This is the story of my start-up company www.handivoyage.net, that I started building when I was 17 years old, navigating through the emotional rollercoaster that is entrepreneurship.
My name is Lucas GEBHARDT, I am 17.
Just like 3.5million French people, I have a loved one that has a motor disability, and just like many others, we would like to go on holiday. However, unlike other families, it is extremely difficult. There are two options available to us:
- Go broke through a specialised travel agency for people with reduced mobility, where you have to pay
twice as much as “normal” customers for a holiday.
-Try and find “adapted” accommodation on booking.com or another holiday booking platform.
So, we opt for the second option. We phone them to know if their room adapted for people with reduced mobility is available. It is. Amazing, lets book it! We finally arrive there, and it isn’t accessible. Back to Lyon the same day. Ruined holidays, yet again. That is when I decided to put an end to this stress, and find a simple and efficient solution,Handivoyage.net. The first holiday-booking platform specific to people with disabilities, where all the
accommodation is verified and checked for their accessibility.
I start my degree in economics and management at the IAE of Lyon, however, I have a lot of free time.Too much free time. This is the ideal time to fulfil my dream of launching my own start-up (and change the world). There’s just one simple little problem: I don’t know how to develop website and computing really isn’t my area of expertise.
My first competition, held within my university: the “J’M Entreprendre” competition. I’m in the final, in my head, I’ve already won. The auditorium is overflowing as I step onto the stage. I’m scared, I’m stuttering, and I flunk my presentation… I lose. I took my first failure very hard.
I persevere and enter the Jean-Moulin business incubator in my university. I have never had so much faith in myself and I launch the V1 of my website, despite the criticism. I want to prove to everyone that people with disabilities can go on holiday and that there is a real market, even with all the specific
requirements. I initiate a Crowdfunding campaign on Ulule, and it works. Just like that, 1840€ to start developing my own company. Meanwhile, I’m still entering competitions, and Holy Grail, I finally win my first one. The JEA competition, Jeune Entrepreneur de l’Année (Young Entrepreneur of the Year), in the social category. As well as this honor, I win the right to enter the Emergence foundation, which is a business foundation that helps social
entrepreneurs. This was one of the best things that could have happened to me as I had access to a huge network of contacts. Within this framework, I have had 3 mentors (that still help me to this day), each one as extraordinary as the other, which confirms that as I always say: “The strength of a leader is
knowing to surround yourself with the best people”.
I put all the crowdfunding funds toward a solution that did not work as I had hoped it would, and I now need money to grow. But yet again, no one is with me, rejection after rejection. Every foundation, association, company that I meet with does not wish to help me financially. According to them, I am the problem: I’m too young, I don’t have enough experience, I don’t have any associates, I have no technical expertise, and the list goes on.
Through my perseverance, I get lucky. The MAAF foundation phones me to announce that I am the winner of the 2016 Edition of the MAAF foundation, and as such, I am awarded a grant of 30,000€ for my company to expand. My wonderful adventure can finally begin!
Handivoyage becomes a SAS company (a joint-stock company under French law). The serious business
starts with the launch of our website www.handivoyage.net
>> Find out more in the next episode ! 😍
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