Interview with The Orange Guide
- 4 min read
They are young, they are successful, and after graduation they launched their travel agency in Valencia, Spain. Read the full interview and get inspired by these two young ladies who met at Hotelschool The Hague and knew from the very beginning that they would be doing great things.
Who are you?
Sisi: My Dutch name is Guusje but as it’s hard to pronounce, people call me Sisi! I started Hotelschool in February 2013, and for my practical placement I went to Valencia to work at Hotel The Westin. For my management placement, I went to work in a small and cute hotel in the mountains of Andalucía.
Evelien and I met after our internship in a block called Managing an Outlet (MO), where we managed several outlets with the two of us. This enabled us to learn about each other and discover a common passion for Spain. Already then, we were dreaming about the idea of potentially opening a business together in Spain in the future. After graduating from Hotelschool The Hague, both me and Evelien started working in sales. We both loved our jobs but felt like we missed Spain too much. When Evelien told me that she was going to Spain to do a master, I didn’t hesitate a second: I would join! She ended up in Barcelona and I decided to go to Valencia.
Evelien: I did my practical placement in Le Meridien in Barcelona at the Front Office department; I did my management placement at an events agency in Amsterdam, after which I started doing sales for the agency. I really liked my job but as Sisi mentioned, I always felt the desire to move to Spain. This is where our story comes back together. Actually, I think all our ideas started out in Seville.
Sisi: Indeed! In 2016 we went to Seville together for a girls’ weekend. As I had been many times before, I knew every single street of this city. I was shown these places by locals and as I was showing them to Evelien, we contemplated on the fact that these were places that tourists would never find themselves. We should start a business around this concept, we thought…
What was the process once you decided to follow up on the idea? How did you put this in place?
Evelien: We were both doing our Masters and it was our priority at the time. We would use weekends and evenings to focus on our plan. New ideas would keep coming up: we would send each other voice memos, call each other and spoke each other over WhatsApp every day about new ideas regarding our company. We were lucky to find ourselves in a very supporting environment in which everyone around us was rooting for our ideas and providing us with input. To have to write a thesis and on the side do something completely different boosted us both with energy.
Sisi: In order to make some extra money during my Master, I already gave guided tours through the city of Valencia. Word of mouth promotion of my tours went quick and one day, before having started our company, I was being called by a personal relation of one of my previous clients. She ran a travel company in the Netherlands and was looking for a partner in Valencia. Our first job!
Evelien: We felt we would become successful from the start; we never really doubted ourselves. As soon as I had finished my Master, I moved from Barcelona to Valencia: we could finally start realising our ambition!
So how long did it take to start the business?
Evelien: We came up with the idea in May, I moved to Valencia in July and in August we launched the company. It didn’t take long!
Sisi: The contemporary way of starting a business is not by working out a business plan in detail, but rather starting off with a minimum viable product and then continuously improve the concept, according to the Lean Startup Method. We realised we were in a hurry as Valencia is booming in tourism and therefore, our competition was as well. It makes perfect sense that the city is so booming: Valencia really is the perfect city. With its old city centre, an amazing park in an old riverbed that really has the “Central Park” vibes, its beaches and natural surroundings, it is without a doubt the most diverse city of Spain.
Tell me more about the concept around it. The Orange Guide: what is it? Who is it for?
Evelien: We are organising complete travels. Whether you are looking for transfer, accommodation, activities.We organise the complete package in order to take the stress out of our client’s holidays. We attract both leisure and business groups.
Sisi: In fact, we are mainly targeting companies that wish to go on incentive trips, because we believe we have a lot to offer for them.
We focus on three points:
1. When you leave Valencia, you will have discovered the city. We deliver you the ultimate Valencian experience.
2. We’ll make sure to show you a different Valencia than what you would discover yourself. With The Orange Guide, you will be taken to unique places and participate in special events that you would usually not have found.
3. We take the stress out of organising your trip by taking care of everything, down to the last detail and fully tailored to your needs.
And how you are doing so far?
Evelien: We went live 2 weeks ago [August 2019] and we just got our 18th request yesterday. This proves that people are willing to pay for a unique, customised and special Valencia trip, and that they can find us! We have not spent any marketing money yet and we already received a request from a big company. A booming start!
You already have requests, but have you implemented any of the requests yet?
Sisi: We have a lot of demand for separate activities at the moment. For example, we have a 22-people family going to a wine house for a tour, wine tasting and three-course Valencian lunch overlooking the vineyards. One of our favourite activities, it’s almost unreal.
Evelien: Our first completely organised trip will be happening next week. It involves a family of five that will be going to the countryside, where they will be accommodated in a luxurious villa with swimming pool. They will be enjoying organised activities such as kayaking, horseback riding and golf; breakfast, lunch and dinner at the most authentic places has been taken care of by us. For example, a grandma from a village nearby will deliver homemade paella to their villa. After having spent some days at the countryside, the family will go to the city centre of Valencia where they will get toured around and enjoy a ten-course dinner and cocktail at the highest rooftop of the city. This contrast is what we are all about: we love to amaze!
How many people are working at The Orange Guide? Is it just the two of you?
Evelien: Yes! So far it is just the two of us but we are sure that soon we will need to hire a third.
What did you learn at Hotelschool The Hague that you are using now?
Sisi: Honestly, I think it’s a mindset. HTH has given me values that I’ve taken away. Work hard, work together, be receivable for feedback and willing to continuously improve. A business is not to be built by oneself!
Being familiar in the hospitality industry obviously has helped us as well. Because of Hotelschool The Hague, its internships and work experience, we have gotten to know the ins and outs of the hotel industry and the tourism branch.
Finally, it has to be said that the HTH network has been incredibly useful. Not only fellow students that are very supportive, also former teachers show their support in many ways. For example, my thesis tutor Mr. Arnoud Griffioen has been offering his help regarding our business plan and Mr. Paul Griep has offered Skype and lunch sessions in order to brainstorm about our concept. We are so grateful to be getting their valuable input!
What are your plans for the future?
Sisi: We surely dream big: we aim to become the world’s preferred travel brand. For now, we are mainly targeting the Netherlands, but we are definitely aiming bigger in the future and attract more nationalities. We first want to take over Spain, city by city. After that, hopefully the world will follow! Tokyo, New York... here we come!
Why The Orange Guide and how did you come up with that name?
Evelien: Valencia is the city of oranges, but orange is also the colour of The Netherlands. Given that we are Dutch, it was the perfect name!. The brand can be adapted in any city!
Would you have any advice for the current students of Hotelschool The Hague?
Sisi: Very cliché but I’m going to say it anyway: if you have a dream, go for it. We are so young and we are already realizing our dream. Why not start now?
Evelien: Hotelschool The Hague is a very good basis for what you want to do after. The school always has your back whenever you need it in the future. You will realise how helpful it has been a couple of years after graduating. The placement office is also very helpful in any situation, including achieving your future goals. Finally, jump on any network occasion you can get to, because your network is your key!