After the splash page launch, crowd-funded travel website Trevolta reached a record of over 105,000 sign-ups from 221 countries in just 24 hours. The site currently has about half a million users, largely a result of Creative Chief Officer, Lorette le Roux’s marketing measures. Le Roux is thus far the start-up’s only woman—an admirable adventure aficionado reading every page of the book that is our world, leaving her mark.
“Everywhere I go I leave a stencil of my footprint,” she said. “It’s a little black footprint and it can be found in many places I’ve visited thus far. I’ve been doing it for years now, and the reasoning behind it is a little thing between myself and God.”
The world is le Roux’s playground, as she admits she lives for anything that gets her heart beating just a bit faster than doctor recommended.
“I aim to do at least one adventure a week making it 52 epic adventures a year. This is anything from backpacking overseas to rap jumping, sand boarding, river rafting, bungee jumping, shark diving, sky diving, hiking, abseiling and camping,” she said. “I was 15 years old the first time I skydived and 16 when I bungeed the highest bungee in the world. The higher and faster I can go, the better. My biggest aim and challenge in life is to become a wing suit pilot.”
While aspirations of becoming a wing suit pilot are underway, le Roux is working hard on expanding Trevolta with co-founders Mark Karimov—motivator and executer—and Donovan Solms—programming Jedi. “We have three major mutual passions: computers, travel and adventure. All three of us…had an urge to have an impact on the world, to make some changes, spread the love and allow anyone to have the opportunity to explore this amazing earth we’ve been given in every way possible while they’re still here,” she said. “Thus, the Trevolta family was born.”
Trevolta is a platform offering travel enthusiasts and thrill-seekers an inclusive community to which they can propose expedition plans and apply for sponsors or the public to fund them in exchange for rewards or brand exposure.
Users build an online profile highlighting the places they’ve visited thus far, and the prospective destinations on their bucket lists. After filing the basics of the trip—the title, trip description and desired destinations—each impending traveler must specify the amount of funding required, introduce themselves and team member(s) and establish the rewards that will be offered in exchange for funding. This includes anything from specific souvenirs to blog recognition. “Usually well-designed expeditions with proper rewards are the ones most likely to meet their funding goal,” le Roux explained.
But like building a trip, building a start-up is inevitably a challenge. For le Roux, however, it’s just another challenge on which she thrives.
Read on for the full Her Report interview with le Roux regarding her career launch with Trevolta to her latest journey through South Africa’s Otter Trail hiking through the Tsitsikamma forest, skirting the Garden Route’s rugged coastline. Follow le Roux on twitter @loretteleroux.
What is your particular role in Trevolta? When did you begin and how did you get involved?
Formally I am known as the Chief Creative Officer. Everything seen by the public regarding the website, social media, marketing, communications, et cetera comes to me for design and approval before going live. My aim is to make Trevolta the most visually appealing and unique platform the travelling community has ever seen. Along with the other two co-founders, I was there from the very beginning. The idea originated at the end of September 2013.
Are you currently the only woman working for Trevolta? If so, tell me about it.
Every week I sit in with all the board members and think to myself “I can’t believe I’m sitting around this table with all these big men”—and then there’s me, a barefoot, braided hair, beach child. But if I’m not mistaken I know Mark has been doing tap dancing and cheerleading as a child so I believe Trevolta consists of one and a half women ;). But honestly I think it’s about time we get another lady on the team. The thing about employing people on Trevolta is that it’s not only about the CV and the skills, it’s about the personality and the way the person sees life. You’ve got to be passionate about adventure and travelling, and of course when it comes to working hard, there must be no limits.
What kind of struggles did you face in building a crowd-funded start-up company?
Since we grew so unbelievably fast we got small accusations of being a “fake” startup, just gathering people’s email addresses. So people were quite criticizing and spread false information. But the way I see it, if people don’t criticize you, then you’re not doing it right. If people start criticizing the amazing achievements of your work, you know you’ve raised some interest and a sense of jealousy, which means you’re definitely on the right track ;). We’ve also been copied the moment we reached that sign-up record. People see potential and copy your ideas; it’s inevitable, but they’ve got nothing on the Trevolta team.
What is the hardest part about your job?
This is with no doubt the emotional part of my work. We receive emails from people all over the world asking for help to get reunited with their families, people who live on tiny islands asking for the opportunity to go somewhere where they can see real buses, tall buildings, trains—things they only get to see on television. They share stories that pull strings in your heart you never knew you had. It really makes you want to make a change in this world and reach out to others less fortunate.
Why do you do what you do? In other words, what makes this a dream job? What are the best perks of your job?
Trevolta is the perfect amount of travel, adventure and geek for me. I love building this business as I’m extremely passionate about everything around it. As much as I love playing outside, I love being behind my computer in my virtual world—especially when there’s a Call of Duty LAN session on the horizon ;). Ever since I can remember my dream was to take my laptop, go to an island or whichever beach I prefer, and work from there. That was the plan, and it’s finally a reality. I’m free.
I imagine, because it is a travel website, Trevolta must foster an environment conducive to traveling. Do you get to travel a lot for your work?
Since we’re such a young company, we have only been travelling around the country, working from wherever we want—with network reception. But yes, we’re planning some major trips for later this year. For now, we’re sitting in our office in Sandton, Johannesburg and working our behinds off.
Where have your travels taken you thus far? Tell me about the best place you’ve ever ventured.
In the last five years I’ve travelled to Singapore, Bali, Thailand, China, The United States, Brazil, Argentina, Limpopo, Zambia and Mozambique. My two favorites would definitely be New York City and Mozambique. The diversity between the two is incredible, from skyscrapers and modern technology to white beaches, coconut trees, African culture and almost no technology at all—what an experience.
Tell me about the adventures you’ve had a chance to take, as a result of working for Trevolta. Describe one of the most fulfilling.
Right after we started Trevolta, my boyfriend and I went to China to hike the Great Wall at Jinshanling. I also visited the African country Zambia, where we explored the largest waterfall in the world, the Victoria Falls.
Winding through the Tsitsikamma forest and skirting the Garden Route’s rugged coastline, South Africa’s Otter Trail is deemed the best trail in the country by most hiking aficionados. Tell me about your recent hike through South Africa’s Otter Trail.
Higher than high, lower than deep. This is where the otter trail takes one physically and mentally. For five days you’re away from society, no cell phones, no electronics, no people other than your hiking group and not one airplane in the sky. This is the second time I’ve done it, the Otter trail is very popular and must be booked at least a year in advance. I organized the trip because I wanted to expose my friends to the beauty I’ve seen on those shores. During the evenings we would braai the meat we’ve been carrying for kilometers over mountains and through rivers. We’d also sit by the fire and stare into the blue phosphor waves breaking and lighting up the whole coastline. It’s mesmerizing. We didn’t see any baboons along the trail, which wasn’t really strange as we came across quite a lot of leopard tracks along the way. Baboons usually flee when they’re close by.
Can you describe an adventure or trip that perhaps went south, or did not pan out as you had planned?
With having done no planning at all, I grabbed my backpack and travelled to Argentina by myself for a weekend to explore. I arrived at Buenos Aires at about 20h00 after having finished a bottle of red wine on the flight. Not knowing one person’s name on the continent, not having any network coverage and not speaking their local language, I tried to find my way around the city to a hostel I knew existed but had no idea how to get there. It turned out to be a very eventful night. One of the banks stole my money and I got lost around the city for a couple of hours before finding a hostel. It was quite an experience being lost and all alone in the dark in a foreign country, but it’s an experience I wouldn’t change for anything.
What do you think is the importance of international travel and adventure for women?
Women in general are afraid of travelling alone. I absolutely love it. It does something to one’s soul and I think it’s good to do it once in a while. Stop thinking of it as a major thing you have to attempt; it’s not like you’re going to another planet, which would be amazing though. Squeeze every bit of experiences out of this earth while you’re still here. Make every second count and don’t waste your wasted years. Start appreciating smaller details in life and remember, true beauty is not in your face, but comes from the light shining from your heart. One last thing, if you decide to travel to African countries, remember to take things like sweets, clothes and books along, they like to exchange their market gifts for things like that instead of money.
What is your advice to other adventuresome women looking to travel?
If you’re adventurous you’ll love being on the road. Don’t settle for the office job if that’s not what you enjoy doing. Do it because you’re good at it but aim for being the best of the best and do it with a smile on your face. Before you know it, you’ll be doing your dream job that allows you to see the world. Do something ridiculous every weekend, start small, drive two hours away from your home and set up camp instead of hitting a club or bar. If you’re keen to camp, I’ll advise you to get yourself a hammock. One hammock and two trees and voila, you have your accommodation.