Meet Serial Traveller & Entrepreneur Claire
Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
As a passionate traveller fascinated by Tech and all the opportunities it offers, I founded wOndary. In a past life, I worked in Investment Banking, advised startups and trained as an aspirant professional dancer.
With my my co-founder Achim Weimert, we are building a platform that puts the travellers’ needs at the centre and let’s you find, save, organise, book and share everything related to your trips. Our mission is to empower travellers to not travel as a tourists, but to explore and push boundaries. We’re passionate about promoting the “traveller’s mindset” for it means leaving any destination and situation a better place than when they found it.
What inspired you to launch wOndary?
It all clicked together when preparing a trip to Patagonia! I was organising the trip with my friend, who lived in a different timezone and realized that planning was an absolute nightmare. We only had 12 days there and a long wishlist, which left no time for a missed plane or train. We struggled to find the transports to make it all fit together. After a thorough search we found a couple of travel blogs that described similar challenges and how they made it work.
This trip made me wonder if there was a way to make planning easier without having to search online for hours or have all the noise of endless emails and whatsapp messages when getting the planning done! That’s when I came up with wOndary, and began to test this concept. The idea was about a friendly online place where I could save everything about my trip, easily find the sites I bookmark, communicate smoothly with the people I travel with and get instant access to my friends’ experiences, a marketplace to buy or rent equipment, or simply find a trekking buddy.
What did you learn from your previous job?
I learned the value of “getting my hands dirty” which is what I call becoming an expert in the technicalities underlying whatever I do. That actually was an advice from a senior at the job I used to intern and it really stuck with me. He told me that this is how one develops a gut feeling and quick thinking on complex issues.
Alongside this advice, “strategic thinking” is another key learning from my investment banking career. Having been involved in multi-billion deals, I have had the opportunity to witness the power of “having a plan” (may it be financial, strategic, communication, …) which encouraged me to extend this to all aspects of my life. Things never go according to plan but at least this makes me quicker to figure out a solution!
What’s your relationship like with money and personal finance? Has it changed much in recent years?
I would say my relationship with money and personal finance is healthy and it has evolved a lot over the years! I spent quite some time consciously thinking about my relationship with money, as I felt it would be critical to enabling me to build a business.
I try to see money as a flowing thing: you need to spend some to get some. I also try to not be too attached to money but rather ask myself “what deserves my investment?” and then “how much money does it deserve?”. Money and personal finances are freedom for me, it’s all in the planning!
What does financial independence mean to you?
Financial independence means having the freedom to make decisions without being “boxed” by the financial aspect. Money is most often a constraint, but I felt financially independent when the money stopped being the ultimate deciding factor. After having all financial planning done, I began to feel less stressed when thinking about money.
You are a passionate traveller. How do you manage to travel while managing your own startup?
Ironically, I haven’t travelled much since I started to focus on empowering people to travel! My business requires constant attention at the moment so I prefer postponing some trips until I can really enjoy them. When building my budget, I included a “pot” for “rewards” to provide myself some financial breathing and to keep myself motivated. I try to make money last as long as possible, so I explore cheaper destinations for shorter durations and try to be creative in finding ways to plan great experiences that are within my means!
I recently spent a long weekend in Lisbon on the back of the Web Summit, which I was attending for wOndary. I got friends motivated to join me from the Thursday night and that was definitely a great city to explore!
What is the best financial decision you made?
Investing in myself: getting an education, continual personal development, and financing my business.
In France, education is perceived as being free as the costs are covered by the State. Business Schools are an exception and by choosing to join a top ranked one, I was the first in my family to pay tuition fees. My first cheque was thus of €30,000 to the School and, at the age of 19, this felt like an absolutely huge commitment and risk to pay them back in a few years. This paid off beyond the School education for that I learned how to manage my money better!
In terms of personal development. I believe in getting the right support and that your friends or mentors cannot provide it all, however great they can be! I have engaged with various coaching programs and always looked at it as an investment.
Finally, financing my business is another major financial decision I made. Many people recommended against it, saying it was too risky (Reese Witherspoon mentions encountering similar comments in her 2015 Cosmo Speech! Way to go :) ). But in the end, with proper planning, shouldn’t I believe I am the best investment for my own money?
Own up. Have you made any major financial faux-pas?
I wouldn’t say I had any major ones, because I’m a bit of a squirrel and have built multiple safety pockets. However I’ve definitely had a few slips. I’d say my biggest faux-pas were a couple of times when I missed the deadline to return online shopping. I buy A LOT when doing online shopping, to try it at home. I was was pretty disappointed with myself when realising I was stuck with the goods... but this wasn’t the end of the world and I could make someone happy if it didn’t fit!
What are your biggest financial fears and concerns?
That I or my business will run out of money... that’s definitely the biggest fear at the moment. I believe it’s quite healthy given the level of risks I’ve taken (financing 100% of my business so far!). But there’s nothing like that to keep you on your toes ;)
To mitigate the risks, I have cut my lifestyle to the basics, bye bye fancy drinks and regular shopping sprees. I have done my homework in the planning phase and now have a plan and feel as much in control as I can. We’ll be raising funding shortly and I can start negotiating off a stronger position for it.
Can you share your best travel hacks?
Check out my profile on wOndary for some pretty awesome tips! My most recent trips beyond Lisbon were in Morocco and Iran where I had fantastic experiences with people and food!
My advice would be to break out the flight with a 24-36 hr stopover when flying across many time zones. This is a great way to have “a second holiday” within your trip at no cost (most airlines let you!). If that hasn’t convinced you yet, it also helps with the jetlag!
What is Vestpod for you?
A dose of “fraicheur” in my inbox that always brings me a smile and makes me feel I keep in touch with my finances. It’s like a gym for the money, I’m not a pro athlete but try to keep a good hygiene and at least have an understanding of what is good for me!
Your story: Claire studied at Columbia Business School and EDHEC Business School. She’s been living in London for 8 years and travelled to Uzbekistan, China, Israel and Australia, amongst other. You can find her working (most days) from Campus, a Google space where anyone can work for free ☺. wOndary got recently selected for the Google Launchpad accelerator as well as a semi-finalist of the Techpreneur awards. Claire was nominated in the 101 Female Founders of Tech.
Thanks a lot Claire!