Founder Spotlight: Lauren Bates, Wild Terrains

Photo courtesy of  Lauren Louise Photography

Photo courtesy of Lauren Louise Photography

I'm a huge fan of solo travel but have often discussed with other travel-loving friends the need for a boutique travel company geared towards uniting women.

Enter Wild Terrains, a company that designs travel experiences to bring creative women together with a mission of supporting a community of women makers, artists and entrepreneurs around the world. Founder Lauren Bates, former CMO at UrbanStems, created the company based on a need she had in her own life.

Check out photos from their recent Mexico City trip here and read on to learn more about her experience taking the leap.

Tell us about Wild Terrains. What were you doing prior to starting Wild Terrains and what made you decide to start it?

Wild Terrains is a boutique travel company built for women by women. We design group travel experiences that connect like-minded women around the world. We’re all about supporting local, women-owned businesses in our destinations, so our itineraries are packed with women-owned hotels, pop-up dinners curated by female chefs, and activities led by local creative women. We believe it’s really important to support the communities we work with, so we also donate a portion of the profits from each trip to a local organization supporting entrepreneurial women.

The idea for Wild Terrains actually came to me several years ago while I was Chief Marketing Officer at UrbanStems. I was burning the startup candle at both ends and in a bit of a creative rut. I decided I wanted to take a last-minute vacation and I looked for women-only travel groups, but I was really disappointed by what I found: only activity-specific trips centered around things like yoga, trekking and surfing. I was already an avid solo traveler, but I was really craving being around other creative women and none of my girlfriends could take time off of work. I didn’t want to spend 7 straight days doing just yoga or surfing, because that’s not how I travel on my own. When I travel I love really discovering a new place - staying in a beautiful hotel or home, eating fabulous meals, meeting really interesting people, learning about the local culture, and just experiencing what it’s really like to live there. I couldn’t find a women’s group travel company that offered this, so here we are! Now I’m the proud owner of an awesome travel company for women.

What were the biggest initial hurdles you faced while building Wild Terrains and how did you overcome them?

There are so many hurdles when you decide to start your own business - sometimes it feels like they are never ending. You have to think about so many things you never imagined you would have to think about. I mean have you ever actually thought about what getting business insurance is like for a travel company? You have to consider crazy stuff like: what if an earthquake happens while we’re on a group trip? It’s ulcer-inducing!

But, honestly, I think the biggest hurdle for an entrepreneur is managing your fear. Anyone who says they weren’t scared before starting their business is lying. It’s scary to put your idea out into the world and see if it can swim. That said, fear makes you do silly things like second guess yourself or spend an entire day editing one email to one person (guilty!). I’m still working on that fear hurdle. The best I’ve got so far is truly acknowledging that I’m totally freaked out, letting that emotion pass, and then getting back to business.

What has been your biggest success?

We just wrapped up our first Mexico City Experience and I’m delighted to say it was a smashing success! We had eight amazing women join us for a 5 day woman-powered journey through Mexico City. Our home base was the stunning, woman-owned Ignacia Guest House, and we packed the itinerary with one-of-a-kind woman-led experiences. Some of the highlights included a secret pop-up dinner curated by Chef Norma Listman of Masala y Maiz and a private textile shopping experience led by the amazing women behind textile company Colorindio. It was such a hit, we’re planning additional versions of this trip for December 2018, International Women’s Day 2019, and Mother’s Day 2019.

What's the best advice you've ever received?

Listen to what your customers are saying because without them you are nothing.

As you expand, how do you create a positive work environment and effectively manage a team while traveling?

This is such a tough question. I’ve worked at a lot of companies, and I can’t say I’ve been somewhere that’s really nailed it. I really think being a kind person, a good listener, and a patient teacher goes a long way. I also think people’s happiness at work ultimately  comes from feeling connected, understood, and like they are growing. I think a lot of startups are forced to grow too fast and end up failing at maintaining a healthy culture. At Wild Terrains, the plan is to grow slowly, build a sustainable and profitable business, and really listen to what our employees need and want.

What do you know today that you wish you would have known before starting your company?

So. many. things. Honestly though, I wish someone had told me to take the leap sooner. I sat with the idea for Wild Terrains for over two years because I was second guessing myself (hello again, fear). My business would be 2 years ahead if I had just followed my gut at the time. Oh well, lesson learned!

What inspires you to keep going?

I think it’s way easier to keep plugging away when you are happy. I’m happiest when I’m building things, and now that I’m building my own business? I’m at my happiest.

What three books do you recommend every entrepreneur read?

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

In the Company of Women: Inspiration and Advice from Over 100 Makers, Artists, and Entrepreneurs by Grace Bonney

This isn’t a book, but it’s an amazing series on Netflix - Abstract: The Art of Design


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