Craving more freedom and fun than they had in their careers, two Canadian pals, Taylor Loren and Elaine Rystead, hopped in a car, quit their jobs and started driving. They knew they were headed for Mexico, but figuratively, they had no idea what they were chasing other than what made them happy and what felt right. And, as is often the case, doing what they really love is what ended up being the most rewarding business they could have ever imagined. Today, the lovely lasses of Local Wanderer are taking time out of their globe-trotting lives to chat about business, localism vs. tourism, what a career in social media means, copycats and more. –Sabrina
Why did you decide to start your own business?
We wanted the flexibility to work wherever and whenever…so we somehow ended up making our own travel brand, Local Wanderer! We didn’t know exactly what we wanted our business to be, but we knew that we wanted to have more freedom than we had in our “careers.” We looked at our values and interests first, and then started to build a business around things we genuinely like to do.
This led to us quitting our career jobs, jumping into a car, and traveling down to Mexico and back from Vancouver, BC. We decided not to use Google Maps for the entire trip (which we’d never do again…) and we created the @localwanderer Instagram account to share the local people and places we found along the way, because it’s something that we would want to use ourselves.
We were receiving really positive feedback about what we were doing, and when our following blew up in just under six weeks, we knew we were on to something and made the decision to invest our time in making Local Wanderer a business!
When you first decided to start your own business, how did you define what your business would be?
In the beginning, we were just an Instagram account, and we were solely focused on making Instagram successful. As we grew, we used our Exposure profile to tell our larger stories, but we were still all about keeping things local. We were hesitant to call ourselves “bloggers,” but it seemed to be the only word that we could use to make people somewhat understand why we were taking a bunch of photos of their coffee shop!
Because of that, we’ve learned to be okay with not having a definition for our business. The best part about working in social media is that things are constantly changing, which keeps you on your creative toes. Just when you think you have things figured out, something else comes along to shake things up.
In the beginning, we just wanted to share cool, local places with our friends so they could have more unique experiences. Now that we’ve had a year to think about what we want our business to be, Local Wanderer’s goal is to replace tourism with localism and help people truly connect to communities when they’re traveling.
What was the best piece of business advice you were given when you were starting off?
“They copied all they could follow, but they couldn’t copy my mind, and I left ‘em sweating and stealing a year and a half behind.” – Rudyard Kipling
Sometimes it can be very discouraging when you spend so much time on a concept, and then see some people try and copy you shortly after. Back when Taylor worked at Hootsuite, she had a similar experience and CEO Ryan Holmes shared this quote with her in an email and we always come back to it. It’s a good reminder to remain confident in your own skill set and creativity, and to trust in yourself.
“Always leave with stories!” – Gary Morrisson
As we were saying goodbye to our good friend Gary, he left us with this piece of advice and it’s become our mantra ever since. It’s important to make the most out of every situation, whether it’s trying to make a boring situation more lively, or a bad situation more positive.
What was the most difficult part of starting your business?
Starting a business while homeless and living on the road was, shockingly, really difficult! We were travelling from city to city, living out of our car, and having a ton of fun — but we were also very dirty, poor, and stressed a lot of the time. Not knowing where you are going to sleep each night or where you are going next causes a lot of unnecessary anxiety, on top of just wanting to make your business successful.
Can you name the biggest lesson you’ve learned in running a business?
It’s so important to be genuine in everything you do. Even the smallest amount of love and support goes such a long way when it’s genuine. Some of the best “business” we’ve done has been with strangers who have become our real friends because we both came to the table from a genuine place. Plus, it’s just so much more enjoyable to work with people when you are invested in their happiness.
Can you name a moment of failure in your business experiences?
One time we went on an adventure to watch some bears, and we got reallllly close to one at a fishery. We took a photo and posted it on Instagram, which actually resulted in a lot of negative feedback. Apparently there was a lot of local tension regarding people visiting that location to see bears, which was disrupting their habitat. We had no idea it was such a sensitive issue to the community, and we were able to learn a lot about the consequences of our “adventure.” We ended up deleting the photo – but we still love bears!
What has been the biggest sacrifice you’ve made in starting your business?
In the beginning, we had to really convince people about our idea and why we thought it was important. We still have to do this, but having an audience and follower base behind us definitely helps now! Our biggest sacrifices are probably the same as other entrepreneurs: our personal time and our personal money. We’ve learned to not only be okay with doing casual part-time work to pay the bills, but to embrace it, because it allows us to focus all our other energy on building something we want.
Can you name your greatest success in your business experiences?
When we quit our jobs and hit the road to travel down to Mexico and back, we had no idea what our Instagram account would turn into, let alone how we would make money from it. But in our first year, we landed three paid travel campaigns with top brands like Land Rover, Mini Cooper, and Sorel Footwear for our work on Instagram, Tumblr, and our blog.
But to us, our greatest success is probably just the hundreds of amazing and inspiring creatives we’ve been able to become friends with. They’ll last a lot longer than our revenue will!
What business books/resources (if any) would you recommend to someone starting a creative business of their own?
Elaine’s favourite business book is Poke the Box by Seth Godin: It’s an inspiring read about vision, purpose, and creativity. Taylor’s favourite is #Girlboss by Sophia Amoruso: It’s a powerful and relatable read that truly makes you feel like you can achieve whatever you want with your business.
In your opinion, what are the top three things someone should consider before starting their own business?
- Know who you’re making something for. In business terms, they call this your “target market” and it’s crucial to really understand them, talk with them, and become them.
- Understand your own strengths and weaknesses, and find a great partner that complements them. Your partnership is like being married (or so we’ve been told).
- Have three month’s worth of savings, and be okay with working another job to pay the bills. You might not be passionate about working in a cafe or freelancing, but not having anxiety over how to pay your rent will allow you to focus more of your energy on making your business great — instead of worrying about how your business is going to make money right this second so you can pay rent.