Imagine your dream community of travel enthusiasts. A place where you can share, suggest and recommend some of your favorite travel destinations, the best hotels to stay at, five star restaurants and some of the most exciting excursions. Lucky for you, that’s exactly what Sam Patil envisioned when she created Well Traveled, a one of a kind membership community for modern travelers.
Prior to starting Well Traveled, Sam built her career in consumer tech and marketing where she led go-to-market strategies, international marketing and member monetization programs at some of the world's biggest consumer brands. Her previous roles include leadership positions at Pandora Media, Snap and most recently Dollar Shave Club.
Sam's been featured in multiple podcasts and shared her expertise across numerous top tier publications including the Wall Street Journal, AdWeek, Travel + Leisure, The Washington Post, Business Insider and New York Magazine. She was featured in Travel Massive's Top 100 Inspiring Women Travel Founders for 2020 and is a proud member of the Female Founder Collective, Dreamers and Doers and All Raise's Visionary Voices.
Our team was lucky enough to get the opportunity to chat with Sam as she dives deeper into the branding and marketing of Well Traveled, advice for future female founders, what’s next for the company and more.
What inspired you to create Well Traveled?
Well, it’s funny because what inspired me was feeling totally uninspired by the travel platforms on the market today.
I grew up traveling and spent my career helping major brands launch and grow their marketing operations overseas. And so I’ve traveled a lot, and I still do. And I just could never figure out why it was always so hard to find trusted advice or recommendations from other people that I could relate to?
The real lightbulb moment for me was when I realized none of the tools that exist today were designed for me. None of them. They were not designed for me as a young female millennial consumer. Most of the travel platforms that exist today were designed 20+ years ago and yet everything we know about travel has changed, especially in the past couple years. It blew my mind that no one built something better, so I decided to do something about it.
Since starting Well Traveled what would you say has been your biggest accomplishment?
We recently passed 2000 members which was a really exciting milestone. What makes my heart happy is 70% of our growth has come from word of mouth, organic social media and (my favorite) member referrals. I love seeing members sharing Well Traveled with their friends and extended networks.
I’d say my proudest accomplishment is the incredible team we’ve hired. We’re a team of 8 incredibly hard-working and passionate humans who care so deeply about our mission to build a travel company for those who are not being served by the current “mainstream travel” ecosystem.
We're building Well Traveled for conscious travelers who work hard and want to enjoy life but also care deeply about where and how they're spending their hard earned cash, and time. Seeing that resonate with our tem and our members is really special.
In what ways has Well Traveled enhanced the experience of traveling compared to other travel platforms?
Travel is no longer a week-long vacation we take once a year in August. With the rise of remote work, it has become more of a constant for people and I believe it’s going to stay that way. Travel is part of the human experience and we want to make that experience a magical one.
The primary reason members join the club is they’re looking for relevant recommendations from a community they can trust. We're here to help you not only get advice for your current trip but also get inspired for your next one (because I've personally never felt particularly inspired on TripAdvisor). We also launched our booking service in response to our community as a service they wanted to use, because they were so fed up with their current booking experience (we're looking at you hotels.com). It was important to me that if we launched this service, it would be 10X better than anything else out there, and it is. This isn't something we speak much about publicly but our members know when they book with Well Traveled, they can rest assured they're going to have the best experience possible.
Whether you're looking for a cute wine bar to explore with friends, booked a trip with our team or are excited to add your favorite coffee shop to the site to share with our community, we've got you covered.
For those who aren’t familiar with WT, could you give us a brief walk through of how the Well Traveled platform works?
If Yelp and Goop had a baby, it might look a little bit like Well Traveled. We’ve made it easier for you to discover, plan and book places you actually want to go, vetted by a community you can actually trust. Members get access to recommendations for spots to eat, places to sleep and things to do, curated to fit your travel style with real reviews from other travelers like you. We’ve also built in thoughtfully designed tools for the modern traveler to help you keep track of all your favorite (or future favorite) places. As part of your membership, you get access to our booking team which provides personalized trip planning and support, powered by real people designed to make your life easier.
Is there a common theme of recommendations that you find members or potential members of Well Traveled look for when it comes to booking trips?
Most of our members are looking to travel more like a local than a tourist and so there’s very much a theme towards smaller, locally owned businesses and hidden gems that you can’t find elsewhere. That said, there are plenty of popular spots with reviews from other members that you can relate to. My biggest pain point with sites like Yelp or TripAdvisor is there’s no way to filter the feedback? If I’m looking for pet friendly restaurants, I’m looking for feedback from other people who’ve had that experience, so from that perspective community has been (and will continue to be) an important part of building the platform.
What I love about the platform we’re building is you can truly craft your own experience on Well Traveled. What I see on the platform might look different to what you see, based on the types of things you’re interested in and who you’re connected to. For example, one of my favorite features on the site is the ability to filter for recommendations based only on your followers / who you’re following.
What aspect(s) of marketing and branding would you attribute to the success of Well Traveled?
There is a quote from Seth Godin that I really love… “People don’t buy goods and services, they buy relations, stories and magic.”
Anyone can build a product, in fact there are 1000s of travel apps out there that I’m sure work just fine. We’re building something bigger than that, we’re building a brand built on community.
I never wanted Well Traveled to simply be a “tool that you use” but rather a place you belong. I wanted to build a brand that our customers could see themselves reflected in, with values that aligned with their values and that was clearly built with their needs in mind.
So from that perspective, it was really important to me that we nail our brand from the get-go. Visually we wanted the site to look and feel elevated and deliver a really high quality user experience. We wanted Well Traveled to feel warm, inviting and genuine. It’s worth noting a brand is more than your colors and aesthetic (though that is important), it’s the heart and soul of your company. Your brand is your voice, your customer service, your product, your team… everything.
What advice would you give someone looking to start their own business or has there been a piece of advice that has resonated with you along your entrepreneurial journey?
Don’t let perfect get in the way of progress. Get something out into the market for your customers to experience and provide feedback on. It can get easy to get stuck in a trap of “I’m not ready yet, I can tweak things more, I’m still not ready.” There is no perfect time to do something and you might never be ready, do it anyway.
In what ways do you see Well Traveled expanding in the future?
In the short term, we are gearing up to launch our mobile app which I am SO excited about. I’m probably a little biased ;) but it’s gorgeous and it is truly going to be a game changer for our members when they’re on the go. I’ve never seen anything quite like it and I cannot wait to share it with our membership community.
In the long term, we’re building a category defining brand to serve a new generation of conscious travelers, specifically with women top of mind. Most people don’t realize that the top 30 travel companies in the world were all founded by men, and almost all of them have male CEOs. And yet women make 85% of all travel purchasing decisions and account for 56% of all leisure travelers. Women have long been underserved and underrepresented in this category and we’re going to change that.
I am so excited about what our team has accomplished in such a short amount of time but I’m even more excited about what’s to come. Our goal is to change the way we discover, plan, and book travel by tapping into the power of community and human connection. And we're just getting started.