Radha Vyas Podcast Transcript

Radha Vyas Podcast TranscriptListen to episode here

Radha Vyas: 0:00Travel and seeking out adventure was like in my veins right, and that's what I knew. That's what I wanted to do. I love the freedom of being able to do it. It was that light bulb moment. I thought, right, this is what I have to do. And I just immediately saw this massive opportunity for me to disrupt this outdated and naff industry and create a really aspirational, on point brand. We see ourselves as a platform that connect people at the same life stage. Right, and the travel? The reason we have the travel is because travel creates friendship quicker than anything else.

Amardeep Parmar: 0:34

Today on the podcast, we have Radha Vyas, who's the CEO and co-founder of Flashpack. They started as a travel company, all about connecting people in their 30s and 40s for unique experiences, and it's since grown on to much more than that which you're going to learn about during the episode. Radha's got a really interesting story because for a few years she was trying really hard to come up with a new concept and build a business, but it wasn't working for her. Then she made a co-founder with an interesting story which you're going to hear, and that then flourished. They were able to grow massively with Flashpack, but then in COVID hit, everything came crumbling down. So off the back of COVID, she was then able to rebuild the company. It's now got investment from Jamjar Investments to really go on further. So Radha's story is one of incredible resilience and fighting through even when things look very bleak. So I'm really excited to share this episode with you. So, radha, you've had such an amazing journey and had many ups and downs, but when you're growing up, do you ever think one day I'll be a founder, one day I'll be doing this kind of thing, or what were your ambitions?

Radha Vyas: 1:36

I don't think I knew what an entrepreneur was when I was growing up. It wasn't a thing. I didn't know anybody who wanted to be an entrepreneur. I was surrounded by people who were talking about business quite a bit and my parents were definitely very enterprising people. I think I wasn't very conventional. So while the rest of my friends and families were doing university career path although I did that I was off traveling the world as well, while they were getting excited about law and medicine. I was living in France, I was studying at Madrid University. I lived in Chile. I was backpacking around South America. So travel and seeking out adventure was in my veins, right, and that's what I knew. That's what I wanted to do. I loved the freedom of being able to do it. In tandem, My parents, like I said, were super enterprising. They always dreamed of setting up their own restaurants. They're amazing cooks and they always had a side hustle. Right, they had traditional jobs, but they always had a side hustle of a catering business and my sisters and I were always recruited to help make thousands of puris for a wedding event or a charitable event and we would go and help serve. So they instilled that work ethic in us. I think the only indication I had that maybe there was some kind of business skills in me. A teacher very early on mentioned to my parents that I had leadership skills. I think maybe I was 12 or 13. I remember that feedback. So maybe that was the only indication that it was kind of in my veins. But other than that I didn't know anybody in my family who'd done it. So I don't think I had a clear plan in my head. I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I definitely was dreaming up ideas. By the time I was at university I was constantly thinking of business ideas, talking to my mom about business ideas, and she said to me look, if you want to do it before you have kids, because you'll be more willing to take risk, and if you're more willing to take risk you'll be more successful. And so I always had that in my mind. And when I left university I was just trying lots of different things. I set up a blog. I created a business plan for a tea shop concept. It was a bit avant-garde really, in terms of it was kind of a new tropics brand, but it was a way ahead of its time. It was back in 2007. So now I think it would have done really well. It was called theology but, it didn't get off the ground back then way too early. So I tried so many different things and by doing that I just trained my brain to find trends, to find solutions to problems. And then when I stumbled upon this idea of group community travel, I was ready to take advantage of the opportunity.

Amardeep Parmar: 4:04

So it's interesting that you remember that feedback you got as a 12 year old. I think that's one of the really important things as well people listening is that those kind of positive feedback and reinforcement you can get at the early age can really make a huge difference, where a lot of people are so quick to pick up the negatives right, and somebody could say the leadership skills right, it's like what kind of format that was in. Somebody like, oh, they're taking charge where they should be giving other people, but it's showing that there's a positive aspect to these different elements as well, and that would then enable you to be able to think, oh, okay, I can do this, because other people can see it in me too. And you mentioned that about some of the different ideas. Did you ever get disheartened when you thought like, okay, this tea company with the new shop is isn't going to work out, or was it just exciting that that thrill you had of thinking more ideas afterwards?

Radha Vyas: 4:49

No, I was devastated when the tea shop I did didn't work out, particularly because I put my heart and soul into writing a 70 page business plan.

Amardeep Parmar: 4:57

Wow.

Radha Vyas: 4:58

Yeah. Then when it didn't, and I'd spent a year researching, I went down the whole research rabbit hole, you know, standing outside coffee shops like counting football, the whole lot right. And when it didn't, when I felt like I couldn't make it work, it was devastating. I think I was just under my covers in bed for like a day or two trying to come to terms with it and figure out what I was going to do next and I felt like my dream of business, of and I didn't know the word entrepreneur then, I don't think. But just owning a business, owning my own business, as a root to freedom, was kind of slipping away from me and just facing the fact that I might have to go down the corporate career path was was horrifying, to be honest. It was. There's nothing I wanted less.

Amardeep Parmar: 5:37

And then obviously so that didn't work out, but then what you've gone into do afterwards has worked out. So it shows ideas. Sometimes people see one value and think that's it, and it's not often. You can try things. There's different opportunities available to you. You said you stumbled across the idea for group community travel. How did that come about? Where did the idea come from?

Radha Vyas: 5:53

Yeah, so I I was in my early thirties and, like I said, this kind of idea of like my big dream to have a scalable business was slipping. I felt like I was slipping away and I was feeling pretty like down and depressed and, like most people, just thought of right, I need to escape, I need to go on holiday, right, when you're having troubles, rang a lot of my friends. Do you want to come with me? Let's go to Thailand, what have you? Everybody was busy, right, they were, some of my friends were having babies and getting married already. Some were kind of busy with their own lives. And a friend of mine said to me oh, why don't you go on a group tour? And I said group tour, what are you talking about? I remember feeling distinctly offended. I just thought it was this naff concept for 18 year old backpackers who had never traveled the world before, or for retirees with matching caps, right, and I was this cool young woman who wanted adventure, who traveled the world. But the concept stuck with me and I went to the British library and I researched all the trends and I could see that they were all going in the right direction. Right, adventure travel was growing 65% year on year, the adventure tourism business was worth 265 billion globally. Like everything was going in the right direction and I just it was that light bulb moment. I thought this is my life's work. I've traveled my entire life, it's what I know, it's in my veins, and people always used to say to me follow your passion. But because I was multi-passionate, I was passionate about food and different things. I think I got lost down these avenues and when I found travel, it was that light bulb moment. I thought, right, this is what I have to do. And I just immediately saw this massive opportunity for me to disrupt this outdated and naff industry and create a really aspirated, inspirational, on-point brand. So I got very, very excited and because I had tried and failed at so many things before, you know, for years before I'd been trying for four or five years I knew this was right and I'd already built up the skills to take immediate advantage of this opportunity. So that's how it really happened, In tandem I was thinking I should sort out my love life. I went on match. com and the algorithms matched me to Lee, my now husband, and he ended up living down the road from me in Brixton actually, and he was a photojournalist. We went to a bar and after a few glasses of wine, I mean, we were talking about business and travel the whole night. So you could tell we had a lot in common. And I told him my idea and he immediately got it, because he was at the same life stage. He was in his 30s, he had just convinced two of his married friends to go to Thailand with him and he said, look, I get this, I think this can be massive. You know, I would potentially like to do this with you, but we had just started dating so we kind of spent our first dates. So is so sad. But we spent the first dates going to travel, trade industry, like shows, and like investigating and researching the industry and researching the concept. And then we said, look, let's do a record to Sierra Leone together, as you do, and if we can survive Sierra Leone together, we could probably survive setting up a business together. And that's what we did.

Amardeep Parmar: 8:46

That's really cool because it's a lot of people think about potentially starting a business as their partner and the different things involved, but that's often once it would have been going out for a while, right. So to do that right from the very first date, that's like incredible. That is worked out as well as a hatch right, and I guess it must be one thing I know that a lot of people do as well. They're really protective of their idea, right. So at that stage, telling somebody you just met the idea, how did you feel about that? Were you kind of nervous? What were they still the idea? Or what if it's other people? Or how did you feel? Were you quite open at that point of doing a few different ideas to getting feedback early on? Because obviously, if he's been from the same kind of background of what he was interested in, he was a perfect kind of customer for you as well.

Radha Vyas: 9:24

It's a really interesting question. So I remember that distinct feeling in the early days when you're so scared to tell anyone your idea in case they steal it. And now I look back and I think you know it's, it shouldn't really feel that way, because so many people have ideas and very, very, very few people have the gumption and motivation and inclination and skills to actually go and execute on their idea. Like everyone has millions of ideas every day, like who goes in actually executes on this stuff. I was scared. It did take a couple of glasses of wine for me to divulge it, but the night was going so well. And look, really I'm a gut instinct person. I'm like a man. I really follow my gut. I think my instincts are so strong and I just had an instinct about Lee and so I went with it and it's all. It's all worked out really well.

Amardeep Parmar: 10:06

Because I completely agree with you there, because I think so many people super tit for idea. But, like said, if you put it out there, then if somebody else can do it better than you, then maybe you weren't the best person to run the business in the first place. Right, and obviously the reason why it's been successful is it isn't just because you had the ideas, because you've been able to execute it so well, and I want you to do that trip to Sierra Leone. What were the actual first steps you did to start making it reality? Like doing those first tours.

Radha Vyas: 10:28

Yeah. So when we initially set up Flashpack, the idea was for it to be a super like cutting edge company. We would take you to places that you'd never thought about going before. So when we launched the business, we launched with Sierra Leone, Chile, a Vespator in Spain and a horseback trip through Uganda, and very quickly realized well, not so quickly. It took us six months to realize that nobody wanted to go there, because if you hadn't been to Vietnam or to just Thailand, you didn't really want to go to Sierra Leone. And so we had to pivot the business very, very quickly and start offering trips to countries that were a bit more mainstream, right, until we built up like trust and credibility with our audience to take them to places that were quite far flung, like Sierra Leone. But initially it took us so long to get traction because we only had about 15,000 pounds between us to invest in the business and we were funding the business through our other businesses, so I had a fundraising business. Lee was a photo journalist and we were a high like a premium business. We had no social proof, no reviews, nothing right. So to try and to convince our first customers to pay 2000 pounds with a company they'd never heard of, to do a sort of type of travel that they'd never done before, like traveling with strangers, was very, very difficult. So six months in, we're feeling pretty depressed that we had no traction. The phone rang once and it was a wrong number. And back in the day, when we had actual phones in our back bedroom, we went to Egypt on a holiday. Like I said, every time I'm feeling down, I think of holiday. So we went to Egypt because it was the cheapest holiday we could find and we started having the dreaded discussion like shall we give up? And Lee and I just looked at each other and said, look, we really think we've got a business here. But we had nothing but got instinct to go on right, we had no proof, but we just need to get more eyeballs on the business and we don't have money right and we can't raise money because we don't have any traction. Catch 22 situation, what are we going to do? Lee one day was reading Mashable or something I can't remember, and he saw a picture of Chrysa Redeemer statue in Rio being fixed because of lightning damage. It was in 2014, just before the World Cup, and Brazil at the time was getting loads of bad press. You might remember they were pacifying the favelas and they were getting a lot of bad press around that. So Lee said to me look, I've got this crazy idea. I'm going to fly to Rio and I'm going to convince the Archdiocese to let me climb the Chrysa Redeemer and take a selfie from the top, and it's going to go viral and that's going to launch our business. And I didn't even know what viral meant at the time. But I said look, okay, we've got nothing else. Last throw of the dice go for it. We've got about 1000 pounds left. So he did that. He flew to Brazil, he doorstep the Archdiocese. Two days later, the Archdiocese turned up at the foot of the statue and said you're crazy, but here are the keys, go and do it. So he climbed Chrysa Redeemer, popped his head out the top, took this amazing selfie and then we sat on it for like a month because we were so scared that if BBC found out about it, they'd send Gary Linnaker there and nobody would care about Lee Thompson. And then we released it to the press two weeks before the World Cup and we were capitalizing on the selfie trend. You remember selfies were just going wild back in 2014 and the World Cup, obviously and it went insane. I mean, we got 10 million hits to our website in about a week. Our website crashed. Lee was going around doing TV interviews with everyone right CNN, like you know everyone. I was emailing every photo journalist in the world saying, yes, you can have the picture for free, but please give us a backlink. And we got covered by the entire world media and we started getting our monthly traction and we got off the ground. It's absolutely crazy, but that's how we did it.

Amardeep Parmar: 13:59

Because one of the things I guess I don't really mention myself anymore is like I've been to it's 48 countries. Because I know this, because I was in Botswana on a group trip when the pandemic hit and our visa got cancelled. We had to leave. So I would have been on 50 because I'd have gone to Zimbabwe in there as well. But I understand the complete problem. There is, off my perspective, that when is it? Early in my 20s, I did a lot of solo travel. I did get into different places. But when you get to places which are a bit more difficult, say for me as Botswana, I don't really want to wander around there by myself because I'm not comfortable with that, and that's where group travel really comes in. So there's like the definite key problem there. And but I didn't. And then you thought about how you can tackle that. And that whole crisis of dreams was incredible because it's thinking outside the box, right. Because some people think they'll Google like okay, how do I do this, how do I do that? But that flash of no pun intended, the flash of the idea there, right, of where doing something that different, like that. But now you've come back to the UK again and you're trying to deal with all of this demand. How did you do that? How did you cope? Because there's one thing to deal with when you haven't got any customers, and that's like a certain level of stress, but also it's just like how are we going to fulfill this? How did you cope with that operational side?

Radha Vyas: 15:10

It was really hard. So we continued bootstrapping the business. Look, to be honest with you, we bootstrapped for too long. At that point we should have raised money and we didn't. We carried on bootstrapping the business. By that point, we had cash flow because we had customers. We had some interns. We were all sitting in our back bedroom in our bricks and flats. Honestly, they would come to our house every day. I'd make them try in the morning and we would set to work and we, and then we were funding the business through our own cash flow. And we got to 2016 like that. And then we realized that this, the business, was going well and we, you know, to get to that next inflection point, we're going to have to go in. We're going to have to have full skin in the game. So I went out and fundraised £250,000 from some angel investors and we gave up our other businesses, we folded our other businesses and we went in full time. We were the first employees on the payroll. So essentially, we've been running Flashpack full time since 2016. Before then, it was very much a side hustle. We were doing it in the evenings. I mean, we were working till midnight every single night. Right, it was intense In 2016, we ju st went in full time and that was the inflection point in our growth. We made our first million in booking turnover that year. Then we went from one million to four million, four million to 12.8 million, then 12.8 million to 20 million at the end of 2019. So in four short years we completely bootstrapped the business. We raised no other funding and it was a wild wild ride, but really difficult. Bootstrapping yeah, bootstrapping a venture growth business is something that not many people do, and now I know why because it's really hard.

Amardeep Parmar: 16:46

And you can. Obviously, you're now a husband and your co-founder. How do you split your different roles? What's the side that you're really passionate about and what's the side that he brings to it?

Radha Vyas: 16:57

We have very different skill sets and from the beginning we have carved out our roles properly and we have, essentially we have veto over our own areas of responsibility. I'm CEO and he's CMO, and the way we work together and the C-suite now the way we work together in general, is that we disagree and commit on small things. So if they're the small strategic pivot or something and we're disagreeing but the owner of that area of the business is adamant this is the direction we should be taking, we all commit behind that person. However, for really really big strategic problems or issues, we don't do anything until we all agree, and especially Lee and I. Lee and I have to agree, and I can talk a bit more about that when we go into the COVID story, I suppose but that's how we work together.

Amardeep Parmar: 17:46

Yeah, that's what I was going to follow on to there, because obviously you had a huge decision to make in COVID, because you're growing, as you said, like very rapidly, the turnover every year is increasing and it's part of that growing market. But then that market just came to a standstill very suddenly and I guess it must mean well, that initial news of this kind of starting to close their borders and stuff. Even, it's funny because I remember initial I was meant to go to China in March 2020, then they closed their borders. I was like, okay, I'll go to South Africa and Botswana because COVID is never gonna get there, right, and obviously you did get there and I had, to like, try to escape. But how was that journey of like the stepping stones of things starting to happen? Did you think this could be a global pandemic or how did you plan for that?

Radha Vyas: 18:29

Yeah, so in 2019, I had just had a baby, I'd came back to work and we were being inundated by unsolicited emails from VC saying we would like to back your business. Somehow our name had just got out there I don't really know how and I think because there aren't many businesses who can bootstrap to 20 million within four years, so everybody wanted to be a part of it. Right, I was getting baby gifts in the post from Excel, from Index. I could get into a room with a partner from pretty much any VC we wanted. So I came back to work and we started fundraising at, we prepared in December and in January we went out and did all our teaser meetings like a roadshow. We were getting. We had four offers from UKVCs and then we had American VC saying we'd like to back you. We had a Delaware company, so they wanted to back us. We're gonna come over to. You know we're gonna come over to UK. This was in kind of beginning of February. We're gonna come over to UK to meet you. We're not taking COVID seriously, but you know the firm has put a travel restriction on for a week. Nobody was taking COVID seriously. Lee was pretty much the only person panicking, actually because from his photo journalism days he knew that when something's in the press that much, it's big. But you know, even when it was in Italy I still think over here we just thought, ha ha, it's an Italian thing now. We didn't. You know, we just had our head in the clouds. We started seeing. For the first time in four years we started seeing our growth flat line in January. January is normally like a step change in our business. For wellness and travel, it's a big month, right. And our growth flat lined year on year. Flat lined for the first time. We didn't know what was going on. We did this big deep dive in the company and then we realized that nobody was booking Asia, right? So even though China had shut down, nobody was booking Japan, sri Lanka and it was the biggest part of our portfolio right, we had 78% drop in bookings for Asia. So then we realized in Jan like okay, this is big, let's get this fundraise done. We were raising 10 million at that point. We had four offers on the table just about to go into DD at the beginning of March, and that's when we knew we were all gonna have to go home, right? And on Friday 13th of March, trump closed the borders and everybody followed suit. And that was the beginning of the end. And it was absolute chaos. Phones were ringing off the hook, customers needing repatriating, we had customers stuck in Morocco, stuck in Costa Rica, stuck in Sri Lanka, and we had thousands of customers asking us for refunds. I mean, it was absolute chaos. We didn't have any funders to turn to at that point. You can imagine all the funding fell through, right, nobody wanted to be a part of travel at that point. It was one of the worst industries to be in and we were just out there on our own for months trying to survive. We fell through all the schemes. I mean there weren't many, right? I don't know if you remember there was Future Fund, which was government match funding, if your VC, you know, bailed you out, but we didn't have any VCs and there was a C bills when we weren't profitable so we had no one to turn to. So we carried on talking to a few VCs who kind of sensed the deal right. I had to, like, climb down from a massive 55 million valuation we were getting at the time climbed down pretty significantly. In tandem, we ran like a fireside, like fire sale, just try and sell the company. But everyone in travel were managing their own losses, so nobody was in a position to buy the company. And then, after it was seven, eight months. Well, August, I think if you remember God's taking me back now we were promised a vaccine by August. Do you remember that Boris was saying we're gonna get a vaccine. So we just thought, right, let's mothball the company until August and then everything will be fine. As soon as we can start running trips again, everything will be fine. So everybody went on furlough. I think by July, August, I think we realized that a vaccine's not coming for ages, and that's when we started talking about okay, we need to start thinking about the next step now. We need to think of our director's duties and we are trading insolvently here. And then we started talking about putting the business into administration, which we then did in actually on Diwali day, November 2020, which was really, really, really difficult.

Amardeep Parmar: 22:29

Yeah, because it's one of those things which people especially because they're like how excited that they change an emotion here, right, how excited you are, right at the very beginning, about you, you, this is your passion and then having the other high of where you got featured all across the world and to see that revenue growing and growing, this kind of joy that would be coming out of that, to then have that crushing glow of what do we do now, right, and obviously we've been able to pick yourself back up from there again. But I talk to you through that time, like how did you deal with that level of pressure and stress? Was there anything that was an escape or some way of to help you do it? If somebody listening right now maybe has to go something similar in their business in the future, what advice would you give them?

Radha Vyas: 23:09

God, it was so brutal. Gives me like PTSD going back there. To be honest, it was. It was so crazy. I cried a lot and I'm not ashamed to admit that I did cry a lot. It really hit me hard. Like having to make 60 people redundant over zoom. Um, you know, it was such a scary time and there wasn't much escape, Like you remember, like we weren't. We were only allowed out for an hour a day. It was insane. We had to take our daughter out of nursery. We couldn't afford to keep her in nursery anymore, so we had a one year old running around the flat while we're trying to do VC meetings every single day, trying to save the business. I drank a lot. Honestly, I drank a lot. I ate a lot. Um, my mental health was in the bin. The only thing that came kept me sane was we would go for like that hour a day when we had time to walk. We would walk and we would walk fast, right, we would just walk around Brockwell Park. We would just do laps, right, just try and get take the sun in, like try, and it was amazing some of that year. So we just try and take the sun in, like get some dopamine, and we would just talk. We'd talk to our friends and family. It was brutal on them because they went on this journey with us and your friends and family often do, and I think we don't realize that, as an entrepreneurs, that you're taking your closest, your nearest and dearest are kind of living this with you, but they have no control over it. So it's so hard on them. But I did, I did use my friends and family and I did talk a lot and I cried a lot and I just took every day as it came. The other thing I would say my big piece of advice for any founders going through crisis is find impartial and that's really important impartial advisors that have no vested interest in your business. So I had quite a few advisors that were sensing a deal, that were sensing an opportunity and I just didn't know who to trust. Right, we were going through this massive crisis. I had a couple of people a friend who I'm going to shout out, Neil Ambler, his a founder of Banked. He's been a friend of mine for a really long time. He was incredible and he was a source of support and amazing advice and he had no other interest in me or my business than he was a friend and he's an entrepreneur and knew what he was talking about. Right? So that's absolutely crucial. But, going kind of, just going back to that time, I think we were flying high and I naively thought at that time that nothing would stop us. We were unstoppable. I think I remember having conversation with Lee around that effect, like naively, just two months before COVID hit, and we only protected our upside, like we were on founder salaries, right, we hardly paid ourselves anything. I mean, I was paying my nanny on a credit card. It was ridiculous. I only ever thought about upside exit, never protected our downside, never even put money into a pension properly. So when the business failed, we had nothing. Our entire net worth was in the business. I didn't even have a pension to show for it. So that would be my one piece of advice is protect your downside. Don't be naive. Obviously you've got to be an internal optimist to be an entrepreneur, otherwise you'd never do this because it's so crazy. But you've also got to realize that everyone, every single entrepreneur, goes through massive ups and downs. I mean, all the greatest companies are on the brink of collapse at least three times.

Amardeep Parmar: 26:18

So I'm laughing to myself there. Just, I've stopped paying my pension at the moment, so I'll start doing that again. That's a good point. So obviously now, like you're in a different position. We've said the announcement with Jamjar investments and everything looks like it's looking on the up again how has that journey been of going from where you were to like now you are where you are today, like you almost had to have a fresh slate in some ways, and what changes did you make to now future proof the business and to have the future more bright?

Radha Vyas: 26:43

So we put the business into administration Diwali in November 2020. And that was hard, but we had thought about it for a long time. The hardest thing was that Lee decided that as CMO. He said we have to be fully transparent about putting the business into administration. Right, with our community. We have to own the narrative. And he it took me, I have to admit it took him weeks to convince me. I was so scared. I said look, Lee, we are not a household brand like we are a big brand amongst 30s and 40s solo travelers, right, but not everyone in the UK or US knows us. We can fly under the radar. No one's really going to notice. There's a lot of noise around COVID, like no one's going to realize, let's just go quietly. And he said no, we've got to. We've got to own this. We've always been a transparent company. We've got to own this. And and I said, okay, and this is what I'm going back to like disagree and commit, except for really big decisions, right. So he had to get me on side to be able to execute on that strategy. He did get me on side because I trust him and even though I was so scared, we did it and we put it out on all our socials and email out to our entire database of customers. And you know it went public. It went in all the trade press. Flashpack has failed and it was terrifying, but actually what came out of the darkness was this incredible support from our community of customers who came out and said we are devastated. You have impacted our lives positively. We'll never forget that. We hope you're back. We're incredibly sorry and that source of support and energy. There were some negative comments as well, right, but that source of energy gave us a lot of hope.

Amardeep Parmar: 28:22

And so what did you then do? So what's the rebirth of flashback?

Radha Vyas: 28:27

Yeah, yeah, yeah, thanks for reminding me. So basically, we in the administration process, the administrators said to us you can bid on the assets. The assets are going up for sale. You can bid on the assets as founders. And we said, yes, we are going to do that immediately because we had nothing left, right, we had no personal runway. We're on the brink of personal bankruptcy. We look could we have even gone out there and got other jobs? The entire industry was decimated. Could I even work for anyone, like I hadn't worked for anyone for years? I mean, it's life outside of flash pack felt very bleak, like it was our baby, you know. So we just said, right, we're going to do it. One last throw of the dice what have we got to lose? Right? So we had equity in our house. We remorged our house, we borrowed money from friends and family and we just scrambled around. We found as much money as we could and we bid on the assets. And then we had to wait for a few weeks to find out if we'd kind of won the bidding process. And of course, we weren't allowed out, right, because we were only allowed out an hour a day back then. So we painted our hallway for two weeks to try and just keep saying and pass time. And then, after that process, we found out that we were the highest bidders of three bidders and we'd got the business back, which was incredible feeling, but also, like I remember, just feeling this dread. I was like Godly, we're back. We're back at the bottom of the mountain, we're in the same flat in Brixton and it's me and you again, with no money, no staff, nothing. Right, it was just, it was. It was absolutely crazy. Then Lee and I just said, right, our daughter was still out of nursery. We said, right, let's divide and conquer, Lee, you go and save the brand, I'll go and find us a funder. Right, as audacious as it sounded it was, you know we were approaching 2021. So we were like, okay, we might find some funding. It's like crazy, crazy, crazy raising market out there right now. And that's what we did. Went and found a 50 billion pound fund to back our vision for community travel. They're called PPF. They'd completely got it and they funded us out of bankruptcy and Lee spent every single day for about a year helping customers through a very complex refund process to make sure nobody lost out right, and anybody who did lost. There were some customers who couldn't get their money back and we made good. In the new company we made sure none of our suppliers lost out. So suppliers who lost money in the administration process with us, we said look, stick with us, we'll give you more business than you know, than the loss that you made in Flashpack 1.0. And 98% of our suppliers still came with us and we're really proud of that. It's because we didn't bury our head in the sand and I think that would be another piece of advice If you're going through crisis, do not hide. Don't hide. Face it. We got on calls, video calls, with all of our suppliers saying we are going into administration. We are really sorry. We know you're going to lose money with us, but have, keep faith, we'll make it up to you some way. If it's not this business, it'll be another business. And they did and they came back and now they're making more money with us than they ever did, you know, if they were running kind of Japan for us. Now that they're now running Japan, Vietnam and Thailand, and that's how we made good and we hired back some of our old team as well. So we're really, really proud of that journey it was. It has been really hard. We relaunched again in November 2021. So Diwali, November 2021. And Diwali is becoming a bit of a kind of milestone for me now. We relaunched and it has been a wild ride again. So what we achieved in four years, we've now achieved in two years. We're exceeding where we were pre-COVID. We are. We've got a team of 75 here in the UK, USA, Melbourne. I mean we're a fully remote team. So we've got staff in 11 countries around the world, but the main teams are UK and USA and we're scaling really quickly again and we've just raised another round of five million with Jamjar as a lead investors and with the purpose of scaling in the US and scaling our tech and it's, we're doing it all again and it feels. It feels really good. It feels better actually this time round because we feel like we actually know what we're doing this time and we consider ourselves second time founders. We feel like the journey is not as the oscillations aren't as intense. You know they're a bit more, you know there's, they're not. The highs and lows aren't so high and low Like we kind of, maybe kind of existing in a, in a happy medium between those peaks and troughs. It feels great.

Amardeep Parmar: 32:34

So that's amazing to hear. What's the future, what? What are we looking towards now? What you've just got the investment through? What's your ambition? What's the dream for where Flash Pack going to go to?

Radha Vyas: 32:43

We've got really, really big dreams for flashbacks. So we don't consider ourselves a travel company, which might be kind of weird to hear. We see ourselves as a platform that connect people at the same life stage. Right, and the travel the reason we have the travel is because travel creates friendship quicker than anything else, right, and creates deeper and more meaningful friendship than anything else. But if we met today, I said, right, we really get on, we're on the same wavelength. It would take us something like there's studies out there something like 200 hours to create friendship. Right, if you think about that, that's probably over the course of a year. That's an intense investment of going out for dinners and as a friendship accelerates all of that really quickly, which is why we have the travel company. But we're actually a friendship company. What we really care about is is reducing isolation, is creating friendship, creating connection and solving one of the biggest societal issues we have of our time right now, which is loneliness. So that's our ambition is to become the friendship company. US is our biggest market, it's our biggest opportunity and Lee and I are moving out there next year. We've just come back from Iraqi and we are really focused on just scaling as quickly as possible, before the next recession comes along.

Amardeep Parmar: 33:52

That's amazing, so really exciting, to hear what you've been up to there. We're going to have to move on to quick fire questions now just because of time, but the first one, who are three British Asians that you love to spotlight they think are doing incredible work?

Radha Vyas: 34:03

Yeah, the first one, Poorna Bell, she's an incredible author, entrepreneur, just a badass woman who inspires me every single day. I follow her content religiously on Instagram. Like you have to follow her. She's amazing. She's got so much to give. My second entrepreneur, nobody will really know him because he's quite under the radar, but Rajeev Nayyar. He's the founder of Fixflow, recently exited. We actually shared an office together back in 2016 or something 15. And he's an incredible entrepreneur. He has executed his business seamlessly to exit. He's incredible and I've always looked at him for inspiration and as a source of kind of advice as well. And my third Rajeeb Dey, is a co-founder of Learnably. I've been following him. He won't know this, so, if you're listening to this, I've been following him since his internship days, like when he set up that business back in I don't know, it was 2005 or something right. It was like one of the first entrepreneurs that I really started following when I started my journey. He's incredible entrepreneur and with a lot of heart and soul, and I really admire him.

Amardeep Parmar: 35:07

Perfect. So next question is if people listen right now, want to learn more about you, learn more about Flashpack, where should they go?

Radha Vyas: 35:14

Flashpack. com, you can find out all about the amazing trips we have got going on. You can attend our events. We've got a house party event in Hoxton on the 25th of November. You can attend our LA or New York. We've got lots of events going on that you can just come and attend and meet people at your life stage in your 30s and 40s and make friends. And if you want a bigger adventure then you can go to Flashpack. com.

Amardeep Parmar: 35:38

And if people listen right now could help you in any way or help Flashpack would you need help with?

Radha Vyas: 35:43

I always I'm so grateful for user feedback. So if you've been on a trip and you've got some feedback, get in touch. And if you haven't been on a trip and you have feedback about our user experience, our website, our app, anything, please do get in touch.

Amardeep Parmar: 35:54

Perfect, so really enjoy this conversation, and I could talk for a lot longer if we run out of time. Have you got any final words for audience?

Radha Vyas: 36:00

My final words would be well to quote Seneca. Right. Luck is when preparation meets opportunities. So just get out there. Don't wait for inspiration, your big idea, to fall on your lap. Go out there, test lots of different things, train your mind to find trends, to find opportunities to solve problems, and then, when your big idea does come along, you'll be ready to take advantage of it.

Amardeep Parmar: 36:25

Hello, hello everyone. Thank you so much for listening. It makes a huge amount to us and we don't think you realize how important you are, because if you subscribe to our YouTube channel, if you leave us a five-star review, it makes the world of difference. And if you believe in what we're trying to do here to inspire, connect and guide the next generation of British Asians, if you do those things, you can help us achieve that mission and you can help us make a bigger impact, and by doing that it means we can get bigger guests, we can host more events, we can do more for the community, so you can play a huge part. So thank you so much for supporting us.