We had the good fortune of connecting with Veronica Woodruff and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Veronica, how do you think about risk?
I don’t think about things as a risk. I think about opportunities first, then I attack the effects of risks later. The reason is that I’m a natural problem-solver, so if things come up, I find a way to get to the solution. When deciding to start Travelsist, I didn’t know that starting a business would take so much time and effort. I thought that I could build the right company and team, plus raise money, but there are so many other components in order to make that happen. There is a whole community in the tech ecosystem. Pursuing a business, being a mom in addition to doing business in the travel and tourism sector during COVID is high risk. In pursuing business, there are a lot of risks, but I still do it. I know how big the opportunity is, so I’ll continue to seek it. My close family and friends would worry, but I end up accomplishing my goals. I have my mentors and advisors supporting me, and we’ve managed to get through it.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
Ever since I was a child, I was traveling. I would travel from LA to the Bay as an unaccompanied minor. So when I graduated from college, I made a career out of it for 14 years. Then when I started a family, I had my daughter, and I refused to give up my love for travel, so my husband and I took her everywhere. With that came the small pains of traveling with a child: the car seat, stroller, and pack-and-play. With motherhood, I decided that I wanted to enter into the tech space. With a family, I didn’t want to travel as much but rather be present for them. So, I changed careers. I entered into hackathons and competitions, and when I started winning them because of my problem-solving abilities. I’d begun entering – and winning – competitions meant to solve technical problems for large corporations. As I continued to win, I decided that it was time to solve the problem of my very own and create a business out of it. The biggest problem I had when I traveled was traveling with my daughter while lugging all of her baby gear. There had to be a more efficient way. Even the car seats available at any car rental weren’t clean and consistent with the level of care that met my standards. The experience made it hard to travel, so I decided to start Travelsist. Starting a venture, though, is different than solving a problem for a hackathon. You have to execute the idea. There are different formulas and systems. What I’ve found is that I had to learn how to start a business. I knew that it would be expensive to establish at the airport, so I had to raise capital. I knew that I had to learn how to raise money as a minority woman. I had heard a lot of ‘No’s,’ but I’m very bold and go for everything and anything that presents an opportunity. A lot of people feel like I’m a natural leader. They look at me for solutions. I don’t know if it’s because I’m almost 6 feet and am very confident. If there’s something out there, I’m going to go for it! I’m determined to get the answer that I want to hear. That’s been my fuel, and it’s gotten me where I am today, and I’ve gotten a lot of ‘No’s.’ So after hearing a lot of ‘No’s,’ I continuously go back and apply for things. I never stop trying. I’m never satisfied with ‘No.’ I’ve just trusted that I would make it work. If you ask me about anything about starting a business, I’ve probably been through it. The biggest reason why I’ve gotten this far is from having faith and betting 120% on myself that I am going to succeed. Any time that I have panicked, I say three affirmations, and I let go of all of my worries. Saying affirmations is what keeps me grounded. What I want for people to know about me is that I am bold, strong, and that I never give up. If you have an idea, go for it. For anybody who thinks they have to have enough money: if you have an idea, and you’ve created a viable solution, bet on yourself 1000%, and go for it. Anything is possible and you can make anything possible. You have to believe in yourself. The whole reason why I created Travelsist is to create opportunities for other people to succeed. Creating a supply chain that allows parents, to travel in a way that is easily sustainable to the environment, creating opportunities for people living in opportunity zones who don’t get the chance usually. I am inspired just to see humanity from all walks of life when you’re at the airport and when travel, you’re inspired. That’s the biggest benefit of travel from the minute you board the plane and then step off. It’s all about discovery. We’re creating good with our concept through the retirement and recycling of our products. We only use our products for a certain amount of time. Through the lifespan of our products, we have a set number of days of lifespan on our products. When we retire them, we recycle them and give back to the manufacturer to make more products. We partner with brands that are sustainable and that have sustainable sourcing. This is not just a concept. We’re not just doing this – renting gear – there’s a whole system that goes behind it. We intend to do good. Any of the other resources out now are not exhibiting this.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I love being social and doing physical activities. The first thing that I would suggest is to walk through Hartsfield-Jackson Airport instead of taking the plane train. There’s so much history at the airport – it’s like a museum – and they’re known for the arts that they have on display. The artwork is something that you don’t get to see everywhere. Then, we’d drive over to Ponce Cit Market – my ultimate favorite place – to grab coffee from Dancing Goats, then eat and then walk on the BeltLine. After that, my friends and I would have drinks at Two Urban Licks, or we’ll walk from the BeltLine to Krog Street. Lastly, we’ll go for a hike at Stone Mountain.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
The Start:ME business accelerator community at Emory University’s Goizueta School of Business has supported me the most. The Women’s Entrepreship Initiative is another example of a close-knit group that has supported me. Community is everything when you’re starting a business, and finding the right community to help you grow is important because you need the right people behind you, supporting you and giving you access to network and to grow your net worth. It has to be a strong community because entrepreneurship is extremely lonely, so you have to be in a community where people care about you and your well-being. It’s all about learning from each other. You can’t do anything by yourself. You have to have a team that is ready to help.
Other: Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/user111841822