Interview with Rick Carassai

Describe your product or service: 

“Baboo connects travelers with a global community of ‘Local In-Destination Experts’ who know their destination inside out to create a flawless, personalized itinerary. We make trip planning stress-free, exciting, and social. 

But travel does put a strain on Mother Earth. At Baboo, we believe that sustaining is not enough. We need to try to regenerate this beautiful planet.

That is why Baboo offsets 110% of your trip's carbon footprint and brings real benefits for local communities.”

Describe your company values and mission: 

“We are certain that booking a travel experience can be done simpler, easier, cheaper, better and smarter. The solution we found is the combination of booking directly with selected Local In-Destination Experts who know the destination well and who know the traveler well because they know their travel personality.

This way, travel is simpler because there is less confusion due to fewer middlemen who do not know what they are selling. It is easier because the traveler just has to tell the Local In-Destination Experts what his travel personality is or search for experiences that fit his personality perfectly. Either way, booking a journey is less confusing, less stressful, and more tailor-made. It is cheaper because trips are booked directly with no middleman. It is better because the customer and the local designer, hence the local community, get a better price.

Our vision is to do good for both people and the planet by transforming the [way] people dream, choose, book, share, and experience travel. While using our business as a force for good by balancing profits and purpose by making sure revenue goes directly to local communities and by overcompensating CO2 off-set, making sure all trips are carbon positive and regenerative.”

How are you funded? I.e. venture capital, angel investors, etc. 

“Friends, family & Angels”

How big is your team? Tell us a little about them (I.e. co-founders, freelancers, etc.) 

“10+ people in between founders, full-time and part-time employees: https://baboo.travel/our-team/

Did you always want to start your own business? What made you want to become an entrepreneur? 

“Not really, as most of my adult life I was a nomad backpacker roaming the world and making life as it came, I didn't have many “business” ambitions. But after learning much about the world, I had a daughter and realized I wanted to leave her in a better place [than] where I came to be, thus pushing me to find ways to make a positive impact in the world.

That's when I met Paul (main founder), who went to Babson College where he studied Entrepreneurship and won the Business Plan award for his soon-to-be Bamba Experience, where I have worked for the past 6+ years.

Paul's experience and knowledge have definitely pushed me to believe that we could create and own a great business that supported our ideals, allowing us to leave a positive mark on the planet, thus creating Baboo.”

How did you come up with your startup idea? How did you decide to actually act on the idea? What gave you confidence that you were on the right track? 

“As the pandemic put a full hold on the travel industry, we decided to work on something that would be the future of travel, and thus came the excitement to developing Baboo. Our desire has always been to create local, authentic, and sustainable travel experiences so travelers can experience the world, get to know more about themselves, and be more empathetic towards the world around them.”

How did you come up with your company name? Did you have other names you considered? 

“We had many suggestions as we developed the idea, we ended up choosing a word that represents, in many cultures, endearment for a loved one. We care about our travelers and the world, just like a Baboo would do.”

What is the greatest challenge you faced in starting your business, and how did you overcome it? 

“COVID-19 was both the greatest challenge and the greatest opportunity to create Baboo. Without that halt to life as we knew it, we wouldn't have had the time to make Baboo a reality. But at the same time, the fact that COVID-19 has been affecting us for longer than expected has been pushing the possibility to go live and make it a profitable business further down the line. Nonetheless, we have been trying to make the most of it by improving [the] Baboo platform with new and redefined ideas, as well as giving us the chance to take on the extra task of making Baboo a Certified B Corporation.”

Who is your product or service made for? Who is your target market? 

“For our audience, travel is guided by the idea that travel should be proactive, purposeful, and, above all, foster a sense of personal progress. Our main global target group is clients between 25 and 55, all budgets, but adventurers by nature. They love to get out and experience the world, see new cultures, be close to nature, experience things they have never done before: No mass tourism, but personalized bespoke traveling at scale. 

The way that our clients want to book their trips is easy, flexible, and seamless with a human touch. They choose destinations based on personal recommendations, Instagram influencers, word-of-mouth approval, and [their] own research. Our clients are tech-savvy but enjoy the human touch. They are generally concerned about the environment and global warming.”

What's your marketing strategy? 

“Our launch marketing strategy aims to create buzz around the brand. To support our launching campaign, we will use a marketing mix that includes, among other things, social media advertising, content marketing, and global PR.”

How did you acquire your first 100 customers? 

“As of this moment, the company is at an early stage of development, where we are working on developing a comprehensive database of travel experts and itineraries. We counted our travel experts as partners, and we created attractive landing pages and pushed some email campaigns, but it was mostly manual work of thorough research, in-depth analysis, and frequent phone and email contact.”

What's your favorite entrepreneurial book and podcast? 

“I am not a big fan of either. Life and the people I have encountered in my path have been my teaching assets.”

What is the biggest lesson you learned during your journey? 

“The most valuable lesson I've learned is that starting a business is far easier when you aren't alone. If you work with people whose skills complement yours and whom you trust completely, you will experience great results.”

Who is your support system? 

“Every day, we do our best to support each other as a team. We are a small team of individuals with varying interests, including a passion for travel and helping others. Also, that's why we can both help each other in our personal lives, outside of work hours.”

How do you stay motivated? 

“My daughter is the driving force behind my motivations and my reason for getting up every day. I understand that my actions and decisions will affect the future generations. I'm interested in being part of a project that will benefit the next generation.”

Did you have to develop any habits that helped lead you to success? If so, what are they? 

“Perhaps the most beneficial would be beginning work early in the morning. As a single father, I had to develop a routine that would allow me to be both productive and efficient at work while also giving me time to be a good parent. Waking up at 4 a.m. gives you both productive time and fatherhood.”

What are you most proud of as an entrepreneur? 

“My personal goal is to use my abilities in the service of something greater, whether that something greater is our company or something else entirely. In my previous life as a school dropout who spent over a decade traveling the world as a nomad, doing more of what came my way than what I wanted to do, I take great pride in being the founder of a company that allows me to put into practice everything I've learned along the way.”

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