We give people refunds for their non-refundable flights and hotel bookings! And we provide travellers with unique below-market prices for holidays. Curious fact - one of the most frequently cited reasons for the canceled holiday is relationship breakups.
Have you purchased a non-refundable flight or a hotel room, only to realise that you can't go and lose all your money? It happens to millions of people every year. SpareFare solves this problem by connecting people who have bought flights or hotel reservations but can no longer use them, with people seeking discounted travel options. Sellers can now recover part of the money they paid for their trip. Getting half of your money back is still better than losing everything! And buyers get a true discount of up to 50-60% by not paying the current price of the bookings. It is a complete win-win for both sides.
Like most startups, this one was created out of personal need. It was a lightbulb moment. It all started when my co-founder realized he would not be able to use a flight due to unpredictable work commitments. Full of misplaced hope, he ended up changing the outbound date two times, until he eventually gave up. None of his friends wanted the ticket and there wasn’t a scam-free marketplace he could sell it on. He saw the need for a trustworthy service which salvages costly travel tickets and gives people the chance to fly when all other options dry up. I’ve had the same problem with canceled holidays and it was very obvious to me that this is a gap in the market which needs to be addressed.
Who is your target demographic?
Since we are a marketplace, we have two different types of customers – sellers and buyers. Our sellers are very diverse – everybody travels and plans change frequently. Our buyers are flexible travelers looking for bargain holidays. Students and self-employed freelancers make up a big part of that group. Of course, we are expanding and hope one day to be the go-to place for anyone looking for a genuine discount on their holiday!
How did you fund the idea initially?
I have two co-founders and we met while studying at the London School of Economics. SpareFare was and still is, funded by our own savings. This gives us the luxury of time to test ideas and fail on our own terms. The three of us were working as City professionals and had some savings we could use. Combined with that we also had to be very cautious about spending.
We are based in London, but paying professionals and employees here is prohibitively expensive for a small startup without investor funding. I am Bulgarian and this has been a wonderful blessing because we outsource whatever we can to Bulgaria. The talent pool there is great and the hourly rates are a fraction of what we’d have to pay someone in London. For anyone thinking of doing something similar – you don’t have to speak Bulgarian to do this, everyone speaks English. Our first employee was a friend who helped with customer service and marketing.
She did this on an hourly basis and we only paid her for the hours she needed to work that week – some weeks were busier than others and it was difficult to predict at the beginning. She had a full-time job and fit the SpareFare work around that. Per hour, we paid her a sixth of what we would have had to pay someone in London with the same level of experience. Keeping her hours flexible, combined with the low hourly-rate was a very cost-efficient way to hire our first employee. Our developers are all in Bulgaria as well. When I hear fellow startup founders paying £100,000 for a website, it makes me laugh and cry at the same time!
What motivated you to start your own business?
Prior to SpareFare I was a solicitor (that is a British lawyer for the non-Brits reading this!) working for a big American law firm in London. The job is very prestigious, with high-profile clients and you are very well compensated. Understandably, when I told my family I was going to quit to work on SpareFare, they were less than keen.
My grandma is still not able to understand why anyone would quit a stable career to pursue their dreams! :D I am sure this was the right thing to do and I enjoy working on SpareFare very much. It is hard and I don’t expect it to get any easier anytime soon, but the thrill of doing a job with a purpose is incomparable. SpareFare is a startup with a mission – make travel more affordable for everyone. I know that lots of travelers need our service and we are literally creating a new market in the travel industry, so it is very exciting!
Do you have any advice for someone just starting out?
Quite a lot! It turns out I was very naïve about some things in the beginning. And thank God I was, or I might have never started! As a rule of thumb, everything takes twice as long as you think. Always factor in extra time in your timelines. Also, it is much more emotional than just going to work and doing your 9-5 office job. Your business is your baby and everything is personal. Failures feel ten times worse and success feels a hundred times better when you are doing it for your own company!
Get ready for rejections and people who do not believe in your idea. I know that SpareFare provides a much-needed service in the travel industry, as validated by our many clients and great user feedback. Naturally, I thought that everyone would see things my way, like the idea and want to work with us. In reality, I receive many rejections and no’s. I don’t take it personally and remember that it is just part of the game.