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Inspired by travel #17: The Lone Travellers

How a young female traveller was inspired to cut through the noise and create a comprehensive website on which solo travellers can find all they need...

Business: The Lone Travellers
Founder: Margaux Marshall
Started in: October 2017

A keen traveller, Margaux Marshall became frustrated with how difficult it was to find unique new destinations and instructions on how to get there. Travelling solo around South East Asia, she found that she was wasting hours of precious adventuring time scouring the web for the best things to do in each place she visited.

Marshall found herself wishing that there was one comprehensive website collating all the practical information, recommendations and safety advice needed to make the most of a trip – especially as a solo female traveller.

Roughly four years later, The Lone Travellers – a website and community through which young travellers can find all the information they need in just three clicks – was born. As a result, young entrepreneur Marshall has been named one of Tomorrow's Travel Leaders by TTG.

We spoke to Marshall to find out how her trip inspired such a promising concept:

Where were you when you had your business idea?

I first had my business idea while travelling in South East Asia. I had been travelling for a while and was looking for new destinations to visit as well as practical information on how to get there and things to do.

I remember looking at different websites, trying to find relevant information and getting frustrated that I was spending so much time researching without finding exactly what I needed. The idea for The Lone Travellers was born!

Why were you so inspired?

It took a couple of months for the idea to take shape, and after a while I realised I really was onto something. The more time I spent on the internet doing travel research, the more I wished the website already existed, which emphasised that there really was a gap in the market.

I was inspired by the thought that I could make life easier and save a lot of time for fellow travellers – and of course myself!

Were you actively looking for a start-up idea or did it just seem to good to pass up?

Around the time I had the idea for The Lone Travellers I had met an entrepreneur who encouraged me to think I could do anything I wanted (I was recently out of university).

She gave me a notebook and told me to write down three business ideas per day for 10 days, so I would end up with 30 in the hope that one would be good. The first idea was The Lone Travellers and was definitely the best out of the lot!

How easy was it to start the business?

It has been a slow process – around four years so far – so you could say it has been excruciatingly hard for an impatient person like me!

The technical aspects of creating a working website to the standard I wanted was probably the hardest and longest task. I went from teaching myself how to code, to a course, to finding people to help with it. Once I found the right person to help, it took a lot of the pressure off and finally things started to move in the right direction.

All in all, building a team of the right people has been the tipping point to making my vision for The Lone Travellers actually achievable and enjoyable!

What research did you have to carry out to learn more about the sector and the market opportunity?

Once I had decided to conceptualise the idea, the first thing I did was write a business plan. I had done a few of those during university (I graduated with an international business degree) so I knew what to do.

To create the business plan, I undertook a detailed analysis of the market (Porter’s 5 Forces, 7Ps). A lot of the research also came from my personal experience of travel. The business plan was an accumulation of years of travel research from hundreds of travel websites, and has really helped shape The Lone Travellers.

How did you replicate what you’d seen overseas or use your experience there? Did you modify the idea for the UK market?

I used my experience of travelling to refine the way I created The Lone Travellers. As a solo female traveller, it became important to include content about travelling alone and safety, which is often overlooked.

Also, as a traveller I understood the need to find information quickly, so creating a platform where you can get the lowdown on a destination in just three clicks became the priority when building the site.

How much did you invest in getting started?

Because I did the majority of the work myself in the early days, my main investment was time. I also work full-time, so I’ve been able to self-fund The Lone Travellers with a bit of help from friends and family! Looking to the future and expanding the site, I may consider a round of investment.

How quickly after starting did you experience what you’d describe as ‘success’?

Success can be as small or as big as you make it. Though for me the first experience of a success was when the site first went online. This was only four months after I started work on The Lone Travellers. It really felt that I had my own business and that I had created something which I could call my own.

Of course, this was short lived as I then got to work on gathering content and optimising the site which took even longer – but it was a great feeling at the time.

Where did you go for business advice?

The first event I attended for The Lone Travellers was an Institute of Travel and Tourism (ITT) gathering where I met many people from the travel industry. Everyone there was very helpful and supportive of my enterprise and a few became my long-term mentors and advisors.

What advice would you give to others who travel looking for start-up ideas?

Travel is a great way of coming up with business ideas and opening up new horizons. It takes you out of your usual environment so you can start seeing how things are done better elsewhere, or, like me, you may spot a gap in the market for a genuinely useful product or service that is currently missing. Oh, and keeping a little notebook to write all your ideas down is a must!

What are your future plans?

I officially launched in October 2017, with over 20 destinations on the site. Looking at 2018’s plan, it is all about the growth of traffic and letting the world know that The Lone Travellers is here!