Where most people find themselves being disappointed by their first dates, Radha Vyas and Lee Thompson had more luck on theirs. Indeed, little did they know it would start an entrepreneurial adventure that would see them launch the travel startup Flash Pack, which would end up being valued at over $13m, according to Forbes.
The couple originally met through Match.com, one of the world’s many dating platforms, back in 2012. At the local pub on their first date, Vyas and Thompson began to talk about their mutual love for travelling and dissatisfaction in the current travel market for singles of their age. “After a few glasses of wine, Radha mentioned that she had an idea for a travel brand aimed at single people in their 30s and 40s,” remembers Thompson. “I immediately recognised the potential of the concept and we started to brainstorm around a business straight off the bat.” With the excitement of a new relationship and eager to make this business plan work the couple began to research everything there was to know. “It was one of those ideas that had a complete momentum of its own,” Thompson continues. “Our next few dates were spent researching adventure travel and attending trade shows together; not an obvious recipe for the start of a relationship, but it worked.”
And so the idea of an adventure travel company that connects like-minded solo travellers in their 30s and 40s, was born. Not ones to rest on their laurels, the couple put pedal to metal over the next year to realise their vision.“We wanted to redefine the meaning of group adventure, making it into something unique and aspirational,” Thompson explains.
Being part of the targeted demographic certainly benefited the couple. After finding out there were few travel companies catering to this group, the boyfriend-girlfriend team wanted to set something up that this group was craving for. “I think the industry as it was just hadn’t developed enough to recognise this huge, untapped demand,” Vyas says. “Group travel companies at the time were catering either to budget travellers in their early 20s or wealthy retired couples. Single professionals in their 30s and 40s – a growing demographic with a genuine love of adventure travel – went right under the radar.”
However, finding their first customers proved to be a challenge. “It was a really tough few months for us to begin with,” Vyas remembers. “Without any online reviews or a good Google ranking, we couldn’t get anywhere. The concept was sound but there was no brand awareness or trust to give us traction.”
Looking for ways to spark some buzz around the brand, the couple considered every angle. Eventually, their success was made when Thompson posted a selfie he’d taken on top of the Christ the Redeemer statue in Brazil. The image quickly went viral, reaching millions of people. “Lee’s viral selfie was a gamble that really paid off,” says Vyas. “The image created 1.4 million hits back to Flash Pack, along with a sense of buzz and excitement around the brand. Immediately, sales started to flood in and consistent monthly revenue followed from there.” The picture proved the turning point for the business.
Since then, the company has seen immense growth. Vyas’ background in fundraising helped them understand how to launch a profitable business and sustain growth from there. Starting with just enough money to build a website the couple set up their business. Now they have a 400% year-on-year growth ratio and the company is cashflow positive. “We took an initial seed round from angel investors of [£250,000] back in 2016,” Vyas remembers. “[We’ve] been able to successfully fund our own growth from then.” She adds that they’re also receiving a lot of VC attention too, “which is a nice position to be in.”
However, experiencing so much growth can be hard to keep up with. Even though the company recently launched a system that automated their booking system, they’ll still need employees to keep up with the demand. “We are expanding rapidly, so a challenge that we’ve faced is hiring enough staff,” Thompson says. Important for them is that the people they hire share the same wanderlust.“Talent is at the core of everything we do and so recruiting great people with a genuine love of travel has become one of our major drives,” Thompson adds.
Not only has the duo strengthened their business relationship over the years, they also got a stronger, more serious, personal relationship since the start of this adventure. Balancing work and personal life can be hard. But the now married couple has found a combination that works for them. “At work, we have very clearly defined roles,” Vyas explains “Lee builds the brand and I build the business.” Outside office hours they make sure to keep time free for each other. Although, they confess to still spending most of that time talking about what they love most – their company. “We used to feel embarrassed about that fact but [we’ve] slowly realised that rather than spending life trying to find this mythical work-life balance, it’s better to focus on finding and doing work you love,” Vyas adds.
Their hard work certainly paid off with Flash Pack being valued at $13m. With aims to offer even more spectacular, adventurous trips this year, they’re not done reaching for the stars. “Searching for these kind of experiences and finding ways to bring them to life, is the kind of challenge that we thrive on,” Thompson says. The British business hasn’t gone unnoticed with more international travellers asking for these experiences. “Nearly 60% of Flash Packers are now based outside the UK, so we want to build up our presence in regions such as North America and Germany, where demand is huge,” Thompson says. “Then it’s onwards and upwards for us as we continue to develop our global portfolio of trips and curate them in a way that delights our audience: from an al fresco champagne breakfast in the shadow of Everest to twilight boat rides down the Amazon and anti-gravity yoga in the jungle hills of Bali.”
So if the British winter has left you craving for warmth and some serious vitamin D? Flash Pack knows where to take you next.