Geordie Mackay-Lewis (Chatham 04), founder of experiential travel and adventure company PELORUS, reflects on his first year as an entrepreneur.
I’d be lying if I said that I’d always dreamt of being an entrepreneur. In fact, in all honesty the thought had probably never crossed my mind while at Stowe, or for that matter through my university days. Rather, it was ignited by events that arose in my professional career, as I saw an opening to do something that I believed to be truly different and extraordinary; something that was driven foremost by a passion. That was where PELORUS started.
I had been working in the travel and adventure industry for a number of years, creating experiences in some of the most inhospitable and unexplored regions on earth, but the nature of these trips made our service limiting to only those in the HNW bracket. I became increasingly aware of the fact that there was an opportunity to take this innovation and attention to detail into a wider market space – seeing the wildest corners of the world doesn’t need to cost six figures. With the right international contacts, a level of creativity that would be unrivalled within the industry, and a shared passion to deliver truly extraordinary, once-in-a-lifetime experiences, the foundations for a really exciting company were set in place. The tricky part was to follow: the building blocks in making this vision a viable business.
I immediately partnered with an old army friend, Jimmy Carroll, who shared the same views and ambitions. He had a similar adventurous background – he led the largest medical research expedition on Mount Everest – and had been working in the superyacht sector for many years. We complemented each other’s skills perfectly. We then set about building a strong brand and team. Both elements are vital to a start-up, especially the people. If you surround yourself with great people, build a strong team, look after them and work hard towards the same goal, you can achieve anything.
That was back in November 2017. A year down the line, with time to pause for breath, I’m able to reflect on our successes and short-comings. As with anything in life, you never know what is around the corner and this first year has certainly thrown up a lot of surprises. It has been more challenging than expected, but that is all part of taking the risk in the first place. Most entrepreneurs carry certain character traits that lean towards occasional risk and the ability not to shy away from challenging environments, instead seeing them as the ideal place for innovation and progress.
Our primary aim was to create extraordinary experiences around the world that were not accessible. But no pick-and-pay itineraries. Everything we do is customised to the individual client. We’ll meet them several times during the creative process, ensuring that we understand exactly what it is they want to get from their PELORUS experience. We then leave no stone unturned in our research and design, going to depths that you simply won’t find from other travel companies.
One highlight is a honeymoon to Papua New Guinea, where we created a helicopter expedition into the remote highlands to visit rarely-contacted tribes and track down old World War II ’planes that had crashed in the jungle. Another was a family holiday in Botswana, where they slept out under the stars in the Makgadikgadi Pans and embarked on a private luxury camping experience in the Okavango Delta. We organised a treasure hunt in Namibia, where pilots, guides and locals all gave clues to the guests, leading them on a journey that involved quad bikes, camels, a boat and a private ’plane. The clues eventually led to a surprise camp set up in the desert, where the guests enjoyed a private supper and slept out under the stars. These experiences require a huge amount of planning, but this creativity is what ultimately separates us from our competitors.
This innovation is made possible by the people we work with around the world. From conservationists and marine biologists to anthropologists and government officials, these people know regions better than any, having dedicated years and years to learning and exploring every nook and cranny. We work incredibly closely with these individuals, and together we are able to unlock opportunities that you would never know exist. It is one of the most rewarding parts of the job.
Of course, there have been setbacks and, in hindsight, I might have done a few things differently. We have faced a number of challenges within the business, from funding to finding the best people to drive the company forward. These take time, but are crucial to get right. The most challenging aspect, however, has been (and always will be) preserving the ethos of our core business: delivering truly extraordinary experiences in remarkable places around the world. With all of them, it is key to ensure we have a clear strategy and multiple contingency plans in place; this way we are prepared to overcome each challenge when it arises.
Mistakes happen – that is inevitable when starting a new business. It is about learning from those mistakes, ensuring they don’t happen again and moving forward. I believe it is important to look forward rather than be overly reflective – the journey might have been different but the outcome will be the same.
The coming year promises to be even more exciting. We are planning a world-first road trip through Patagonia, a food experience in Vietnam and Cambodia, and a ski-traverse expedition in Greenland, to name a few. Our ambitions will continue to grow, as will our team, and PELORUS will strive towards being the leading authority in experiential travel and yacht expeditions worldwide.
Inspire your next adventure by visiting www.pelorusx.com or call +44 20 3848 5424 to speak to one of our project designers. Additionally, PELORUS are always on the lookout for great work experience candidates who have a passion for travel and adventure. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.