As we officially turn 1 this week, we’re letting the three My Swft founders steal the limelight in this edition of “Starting Conversations”:
1. First things first, tell us a little bit about yourselves.
TP: I worked for a tour operator specialising in group ski holidays after university before moving into the more corporate world. However, the idea of working in travel again refused to go away and when we came up with the idea for My Swft I didn’t give quitting my job second thought - I just couldn’t believe that other travel companies weren’t utilising messaging channels for better customer experience and that nobody was doing anything to make group travel, a huge segment in travel, any easier
PR: Like both of my esteemed colleagues, I have a finance degree. Unlike one of them, I never (wanted to, or) progressed to work in finance and it was only a matter of time until I was working for myself - even if it isn't in design, where I found myself working for the last few years. With a history of being the organiser, for rugby, cricket and ski trips with friends, I've spent plenty of time in our clients’ shoes.
I’m from Walsall, better known for making boxing belts, the Queen’s handbags, and an accent actually proving less unpopular in recent years thanks to Peaky Blinders (even if that is technically Birmingham, most people don’t know the difference) but I’m OK with one third of the innovation of new age holiday bookings being added to that list.
JC: I grew up in Yorkshire before being lured by the bright lights after uni, and spent the first 6 years of my career daydreaming about starting my own business. It feels good to be finally doing that and the threat of a return to life in finance gives me a ridiculous level of motivation.
2. One year down and one year closer to changing the travel industry forever. What’s been your highlight from the past year?
JC: There have been plenty of great moments. The most memorable, though, was our first customer. There were a sweaty couple of weeks back in September before anyone actually booked anything so when one finally came in, it was a massive relief!
TP: The highlight for me was designing the group planning and booking tool that’s currently in development. It really excites me and I cannot wait to launch it - it will take so much pain and hassle out of planning and booking group holidays and there’s nothing like it on the market
PR: For me, it was making the exciting transition from the comfort of ski (that the three of us knew well) to being an all-corners-of-the-world holiday company with clients who not only enjoyed the ease of the booking process, but loved the holidays too. It’s satisfying to get the kind of feedback we’ve had and see the company flourish.3. Starting a business is never easy - any lows?
JC: Yep definitely some lows, too. The biggest challenge is dealing with the uncertainty of everything. Taking a hefty pay cut, saying no to social engagements and at least doubling your workload can be tough when there’s no guarantee of success. Gradually though, confidence has been building and to reach our first birthday with great so many customer reviews shows the signs are good.
TP: Ha. Yes, a fair few. The pay cut was tough but was made a lot easier as we could see genuine validation for our product through great bookings, reviews, and media coverage. But for me, the hardest thing to deal with is the regulated nature of the travel market - moving quickly can be nearly impossible at times.
PR: Plenty. It is an old cliché to say that if it were easy, everyone would do it - but it’s true. To leave behind the comfort blanket of a regular salary to put in 80 hour weeks and still feel behind takes balls. I'm lucky to have a great support network around me in family and friends, because I have definitely needed them. Oh, and my eyesight. It’s now terrible, but that’s probably coincidence rather than consequence!
Company relocation to Val d’Isere, January 2018
4. What can we expect from My Swft next? Any previews you can share…
JC: We’re committed to making life for group leaders planning a holiday as easy as possible. We hear all the time what a great app My Swft is but we don’t even have an app… so, whisper it quietly, there could be an app on the way. Watch this space.
TP: We have two really great products that we’re launching over the next few months to dramatically improve the experience of planning, booking and going on a group holiday. We’re getting there with making the booking aspect of group holidays much better but we want to provide groups with an end-to-end service and be there to help from that initial conversation with your friends or family about a holiday, right the way through to landing back in the UK. Most travel companies only involve themselves with the actual holiday booking but planning a group holiday can be a massive pain and really time consuming and the holiday itself can be filled with uncertainty so that’s what we’re focusing on at the moment
PR: I hate to sound like a broken record, but my nerdy side can’t wait to get the app we’ve developed out to the wider world. Although space travel seems a pretty untapped market right now and could fit into a five year plan…
5. And finally, as the ultimate travel experts, where’s next on your bucket list to tick off?
TP: Good question - I’m pretty obsessed with the mountains - I love skiing, climbing, paragliding and have really got into speedriding (think skiing with a parachute) in the last few years. So I think that my next big trip will be somewhere in the Himalayas. Although some of those mountains do terrify me!
PR: I’ve always wanted to go to Japan. It’s an incredible country with some outrageous snow, on the cutting edge of technology, and next year has the rugby world cup too- no brainer! I also have some unfinished business with America after a previous trip was cut short, so I’ll be heading out there first before it goes back to being the Wild West. This is not me saying that the RWC is out of the question if anyone has spare tickets? No? Still hoping for a call from Eddie!
JC: I just returned from an amazing trip to Portugal where I visited Lisbon for the first time (my new favourite city) and Sagres, in the Algarve, which has a brilliant edge of the world feel to it. I highly recommend both. Next up, stagging in Vegas. Thankfully we have some excellent hotel deals there (cool smiley).