Today’s guest left her comfortable job at Amazon to launch a sustainable tour booking platform that connects eco-minded travelers with ethical tour operators around the world.
Hilary Matson founded Yugen Earthside in 2020, despite a global pandemic and no prior experience in the travel industry. In this episode, she shares her process for screening new tour operators, some of the unexpected challenges of running an OTA, and the social media platform that has been most effective in helping her grow her business. Hilary also opens up about experiencing self doubt as a female entrepreneur and her biggest piece of advice for other women considering a dramatic career change.
Leaving Amazon to pursue her dreams
After nearly a decade with Amaozn, Hilary decided it was time for a change. “I got to a point in my early thirties where I really wanted something that was a little bit closer aligned to my personal interests and values,” she recalls.
Hilary wanted to be able to look back on her life and feel as if she had made a positive impact on the world. “I really wanted to feel like I was contributing something. And for me, travel is so joyous.”
Parntering with sustainable tour operators
All of Yugen Earthside’s partners must undergo a rigorous assessment to ensure they meet the sustainability requirements set out by the company. Hilary describes the first part as a survey in which potential partners are access about their impact on the 3 pillars of sustainability — environmental, socio-cultural, and economic.
Following that initial survey, applicants will then be asked a series of questions over a video interview. Hilary then describes that in the third and final step, “we combine their qualitative answers along with their quantitative answers, and we make sure that they meet a certain threshold before inviting them to the club.”
The challenges of running an OTA
Hilary points out the many challenges of managing a tour booking platform. For one, there is always a risk that customers will find an operator through her platform and then book direct with them, rather than through Yugen Earthside.
Hilary says, ” the way that we manage it right now is that we have a very select set of partners and so you develop a personal relationship.” By working directly with the founder or CEO of a company, she is able to establish better trust. Furthermore, she has a strict ‘one strike and you’re out’ policy. “If either the client or the tour operator were to circumvent that then you know, there’s a lot of other sustainable companies out there,” she says.
More from this episode
Want to know which social media platform has been most effective for growing Yugen Earthside? How the internal operations work in this small OTA? How she plans to generate more leads on her website? What advice Hilary has for other aspiring, female entrepreneurs? Tune in to learn more from Hilary Matson!