and a structure and some sort of documentation. Then when we started shifting our focus to customer acquisition, we realized that if we didn’t get scrappy, we wouldn’t get anywhere. We started throwing different things against the wall, to see what stuck, and we started trying more unconventional tactics. The goal was to book our first clients, and it worked. Now that we’ve had plenty of bookings, we have found more of a balance between being very structured versus just going for it. That balance is key, and I have to keep that in mind every day. Sometimes I lean more towards one side, than the other, but overall I’m constantly trying to get better at finding that balance.
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs at Penn?
Talk to people who have been there. When you start your own business, often times you are entering completely new territory. You can read as many online articles, forums, or books on the topic, but nothing is as valuable as actual advice from a fellow entrepreneur. They can tell you exactly where they struggled and found success, and give you tips that an article can’t. Also, mastering skills you’ve never tried before can be frustrating, and so speaking to someone who has been through similar frustration is extremely reassuring and motivates you to keep pushing. You’re so lucky to be at Penn, because the school is full of resources. So don’t be afraid to use them—tell them all about your business, get their advice and opinions on it, and most importantly create a support network of peers and mentors. Just remember to return the favor when someone asks you as well!
Bio: Andrea Vidler is a 2015 Wharton MBA grad and the co-founder of LocalAventura. Through her Chilean roots and participating in the Lauder Latin American Studies Program, she became fascinated by the entrepreneurial spirit that prevailed throughout the region, despite the many barriers that local entrepreneurs faced. This experience inspired her to co-found LocalAventura as a way to empower local experts and make travel to Latin America more accessible for adventurers like herself.