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Savvy Travels: The Journey So Far (Part 4)

We’re nearing the end of our trip down memory lane charting the Savvy Travels Journey So Far. By the time we left off in the last blog, I had come up with an idea, gone through loads of research, development, working prototypes and now held the first ever batch of Savvy Travel Packs. But as I found out, all that means nothing if you can’t get the product into people’s hands.

Now Savvy Travels had a finished product and its own little website, it was starting to feel like a real business. It seemed an apt time to register it as one, and so Savvy Travels Limited was born. Now we were official, it was time to start doing what businesses do: sell some product!

The goal was clear, but for a fledgling business it can be hard to know where to start. There’s a lot involved, and these things don’t happen by accident. Or so I thought.

Stanfords Retail Store in London Covent Garden

Given my own backpacking adventures, and keen interest in all things travel, I often found myself visiting Stanfords, the world’s largest map and travel book retailer. (If you have an interest in exploration it’s definitely worth a visit!) One lunchtime, I saw a listing for a talk with Lloyd Figgins, an international travel risk expert and decided that I had to check it out.

At that point, I wasn’t to know quite how much spotting that one little poster would turn out to be a godsend in the Savvy Travels story. After the talk, I did some research on Lloyd and his status as a travel risk expert. I bought his book, (which I can wholeheartedly recommend as an excellent read for any budding traveller and can be found here) and did as much research on his ventures as I could. Given that Savvy Travels was all about inspiring people to travel and explore the world whilst being prepared for whatever might come their way, Lloyd was speaking our language.

Lloyd Figgins, travel risk expert, speaking on Sky News

Then I saw a few clips of him featured on Sky and BBC News, and it dawned on me that this guy was kind of a big deal. By this time I knew I had to find a way to get in touch with him. Even if an email would lay unopened in his spam folder forever, I had to at least send one.

I managed to go one better. After taking in everything Lloyd Figgins related that I could find, I found a contact number tucked away on his personal website and typed the digits into my phone. To my surprise, the number actually worked. Expecting to hear a secretary or assistant on the other end of the line, I was royally caught off guard when Lloyd himself actually answered! I gathered myself as best I could and began trying to explain Savvy Travels and the product that I had spent the last year of my life putting together at 100 miles an hour. Despite the garbled verbal diarrhea that he politely endured, I ended the call with ameeting set up with himself and his business partner, Christine Shacklady.

I met them a few weeks later and I gave my famous Savvy Travels Playing Cards Pitch (see below). After a few more meetings and continued correspondence with Lloyd and his partners, he kindly agreed to endorse our product. He loved the concept and could see the value in what we were trying to accomplish. This was a big deal for us and a sign that Savvy Travels was on the right path. The long nights and endless problem solving were finally starting to bear fruit.

Both Christine and Lloyd have gone on to be an invaluable resource in the Savvy Travels journey. Not only did they graciously grant us an invaluable endorsement, with their help we got in contact with Stanfords, who would go on to be our first ever retailer. The very same shop that I first saw the poster for Lloyd’s talk in just a few months before.

Sir Ranulph Fiennes Holding the Savvy Travel PackThey also introduced me to the World's Greatest Living Explorer (according to the Guiness World Record Books) Sir Ranulph Fiennes, who is pictured here holdaing a Savvy Travel Pack.

Call it serendipity, call it blind luck, but we were starting to edge closer to our first Savvy stockist! I sat down with the founder of Stanfords, and with my now well practiced Savvy Travels Playing Card Pitch at the ready, I tried my best to sell the Savvy vision to one of the most established travel retailers in the world. By some miracle, they agreed to stock our packs on the spot. By the time I got home, I had an email waiting in my inbox with Stanfords’ first order.

Soon I was standing on a tube in the busy London rush hour with a crisp packet box stolen from Asda (shout out) filled to the brim with Savvy Travel Packs. I didn’t make any friends on that particular journey, and holding a huge walkers box crammed on a busy tube isn’t quite what I imagined fulfilling my first retailer order would look like. But I was too chuffed that it was happening to care.

First batch of stock delivered, Stanfords sent out a product launch email to their subscribers to announce the stocking of our Savvy Travel packs. To my delight, this led to their first order of packs selling out in 48 hours. I swiftly got another email asking for another batch and our packs continue to sell well at Stanford’s to this day.

Savvy Travel Packs stocked in Stanfords

You can see the packs hanging in Stanfords stores in Bristol and London.

We were in business! We were a registered company, we had stock, we had a retailer and we had our very own e-commerce website. We had established a proof of concept and gained support from a leading expert and a retailer. Now we had to start thinking about profit, about how to make the business sustainable and scalable.

At this point, we were barely making any money on our packs whatsoever. The small orders we were having produced by our manufacture, alongside sourcing the materials locally and in small quantities, left very little room for any profit. I had already begun searching for alternative manufacturers online, but everyone seemed to have a minimum order quantity of 1000. Though my gracious girlfriend had put up with endless boxes of travel essentials strewn across our flat at all times, I wasn’t sure our relationship (or my bank balance!) would survive another 1000 packs turning up at the door.

I needed to find a way to lower the cost of production without committing to such a large order. One day, a friend of mine mentioned in passing that Sri Lanka had recently become a hotspot for manufacturing. Suddenly an idea clicked in my head. I had personally backpacked around Sri Lanka, and had made friends with some locals, including a hero called Nipun. He was 20 years old when I met him and had seemed an incredibly enterprising and trustworthy young guy.

I sent him a message explaining my predicament and my hunt for a new manufacturer. Unfortunately, he told me he didn’t know anyone, but he would put the word out and see if he could help us out. A week later he sent me a message, introducing the owner of this factory he had sourced. Impressed, but naturally apprehensive, I wanted to make sure the factory could maintain the quality of the packs. My fears were swiftly diminished when they explained that some of their largest customers are the German Military and well-respected international outdoor brands.

They made a series of samples out of different materials, and shipped them over. If anything, they were better than the packs we had been making in the UK. They were top quality, waterproof and durable. It was clear that I had found my new factory. I ordered 300 packs right away.

Savvy Travel Packs order of 300

Now abundantly stocked with packs, Savvy Travels was chugging along nicely. I was quietly adding to our Instagram and Facebook pages, and plugging away with any other ways to get Savvy Travels as much attention as possible.

I was updating the website as often as possible, and building it out by adding blog posts and updating the pages as we got endorsements and more attention. I put together a press release and our packs even got featured by ‘Get Lost’ magazine all the way in Australia!

Get Lost magazine front cover

I was pleased with how things were progressing and I started receiving great feedback from customers. However, it definitely wasn’t a time to rest on our laurels. Now that our product was on the market, we were learning of a few new ways we might better meet the needs of adventurers.

After various conversations with customers and other business owners, it started to become apparent that there was a whole market of travellers that we weren’t serving. What if you’re a serial traveller going out on your third backpacking trip and you’ve already acquired some of your own travel essentials? Up until this point, our focus had been stuffing our Savvy Travel Packs to the rafters with travel essentials, without wasting a millimetre of space.

Though our original pack includes a spare pocket and a secret compartment, there are some travellers who simply need more customisation options. So the idea came about to create two more packs, one complete with a slimmed-down collection of bare essentials, and the other offering a clever storage solution with room to include whatever you need. The ‘K2’ and ‘Kilimanjaro’ Savvy Travel Packs were born and our original, ultimate pack became ‘The Everest’.

All of this progress brings us nearly to the present day. As 2019 drew to a close, I got a rare opportunity to meet Savvy customers and see reactions to our new range of products first hand. The feedback was truly humbling. We took part in as many Christmas Markets across South-West London as would have us and it was a real thrill to interact with people face-to-face and share the Savvy Travels Journey with them.

Savvy helpers at a Xmas Market Stall

Working at anotehr Xmas Market Fair

After the intensely positive responses, we are hoping to meet more of you lovely people in the near future. This year has already started with a bang for us, and it was great to continue where we left off at the end of last year at Destinations Travel Show. We look forward to meeting plenty more friendly faces and Savvy Travels customers as our journey continues in 2020.

Lloyd, Christine and I holding the Savvy Travel Pack at Destinations London

Joining up with Lloyd, Christine and the TRIP Group at the Destinations Travel Show.

As we get our product into more and more hands, we hope we can continue to inspire people to travel further, safe in the knowledge that come what may, Savvy Travels has them covered. As part of this mission, we’ll be partnering with more retailers, so we hope you’ll be able to find Savvy Travels in a store near you in the not too distant future.

We’ll also be exploring ways to have a positive impact on causes that align with what we stand for at Savvy Travels this year. As ardent travellers, protecting the incredible natural environments that make backpacking adventures so special is high on our agenda. So watch this space in 2020!

Everest Savvy Travel Pack

Thanks for following along in our Savvy Travels: The Journey So Far series. If you managed to make it through all four instalments, we’re very grateful. It was a long journey, but we hope that it was an interesting glimpse behind the curtain and gave a good insight into what we do at Savvy Travels.

If you’re joining us for the first time on the ‘Savvy Travels: The Journey So Far’ blog series, check out our previous instalment here, or go all the way back to the start and follow along from the very beginning here.

Though this marks the end of our four-part blog series, The Savvy Travels Journey is far from over. To keep up to date with the big plans we’ve got in store for 2020, follow along on our Instagram and Facebook pages.

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