I had the pleasure of interviewing Olivia and Molly McShea, the sisters and co-founders behind Livalit Travel.They work with small-medium size businesses and online communities to create a personalized trip, geared specifically to their interests, to sell to and go on with their customers. A few examples are cheese shops that taste their way through cheese markets in Holland, outdoor stores that hike lush mountains in Bali, and Irish pubs that sample the local watering holes in Ireland.
Jean: Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
When we first started Livalit Travel we set up tons of coffee dates with other business owners to hear about how they started and to get advice from fellow entrepreneurs. These coffee dates are where the idea for custom trips for businesses all started. Molly’s background is in planning custom tours and we’ve both traveled extensively, so when we shared our story many of the business owners we met with expressed how they had thought about doing a trip with their community but didn’t know how or even where to start. After hearing the same story over and over, we knewwe were the perfect people to fill thatneed and create a new niche in group travel.
Jean: Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company?
One funny memory that sticks out to us happened on our first tour that we ran which was to South Africa. We planned a quick stop at an ostrich farm on our way back to Cape Town. We mainly included this visit just to break up the drive and give our travelers a chance to stretch their legs. Little did we know feeding the ostriches would turn into a highlight of the trip. The first one to feed them was Molly. She grabbed the bag of feed and started to back up against the fence, as instructed, and right when she did the ostriches attacked the bagwhile completely untroubled by her presence. She was enveloped in ostrich heads andthe hilarity continued as everyone else took their turn. This showcases a lesson, not only in travel, but in business that we need to expect and more importantly embrace the unexpected.
Jean: What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
We take the trend of group travel and make it available to consumers through businesses and online communities that they already know and trust.This allows us to create specialized experiences that are geared towards one community’s interests. For instance, one of our clients is a fair-trade store and they will travel with their customers to Vietnam and Cambodia where they will meet some of the artisans that are producing the goods in the store. Not only will they meet them, but they’ll get to see all the work and artistry that goes into making each of the products — it’s a really cool experience!
Jean: None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Our parents are the reason we are where we are today. They are both entrepreneurs, so we grew up assuming that’s what you do!As fellow entrepreneurs they are always there to celebrateour successes, help us climb out of our lows, and offer helpfuladvice. As our dad always says, “These are my thoughts, but it is up to you to decide what you want to do with them.”This is so important because as an entrepreneur, especially in your 20’s, people will offer advice, but it’s up to us to decide what we can apply to our situation and what isn’t as relevant.
Jean: Are you working on any exciting projects now?
We just launched 3 new trips for one of our biggest clients, MTN Chicks. We’re excitedto take people to places that they may not be comfortable tackling on their own and to connect an online community in real life. Just being a small part in someone’s journey to experience this world is exciting for us.
Jean: How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
When we are planning tours, our goal is to use local accommodations and support small businesses in the countries we visit.It sounds so cliché, but we have so many stories about people going out of their way to be kind to us all over the world and we hope that our travelers feel that same love. That kindness has made us more empathetic towards people and understanding of the overall goodness in the world — a reminder that we all need from time to time.
Jean: Do you have a favorite book that made a deep impact on your life? Can you share a story?
Olivia: My favorite book that has made me look inward on my own strengths and flaws is “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” by Dale Carnegie. This is a timeless book that will never become irrelevant because the cornerstones of human nature will always remain the same. I was given this book by my uncle who read it because his father, my grandfather, read and embodied this book in his personal life and during his time as an entrepreneur. Reading this book gives me the tools to be more like my grandfather when I’m interacting with others.
Jean: Can you share 5 of the most difficult and most rewarding parts of being a “TwentySomething founder”. Please share an example or story for each
1. Making your own schedule
a. We get to decide how we want to spend our day. If we want to work in the morning and evening but take the afternoon to go on a hike, we can. We efficiently get done what needs to be done instead of prolonging a task to look busy for a manager or to fill the day until 5 o’clock hits.But with this freedom comes the responsibility of strict…
a. This is something that will be a consistent struggle. When you don’t have anyone to report to, it can be difficult to keep up the motivation to complete tasks that youdon’t really want to do.With that being said, we do find drive in the fact that…
3. Every success is our success, but every failure is our failure.
a. Whether we signed on a new client or we had a traveler sign up for a trip, these victories, big or small, are so exciting because they are a direct result of the work we’ve put into our business. At the same time, the opposite is also true. Sometimes when things don’t work out how you would like them to, it’s hard not to take it personally. In the end, the rollercoaster of emotions is worth it because of…
4. The accomplishment of building something of your own from the ground up.
a. It almost feels surreal starting your own business. You work everyday but we find ourselves thinking, “are we really working?” We haven’t completely cracked the reason why we feel this way but it probably stems from the fact that we enjoy what we do and we have a passion for what we are creating. We’re still waiting for it to hit us that we are…
5. Directly influencing other people and giving them incredible experiences.
a. We love to travel but being even a small part in another personal journey to experience the world is so rewarding.
Jean: What are the main takeaways that you would advise a twenty year old who is looking to found a business?
-Push through the tough times because there will be plenty of breakdowns but in the end it’s all worth it.
-Don’t let people use your age to define your credibility in business.
-Don’t be afraid to make mistakes or fail because sometimes those experiences will put you on a more successful path.
Jean: Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. :-)
The founders of theSkimm or Sara Blakely. We both read theSkimm every morning and have been following their journey for the past few years. We love that they are open about having both successes and failures and can relate to entering an established industry with a new twist. It’s hard to compile a concise list of why we’d want to meet Sara Blakely, but we’ll give it a try. We love that she balances being a Mom and running an incredibly successful business (while being open about the struggles of doing both), that she regularly flies with her ancient iPod (we do too), and that she made a lot of smart and bold decisions when starting her business (it inspires us to be confident and push through barriers).
— Published on June 27, 2018