"Don’t shy away from challenges and obstacles within your business" with Julie Singh
Julie Singh founded TripOutside.com with her husband Reet out of a shared enthusiasm for outdoor adventure and travel. After many frustrating experiences wasting valuable vacation time renting equipment, they created a website where outdoor enthusiasts save time and effort by easily booking outdoor adventures and gear online. Julie spent 15 years in retail, finance, and technology at a fortune 30 company and left her corporate career in 2017 to pursue her passions and build TripOutside.com. TripOutside is a fully mobile company – they gather information on the best outdoor destinations for their customers by exploring the country in their motorhome with their cat Juke.
Can you tell our readers about your background?
After graduating with a finance degree and getting my CPA, I spent 15 years in Corporate America working first for food & beverage companies in Finance and Internal Audit and then spending 10 years in Finance and Merchandising at Home Depot Corporate. My last role was running a $1B business as the buyer for Water Heaters for all 2000 stores. Through these roles, I gained a ton of valuable knowledge and experience that has provided a great foundation for me to start my business.
What inspired you to start your business?
The idea for TripOutside came about on one of our vacations. My husband and I traveled a lot in our free time, and spent as much time outdoors as we could. We rented gear like bikes, kayaks, and skis during our adventures and saw a problem to be solved with online gear rental. We wasted too much of our vacation time renting equipment! The typical process involves online searches, calling shops about availability, booking over the phone, and waiting for bikes, skis or kayaks to be prepared in-store. So, we created TripOutside.com, a website that allows outdoor enthusiasts to compare prices and book gear and experiences on one website at the top-rated shops in key outdoor destinations. The gear will be waiting at the outfitter, getting customers to their adventure faster!
We also wanted to be able to travel more, work from anywhere, and focus more on our passions of travel and outdoor adventure. Starting TripOutside allowed us to do these things, and help get more people outdoors!
Where is your business based?
TripOutside is a fully mobile company, and we are based wherever we are traveling. We are traveling in our motorhome in the Sierra range of California. It works out really well, because as we hit the top outdoor destinations to bike, paddle or ski, we also visit the best shops in the area to get them featured on TripOutside.com.
How did you start your business? What were the first steps you took?
The first steps we took was to do a ton of research on what types of websites already existed. We wanted to arm ourselves with as much knowledge about the industry as we could, and make sure that our site would provide the best experience possible and solve a true problem for our customers. We started designing mockups of how we would like our website to work, and the features and functionality that we thought would be important. We brainstormed names during a car ride to the mountains and came up with TripOutside. The domain was available, and we bought it! Then we created an LLC using Legal Zoom, which made it easy for first-timers like us to start a company.
What has been the most effective way of raising awareness for your business?
Because we are a marketplace, we work to raise awareness with both outfitters and customers! Initially, this was our biggest challenge – especially the first couple of outfitters! Therefore, traveling to these locations and visiting outfitters in person was important. Once we gained traction, it became easier and now we have outfitters finding us through google, social media and word of mouth! On the customer side, we are still working on building awareness through a variety of avenues like SEO, paid, affiliates, influencers and more. Raising awareness is always a work in progress for us, and we are constantly testing different ways of getting the word out!
What have been your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?
We have been working with a lot of contractors on things like website development, marketing, research, etc. and hire from websites like Upwork frequently. We had challenges with some of our initial contractors not meeting our expectations and not work on time or to plan. We constantly looked for new contractors. It was a learning process–we learned not to hire solely based on their profile and reviews because they can be misleading.
First, we now only target contractors with 99% or 100% job success–even 1 bad review can mean they may not be a good fit for us. Second, we give each potential candidate for a small project first to see how they do. Based on their quality of work, communication, adherence to deadlines, etc. we then hire for a larger project. Third–and this one is important–we try not to hire someone to work that we don’t fully understand. We have learned that we have to build at least a basic level of understanding of all aspects of our business to guide others on what we want. Online training sites like Udemy and Linda.com have great resources for everything from Marketing to Finance to Operations, and help you learn the key points so you don’t have to rely on a contractor to handle the strategy for parts of YOUR business. We also subscribe to various industry leaders for things like SEO so we can communicate goals and understand exactly what our contractors are doing to accomplish them.
How do you stay focused?
It can be hard, especially when we are in incredible outdoor destinations! The good thing is that it allows us to get out and experience the destinations we are featuring for our customers. We try to get outside and explore for most days and then focus the rest of the day working. We are passionate about helping get others outdoors, and we enjoy work–so that definitely helps. If we work 24/7 (which definitely happens when you start your own business!), we try to step away and get out into nature to help us clear our heads, maintain our positivity and even get the creative juices flowing!
How do you differentiate your business from the competition?
TripOutside is the only website that allows outdoor enthusiasts to find top outdoor destinations, compare the pricing of the top shops and book bikes, kayaks, paddle boards, rafts, skis and more online. Our key differentiation is that we focus primarily on the outdoor customer who wants to build their own outdoor adventure–either DIY or guided. Many other travel sites exist where customers can book a broad variety of experiences–everything from museum visits to guided city tours. We have a smaller niche, but everything on our site applies to the outdoor enthusiast.
What’s your best piece of advice for aspiring and new entrepreneurs?
The obstacle is the way. Don’t shy away from challenges and obstacles within your business – this is probably why you started the business, to begin with! The challenges are usually where the big “aha!” moments come from, and where you can make the most difference. It will not always be easy, but that’s also why it probably hasn’t been done before. Have confidence in yourself and your ability to figure it out!
What’s your favorite app, blog, and book? Why?
We love the books Essentialism and the Power of Now – they are not business specific but have provided great guidance and insight that applies to many aspects of our lives.
What’s your favorite business tool or resource? Why?
Some of our favorite business tools are Canva, which allows us to create Marketing content, and Buffer, which helps us manage our social media.
Who is your business role model? Why?
I’m inspired by Arianna Huffington and her hard work on the Huffington Post, which is one of my favorite news outlets. She’s not afraid to put herself out there and to change her mind about her views.
What do you have planned for the next six months?
We are focused on adding new outfitters in key destinations every day and expanding internationally. We are building great tools for both customers and outfitters–like pricing comparisons, trip guides, brand demo days features, and user-generated content.
How can our readers connect with you?