Rise’s Radical Renegade is a monthly series featuring interviews with trailblazing career mavens. Meet Becky Van Dijk, CEO and co-founder of We Are Travel Girls – a global travel community created to inspire, connect, educate and empower female travelers around the world.
Why did you start your company and what motivates you every day?
I started my company by accident to be totally honest with you! In London, I was working in banking and was looking for travel company to go on group women’s trips. I wanted to travel with women in my age range with the same interests. But I couldn’t find anything that wasn’t an over 50’s group. So I moved on, carried on traveling solo, tried some of the big group travel organisations. But I never really enjoyed them. Then, when I decided to quit my job to travel through South America, I started toying with ideas for travel related businesses, but nothing really came to me. I didn’t have a lightbulb moment, but I decided to start a travel Instagram sharing inspirational travel pictures and tips.
The community grew and together with Vanessa Rivers, our co-founder, we started creating events and bespoke women’s group trips. The reason I say it was an accident, is because I didn’t set out with the intention to start it. I had a passion which grew over time and evolved into the business it is today! Beyond the company We Are Travel Girls, I love teaching, educating and sharing my entrepreneurial knowledge. So now I share business & blogging tips on BeckyvanDijk.com. I am also launching my own online courses to share what I have learned from running my own business and how women can turn their passions into their day job!
What are some of the major lessons you’ve learned along the way?
I learned so many lessons along the way. The most important one being taking risk and this is one that I still wrestle with. Without taking risk we are unlikely to succeed or at least succeed to the level we want. I am not a risk taker at all, despite being someone who used to manage private client money for the bank and invest it in the markets! So, for me taking risks, or spending money on my business to advance it is something I am pushing myself to become more comfortable with.
Secondly, I have learned I can’t do everything myself. But I still try! I find it very hard to outsource anything and even when I do my standards are too high. So I am never pleased with the result and in the end re-do it myself!
As a business owner its impossible to do everything yourself. At a certain point if you want the business to advance you must be comfortable letting go. This has been the hardest challenge for me and something I am still working on trying to do!
Tell us about a setback you’ve faced and how did you overcome it?
Recently, I was in a ski accident which as a travel business owner and host of trips is a disaster! I have done serious damage to my knee and the recovery period is a minimum of 12 weeks. That coincided with me hosting our Travel Girls Getaways Morocco trips, which start just 5 weeks after the accident!
When the accident happened, I immediately panicked and thought we would have to cancel the upcoming trips. Who would host them if I can’t walk? But then my husband shared a Chinese parable with me about a farmer who suffers some bad luck, but does not look to this as bad luck. Sure enough the farmer’s bad luck led to something else good, but still he does not congratulate himself on his good fortune as he knows what this might lead to. You can read it here https://bromleymindfulness.org.uk/the-parable-of-the-chinese-farmer/ .
I think this is a great way to look at a set-back in your personal life and your business. Instead of immediately looking at the negative, consider that something positive will come from it.
What advice do you have for women who feel stuck in their careers?
For women who feel stuck in their careers I want to say to them don’t. Don’t feel like you are stuck. We are all in charge of our lives and we are not stuck in a job.
When I worked in banking I constantly felt stuck – I felt I couldn’t leave especially since I earned a good income and any other more meaningful fun job would be a major step down in pay. But at the end of the day these reasons for not leaving were my own choices, if I wanted to leave badly enough then I would have left no matter the financial consequences. I had to look at myself and realise whilst I complained about my job and said I wanted to leave all the time, I was choosing to stay. My own inability to leave was holding me back, which I had to overcome.
On the counter side of this I would advise women to look at the positives in their job role – even if it’s not their dream job. If they are not ready to up and quit, try and make the job work for you. Consider what skills are you learning that would help you in a future role? What business connections are you making that could be valuable if you start your own business? What projects or tasks can you get involved in that will eventually help you start your own business or transition to a different role or company?
If you take each day with the thought that you are building foundations and skills that will help you with a future business you will feel less “stuck”. All the skills I need in running my business I learnt from 10 years in a corporate environment and I cannot stress how important time in a formal job role is for when you eventually want to run your own business!
We all know how difficult work/life balance is. How do you draw the line to create separation in these two spheres?
Work/life balance is my hardest challenge of all. I am a workaholic and also a bit of a homebody. Since I work from home creating separation is a challenge for me. If I could give someone else advice then I would say to give yourself a list of absolute must-do’s for that day. Pop to the gym or go out for a coffee, walk the dog. Then come back and do the extra tasks, the less critical ones instead of powering through. I would also try and instil a weekend. Many businesses still work 5 day weeks so a weekend off is possible. Both these pieces of advice I am still working on trying to implement for myself.
We love to support women-founded ventures. Is there a company/product that you’ve come across recently that you think more people should know about?
My cousin Zanna van Dijk recently launched an eco swimwear line Stay Wild Swim. As well as being a fitness blogger, BBC Podcast host, UN speaker, sustainability advocate, an Adidas ambassador, she found time to launch this business which also supports other eco initiatives. At just 25 I am in awe of everything she is creating, and admire her work ethic! On top of all, she is recovering from major emergency surgery from a twisted bowel in the Maldives. Very inspirational!