Gavin Lapuidus, and his co-founder Nadine, set up eShores in a back bedroom, selling specialist holidays to a small number of locations around the world. He talks about finding your niche, and being prepared.
What is it the company does?
eShores is a luxury travel agent that offers specialist trips to over 75 different locations across the world. Our team of personal travel consultants offer a one-to-one service to ensure we find our clients the most suitable holiday at the best price, with support at every step.
As our experience and knowledge has grown, we have found ourselves offering more tailored holidays. Instead of offering off-the-shelf packages, we now design the holidays we sell to the exact needs of our clients. We also offer multi-centre vacations, where holidaymakers can travel to many different cities and destinations in one trip.
Describe your role in no more than 100 words
As the co-founder and MD, I oversee the whole business, look after our team, stay up-to-date with industry trends, and help the day-to-day operations of the business. We’re a small group, so I like to be as hands-on as possible and offer constant guidance and support.
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
At the start, it was just me and the other co-founder, Nadine. We worked out of a back bedroom to start with, but after three months we needed to bring someone else on board. Our local council assisted us with further funding and helped us to find an office, enabling us to take on our first employee who’s still with us today.
We’ve just arrived at our 10-year anniversary which is a huge achievement for us. Since those early days, we’ve moved offices three times and built a brilliant team of 15 talented (and well-travelled) people.
What do you believe makes a great leader?
A great leader is someone who can make every member of the team feel as if they are pulling towards the same, shared goal. The ability to listen and take advice is also important, as a successful business should draw on the experience of every role to guide its next move.
What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?
Over the last 10 years, we have faced many challenges with destinations we sell suffering from conflict and political instability. There have been several acts of terrorism that have created a lot of fear around travelling. Natural disasters have also been problematic, not to mention economic instability.
You just have to make sure your business is versatile, and that you can adapt to whatever gets thrown at you. Putting clients first during these difficult times will ultimately pay dividends, as without them you don’t have a business.
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
It may seem obvious, but travel is always amazing for relieving stress. It’s especially useful to travel to a destination that we offer trips to, as I can expand my knowledge even further and look at the business from a client’s perspective, which I think is really important.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I’ve always wanted my own business, so it was more a case of working out what that business would be. I had a passion for travel, so that was at the top of the list.
I discussed ideas with an acquaintance who had worked in the travel industry for many years. With her industry expertise and my passion for travel, we put a plan together. From there we discussed our business plan with the bank and got funding in place, then it was just a case of taking the plunge.
Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?
As such a small team, I hate to see anyone too stressed. To counter this and keep morale high, we arrange regular nights out and activity days (like bowling) to blow off steam, unwind, and bond as a unit.
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
We’re looking to grow our revenue by 25% year-on-year, and to continue to expand in terms of our number of employees and the range of locations we offer.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
If you want to run your own business, you have an idea that you believe in, and you are dedicated to seeing it through, then go for it. You will face problems and challenges, but if you believe in yourself, you will make it succeed.
What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?
I wish I’d been more prepared for the investment and time it takes to be successful online. Your website is so important – it’s how your customers will find you, how they will initially evaluate you, and what they will use to decide whether to contact you. It’s essential to get it right.
You also need to understand that it takes a long time to get your website seen. SEO is a long but ultimately worthwhile process, so pay-per-click advertising is initially the best option until your natural search engine rankings are high enough. With PPC advertising, you can start with a small budget that grows with your business.