Over the course of this semester, I have been given the opportunity to go out into the surrounding Tampa Bay area and interview a couple entrepreneurs. Throughout my search, I continued to find common traits, mannerisms, and mentalities that seem to be prevalent in all successful Entrepreneurs. However, while I saw these common trends within these budding entrepreneurs; I began to understand just how unique and versatile the entrepreneurial mindset can be.
The first interview I conducted was with a small Tampa start up called “itrekkers”. I interviewed Tom Mulliez, the founder of itrekkers, and he was incredibly open and straight forward about his entrepreneurial journey as well as his vision for his company. Tom, explained that itrekkers is a web based platform that links customers with a wide armada of outdoor activities or treks. The mission is simple, provide the best guided outdoor experiences to aspiring explorers. These outdoor experiences or treks range from camping and hiking to deep sea fishing and paddle boarding. Which accounts for a selection of over 200 individual treks in the state of Florida.
When I asked Tom about the origins of itrekkers, I saw how much pride and passion he had for the concept. Tom joyfully explained to me that he is a very “outdoorsy” individual and that he loves immersing himself in nature. He expressed that his love of camping, hiking, fishing, and water-sports has been ever expanding over the past decade. Thus, as Tom would personally embark on his own outdoors experiences, he began to see a gap in the market when most the experiences were poor quality. Tom explained that he was frustrated that there was no service that could differentiate between the exceptional and the sub-par experiences. Thus, the idea for itrekkers was born.
Tom explained to me that I trekkers was born in May of 2014 when he noticed a need in the market for a reliable source of outdoor experiences. Having a glorified google listing of 150 possibilities in the Tampa area does not help a consumer decide which experience will have the greatest personal impact. Thus, Tom began to develop the idea that we know as itrekkers today. However, as we have come to know, not all great ideas are a properly executed at first. He explained to me how when he first created the concept, that it was a complete failure! He then went into further detail as to why he believed he failed. “The problem was not within the idea; the problem was within the execution” Tom said. Tom has over a decade of experience with the outdoors, business, and customer relations. He knew what to look for from a customer standpoint however when it came to technology; Tom said that he originally lacked the necessary skills and understanding that lead to the original failure of the company. Tom explained that he was originally too worried about spending too much money on the technology in the beginning, but in retrospect he wishes he conducted a proper due diligence. Looking back, he said he would have been more focused on the quality of the technology and not the price tag.
As we continued the interview, we dove into how the name itrekkers came to be. Tom explained that it was all formed around the idea of “trek”. The journey, the mission, the expedition of the great outdoors. However, the problem was many of the “trek” domain names were already taken thus, Tom expanded his horizon’s. He explained the “i” in itrekkers is dual symbolic. It stands for the “i” of the internet age as well as the personal “I” within the experience. As in “I am going on this trek”. He then further explained that the “ers” is what encompasses a larger community of people. Giving us the ultimate result of itrekkers.
As the interview continued, I began to truly notice the entrepreneurial spirit radiating from within Tom. Tom had always had the entrepreneurial drive. In third grade Tom stated that he was the kid who bought all the pencils and sold them at school. However, this idea that he created has been his baby for the past three years and there is no sign of slowing down or stopping. In fact, quite the opposite! Tom then began to disclose to me the genius within the itrekkers business model. They basically have two types of treks “in-house” and “out of house”. The “in-house” treks are where itrekkers supplies all the equipment, and makes the most profit. Tom explained that as they continue to expand, they should encapsulate the south-east region of the US by July of 2017 and the entire US by the end of this year!
Ultimately, what I feel was the most gravitational aspect of this interview as the raw and uncut advice Tom gave me. He explained the importance of taking your time and learning the industry somewhere else before doing it one your own. That is the only way one can become truly successful.