Interview With Jason Kraemer
Describe your product or service:
“Flashpacker Co is a trusted partner of travelers around the world, helping them find the best travel gear for their adventures. We offer a selection of gear from the best brands with expert advice to help travelers choose the right products.”
Describe your company values and mission:
“At Flashpacker Co, our mission is to help the growing number of global travelers get the most out of their adventures. We do this by leveraging our experience and resources to create high-quality advice and curate a collection of high-value travel products so that travelers around the world can create a new type of travel — experiencing more by sacrificing less.”
How are you funded? I.e. venture capital, angel investors, etc.
How big is your team? Tell us a little about them (I.e. co-founders, freelancers, etc.)
“Operations Team: Jason Kraemer, co-founder, oversees our supplier relations as Lead Buyer. He sources and signs new brands with innovative products that make traveling easier and more fun. Jason’s background is in sales and marketing. He has lived in a different city every year since 2016 in the US or Canada and bounces around the world with digital nomad stints in between. He is a regular contributor to our gear guides and travel blog. Stephen Gary, co-founder, manages our marketing as Director of Marketing. He leads our content team and digital marketing strategy, as well as affiliate partnerships. His extensive background in ecommerce and digital marketing has allowed him to spearhead our growth initiatives. Stephen has been a long-term traveler and digital nomad for over five years. His passion for travel comes across in the content he contributes to our gear guides and travel blog. Jillian Giometti leads and directs our photography and social media efforts. Staying involved with our audience and demonstrating our expertise, thanks to our extensive travel experience, is an integral part of maintaining the confidence our audience has in us. Her experience of almost a decade in retail sales helps us bridge that gap.
Content Team: Erin Gary is a contributor as both a content writer and researcher. Erin developed a passion for travel at a very young age and has been plotting and planning adventures ever since. Her decades of experience in both international and domestic travel provide a wealth of knowledge that we draw from, while her tenacious thirst for travel keeps her researching the most up-to-date travel spots and techniques to the benefit of our Flashpacker audience. We have two freelance writers on our content team: Naomi and Michelle. Both are experienced content writers who share our passion for travel. They contribute to our Travel Tips, Digital Nomad Resources, and Destination articles.
Development & Design Team: We have a development firm and design team [that] assists with our website. White Water Web keeps our site running smoothly, and Landy Design ensures it looks great.”
Did you always want to start your own business? What made you want to become an entrepreneur?
“Both Stephen and Jason have been involved in small businesses or startups for years. We have both done freelance and independent consulting work for other businesses in our areas of expertise and knew we wanted to apply those skills to a business of our own.
The freedom and flexibility of being an entrepreneur was the largest draw. As avid long-term travelers and digital nomads, there’s no better way to work and travel on your own schedule than by running our own business.”
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?
“We started our ecommerce store in 2019. Flashpacker Co was launched during a year-long trip around the world as a way to connect travelers with the best travel gear from the coolest brands. During a week in Seville, Spain we realized two things: 1) the travel gear brands we loved using that offered the most innovative and thoughtfully designed products were nearly all from smaller, boutique brands, and 2) it was really difficult to find travel gear brands that fit these criteria.
There are plenty of places both online and brick and mortar to find name-brand travel gear, but it's much more difficult to find the really cool, innovative gear from boutique brands. We built Flashpacker Co to solve this problem. Combined with our team's expertise and hands-on testing, we help travelers discover the best new gear that's perfect for their travels.
We knew we weren’t the only travelers feeling this frustration and we also knew how important it was to have the right travel gear. We started small with a handful of brands we tested and loved, then continued to grow and expand from there with more products and a broader wealth of supporting content.
In 2020, travel hit an all-time low when the COVID pandemic swept across the world. Our business was still new at this point, and like many small business owners, we were concerned [about] whether we would make it to the other side. We used this time to dial in our website design, user experience, and content to connect with our audience.
Despite the reduction in travel, we saw month-over-month growth in traffic and sales, with all signs indicating we were on the right track. Once vaccinations got underway, we immediately saw an uptick in traffic and sales, and that has only continued as more Americans have felt comfortable traveling.”
How did you come up with your company name? Did you have other names you considered?
“We knew Flashpacker Co was going to be the company name from the moment we came up with the business idea.
A flashpacker is the middle ground between a short-term vacationer and a budget backpacker. A typical backpacker tends to prioritize long-term travel, doing whatever they can to stretch their dollars and keep moving for as long as possible. Conversely, vacationers tend to prioritize comfort and convenience over everything else by spending more on a short-term trip.
A flashpacker doesn’t compromise on either comfort or experience. They combine the best of both worlds to create the ultimate adventure, experiencing more by sacrificing less.
Both co-founders identified as flashpackers and got to know this growing segment of travelers, which includes digital nomads. This underserved demographic became our target market and was incorporated into our mission to create high-quality advice and curate a collection of high-value travel products so that flashpackers around the world can travel better.”
What is the greatest challenge you faced in starting your business, and how did you overcome it?
“Our business was still relatively young when COVID hit. The pandemic was devastating for countless businesses around the world, but being in the travel industry meant we doubly felt the effects.
With travel brought to a halt, we had to pivot our strategy to avoid burning through cash too quickly. We moved to an entirely organic customer acquisition plan and focused on providing great content to build our audience. We also used this downtime to dial in our website design, navigation, and product testing strategy, all while continuing to grow our collection of products.
Our business strategy changed from focusing on immediate revenues to positioning ourselves for the post-COVID travel boom.”
Who is your product or service made for? Who is your target market?
“Our target audience is consistent travelers who go on a few international trips a year. These travelers enjoy authentic travel experiences and value quality in all aspects of their adventures, including the gear they buy. They want to travel better without sacrificing comfort or convenience, and travel often enough for quality travel gear to significantly improve their trips.”
What's your marketing strategy?
“Our primary marketing strategy is organic customer acquisition through search engine optimization of our content pages. Our blog pages feature practical travel tips and advice from our team’s extensive experience, but the largest draw is our gear guides. We’re constantly testing all the gear we sell, and we write about it in product reviews, ‘best of’ lists, and packing tips. This content has been our largest driver of both traffic and sales.”
How did you acquire your first 100 customers?
“We were fortunate to have friends and family as our very first customers to ensure our ordering and delivery process was smooth. Once we opened the store up to the public, we relied on a combination of organic travel from our blog content and targeted Google ads to acquire our first 100 customers. Our organic content strategy has since taken over as the largest driver of customers.”
What are the key customer metrics / unit economics / KPIs you pay attention to to monitor the health of your business?
“We religiously monitor and track:
- Number of monthly users and sessions to make sure our traffic is growing.
- Number of organic keywords we rank for, including the number in the top three and top 10 positions to make sure our SEO strategy is working and continually driving more traffic to the site.
- Session quality metrics, including pages per session, bounce rate, and time per session to make sure our users are finding the right, helpful info.
- Conversion rate metrics including product page views, add to cart rate, and domestic conversion rate and total conversion to make sure we’re acquiring the right users.”
What's your favorite book on entrepreneurship?
“‘The 4-Hour Workweek’ [and] ‘The E-Myth Revisited.’”
What is your favorite startup or business podcast?
“‘StartUp’ [by] Gimlet Media and ‘The Tim Ferriss Show.’”
What is something that surprised you about entrepreneurship?
“The constant ups and downs. Entrepreneurship feels like a roller coaster. We all read and hear about this in books, videos, podcasts, or from other entrepreneurs, but it's quite the experience to actually live it for the first time.”
How do you achieve work/life balance as a founder?
“There are always periods where the business takes over. For us, that’s typically the holiday shopping season. When those crazy periods pass, it's important to step back and breathe. A couple [of] times a year, we try to reduce our time commitment to mentally reset.
When we’re running the business while traveling, it's easier to step away to make sure we’re experiencing the country or city we're currently in.”
How do you stay motivated?
“Having a strong partnership among the founders has proven to make all the difference. Being committed to our joint vision helps keep the team motivated and positive. COVID really delayed the maturation of Flashpacker Co, and having each other to lean on helped push us through a very challenging infancy. That experience built a level of mutual respect that makes it easy to come in each day and work to uphold the standard of effort that we’ve established.”
Did you have to develop any habits that helped lead you to success? If so, what are they?
“Absolutely! The lack of structure and oversight when you start your own business means that you have to develop a lot of habits to make sure you continue to produce effective work and at an efficient rate.
One habit that has set us up for success is our consistent vision meetings. Every two weeks to one month, we meet to discuss how the business is progressing. We set aside tactics and focus on long-term strategy like, who is our audience, are we growing in the right directions, and what will the company look like in six months, one year, and five years? Are we acting on a daily basis in accordance with that vision?
Another effective habit is our process for content production and revision. Because our founders rely heavily on each other to produce all of the content on Flashpacker, there are generally only two sets of eyes reviewing each piece. To make this a strength rather than a weakness, we’ve set up a process where each article goes through multiple revision steps before being published. We don’t have a ton of oversight, so we rely on each other and multiple steps of editing and revision to dial in our content. Each article goes through at least four editing and revision phases before being published.”
What are you most proud of as an entrepreneur?
“It is really fulfilling to be able to look back on where we started and see what we’ve already built. Flashpacker Co has a lot more to grow into, but we’ve already poured so much of ourselves into the business, and it really shows in the depth of our products, content, photography, and more.
We started with nothing, and we’ve developed an amazing website, great relationships with suppliers, a growing customer base, a plethora of helpful content for travelers, and much more.”
More on Flashpacker
We were fortunate enough to hear some valuable insights during our interview with Jason Kraemer of Flashpacker that will inspire, motivate, and teach aspiring and established entrepreneurs alike.
We asked Jason Kraemer, founder of Flashpacker, to share the most impactful ways to support their startup, and this is what they had to say.