Just Started – George Burgess: Basubu

Basubu is the new online marketplace that’s making it easier than ever for people to relax and destress wherever they choose.

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Written and reviewed by:
Helena Young

Name of founder: George Burgess
Age of the founder: 29
Location: London
Date launched: September, 2021
Number of employees: 5

What does your business do?

Basubu is an online marketplace for wellness retreats. We help people find the perfect retreat, whilst helping organisers market their retreats to a larger audience. Many people who come to the site are in need of a distraction from the world and our goal is to find a means of escape that is suited to their interests. For some, that might be a silent meditation retreat, for others it may be a retreat that combines yoga, wild swimming, and surfing!

Where did the idea for your business come from?

My co-founder and I had just sold our last business and decided we had another one in us. With the pandemic ongoing, we were looking for an opportunity that would not only make a great business, but that could also help repair some of the damage that has been done over the last 18 months. We spent more than half a year researching various sectors and landed on wellness travel. The space was already growing twice as fast as the rest of the travel industry pre-covid, and we felt it would only grow faster afterwards.

How did you know there was a market for it?

We set out to do a 60-day test. We designed and built a basic prototype of the site in just 30 days, and put it live with only 15 retreats to begin with. We ran Google ads for a month and generated over £10k in bookings for our retreat partners. It was clear that it was a great opportunity, and we felt comfortable committing to the idea.

What were you doing before launching your business?

Prior to launching Basubu, we had spent over six months doing market research and rapidly prototyping different ideas we had in various sectors. This was after selling our last startup, a dating app.

Have you always dreamed of starting a business?

Pretty much! I was one of those weird teenagers in school who was always selling things or spotting opportunities. One of my earliest businesses was a filming company I set up with a friend. We would film our school theatre productions and sell the DVDs to parents. It worked pretty well so we started spending our lunch breaks sitting under a staircase cold calling the head teachers of other schools, and ended up filming events for various schools in the area.

How did you finance your business?

Basubu is backed by the venture capital fund Global Founders Capital and various angel investors.

Explain your business model and how you make money.

Basubu is a marketplace – when one of our retreat organisers receives a booking, we take a small commission. Our incentives are therefore aligned with our partners.

I was one of those weird teenagers in school who was always selling things or spotting opportunities.

What are the main challenges you have faced? And how did you overcome them?

There were a couple of weeks where our conversion rate fell quite drastically. We couldn’t figure out what was going on and were getting really frustrated. Finally, after a load of data analysis, we realised that our attempt to introduce a chat function on the site to learn more from our customers had led to the sticky booking button on our mobile website being covered up and not clickable! Stupid mistake.

What has your experience been of starting a business during a pandemic?

We’re hoping that the wellness travel space will experience strong tail winds as a result of the pandemic, but we have also been cautious about how we operate. To begin with, we only partnered with UK retreat organisers, and even now it’s still mostly UK retreats, with a few European options scattered in.

Describe your first breakthrough.

The feeling when we got our first booking was amazing. It happened within just a few days and was for a £1,500 retreat. We thought, if someone is willing to make a £1,500 purchase on a site we put together in just 30 days, we must be on to something.

How has Brexit impacted your business? Do you think it will in the future?

So far there’s no obvious impact from Brexit though I’m sure it’ll make things harder as we look to work with European retreat organisers.

The feeling when we got our first booking was amazing. It happened within just a few days.

What advice would you give to other aspiring business owners?

Get on with it, but test, test, test. Many people talk about starting a business, but never do it. The first step is to take action and crack on with it. Once you’ve done that it’s all about testing things really quickly. What’s the fastest way you can validate your idea without taking big risks? If it doesn’t work, don’t be afraid to move onto another idea. We spent 7 months doing market research, coming up with ideas and testing prototypes before we landed on Basubu.

What is one resolution you have for your business this year?

Help more people go on more retreats!

How do you see your business developing in the next three years?

Our primary focus to date has been on partnering with UK retreat organisers. Clearly this is a huge international opportunity and so working with retreat organisers across the world will be a multi-year challenge. We can’t wait!

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Written by:
Helena Young
Helena is Lead Writer at Startups. As resident people and premises expert, she's an authority on topics such as business energy, office and coworking spaces, and project management software. With a background in PR and marketing, Helena also manages the Startups 100 Index and is passionate about giving early-stage startups a platform to boost their brands. From interviewing Wetherspoon's boss Tim Martin to spotting data-led working from home trends, her insight has been featured by major trade publications including the ICAEW, and news outlets like the BBC, ITV News, Daily Express, and HuffPost UK.

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