One of our favorite things to do is share the stories of some of our local entrepreneurs and leaders each month! This month, we have the pleasure of introducing you to Jacob Marek, Founder & Chief Explorer of IntroverTravels! Check out his interview below and get to know him a little bit better!
What has been your most successful form of marketing?
My marketing strategies are centered around online efforts--like blogging/guest-blogging, social media, and links from online articles. In the travel industry, as in real estate, word-of-mouth is also a huge source of referrals and I let my clients know about my referral program ($25 bonus credit to Kiva for the referrer, an organization that believes entrepreneurship is the surest way to alleviate global poverty).
What sacrifices have you had to make to be a successful entrepreneur?
Moving to South Dakota from Miami and a stable Corporate America job. Two years ago I sold most of my belongings and moved to SD. I travel solo half the year, which is an amazing life in itself, but I do sometimes miss seeing my family and friends as much as I’d like. I live in Sioux Falls the other half of the year, which isn’t my dream place by any means, but it affords me the ability to do what I love and build the nerdy travel business of my dreams.
What do you feel is the major difference between entrepreneurs and those who work for someone else?
I think there’s definitely a sense of personal involvement with being an entrepreneur, versus working “on the clock” for someone else. A sense of ownership, in the literal and figurative senses. Not that there aren’t great employees (that’s who entrepreneurs want to hire!). As an entrepreneur, you sort of have to wear all the hats when you’re first starting out.
How do you define success?
I think the definition of “success” is sometimes misunderstood. Is it money? Property? Cars? Investments and retirement funds? Those things are all important, sure. But when I look at my life and what makes me happy, I am proud of the fact that I am building dream business, slowly but surely. I enjoy a hot breakfast every morning (something I promised myself when I first started in entrepreneurship). And pants are usually optional; in fact, my motto is “more sarongs, fewer pants.” So I would say I define success by creating a life that makes you happy, in whatever way that is.
“More sarongs, fewer pants.”
What motivates you?
I am motivated by the memory of my grandma, who left me a small but significant-to-me amount when she unexpectedly passed away a few years ago, which I used as the startup seed money for my concept. I still want to make her proud and honor her memory in that way. I’m also motivated by the idea that by living a life for a few years that most people wouldn’t that in future I will be able to live a life that others couldn’t.
Who has been your greatest inspiration?
My grandmother has been my biggest inspiration. In addition to being a mother of three, she managed my grandfather’s optometry practice and owned her own bookstore in an age when most women didn’t even work!
Shortly before she passed away, I had gone on a solo hike in Capitol Reef National Park; it was there--surrounded by the peacefulness of nature in a remote location--that I was inspired by the concept for IntroverTravels. I knew I wanted a life that was full of travel, nature, and a bit of adventure.
Also, while driving to South Dakota on my way to start a new life in entrepreneurship, I stopped along the way to hike the spectacular Great Smoky Mountains National Park, home to one of my greatest inspirations in life, Dolly Parton, who--in her unique singing-talking voice--croons, “You know I’ve been thinkin’ a whole lot lately // about what’s been and what awaits me // It takes all I’ve got to give what life demands // You go insane if you give in to it // Life’s a mill and I’ve been through it // I’m just thankful I’m creative with my hands.” - Dolly Parton, Smoky Mountain Memories
In the split shot below, the top photo was taken at that ah-ha moment in Utah in 2014 and the bottom photo was taken last year in the Pacific coastal desert of Peru and it struck me that me dreams were becoming a reality.