We run trips that allow backpackers to share the rental of a minibus and custom-built trailer equipped with everything needed for camping, cooking and fun. Its pretty cheap, super flexible, social and fun. We currently have 3 minibus and trailers set-ups and our last 3 Perth-Broome trips were fully booked out.
Approximately 1 year and 10 days ago, we were desperately trying to sell tickets for our Perth to Broome trip that was scheduled to depart in 1 week.
Number of passengers booked?: 0
We were a new company, just my partner and I, and while we were trying our best to start it; it didn’t feel like a ‘proper’ company yet.
We were yet to buy all the equipment to go inside the trailer, although we had made a detailed shopping list. And although we had bought the bus and trailer, we still hadn’t secured insurance at that point. There was only one insurance company that we could find that would insure a fleet of less than TEN vehicles. Our contract was being sent back and forth from our lawyer to this insurance company while we tried to find an acceptable contract. We also still had to make some modifications to the trailer (i.e. build up the inside shelves).
So, to be honest, our product… didn’t 100% exist at that stage. 10 days before the trip.
The first 6 weeks
However, I don’t want to sell ourselves short on what we had done. Once we decided to do this project, we essentially built the entire company in six weeks (after months of discussion about potentially doing it). To me it seems so crazy that we managed to do it, but we did it! Although if I did it again… I’d definitely take more time.
This is some of the work we did in the 6 weeks. We had to choose, source, check and buy a vehicle, find a trailer and build modifications, make a budget and plan all the equipment we needed for all possible uses. We consulted with a lawyer to get contracts drafted up, an accountant, and an insurance broker. We planned out routes, found where the best spots and activities were and created the guidebook. We found someone who would do our graphic design for an affordable price (flyers, website and guidebook) and we found someone who would create content (photos, and videos) for the price of a free trip (Thank you!), and someone who would be a point of contact for us on the first trip and provide feedback for us.
Selling the first trip
These days companies live and die by their reviews, social media pages, and websites. We were a new company trying to sell a new idea, with only stock images, a basic Wix site, a Facebook page with maybe 100 likes and our words. You couldn’t even find us on google by searching ‘Share Bus’ and we had no photos of our finished product, as we hadn’t finished it yet.
So 10 days before the trip we had no customers; but we were trying hard!
We were all over Facebook, looking for people searching for a West Coast trip in backpacker groups. We wrote and paid for some targeted Facebook ads, to no effect.
I went from hostel to hostel looking to speak to people about the trip. However, It was the middle of winter in Perth, it was raining and the hostels were almost empty. We got some flyers designed and spent a fair bit of money getting them printed, and left them in all the backpackers places we could think of.
We held an info BBQ where we bought all the food and cooked to anyone we could get to come. We advertised it everywhere! (even at schools!) I’m pretty sure the majority attended only for the free food.
At this point there was still no-one.
But we had committed to a trip start date, and we were 100% going to make that happen.
We dropped the price down to $699 (for a 3 week trip – super cheap!) and my partner approached everyone on Facebook. He was the spam king and convinced a fair few people to come. And luckily some of the people who came to the free BBQ decided to sign up
I don’t know how we did it. But in total, we got 9 sign ups in that last week.
Our insurance came through in time, we bought the equipment on the 26th and 27th of July, and 3 people who joined the first trip helped us build the shelving into the trailer. The first Share Bus trip left on the 28th of July 2018.
Now we have 3 bus and trailer set-ups and have planned routes all over Australia. Although we are not yet to pay off all our investments, I am so amazed at how far we’ve been able to come since the start. Its silly, but I’m so happy whenever someone joins due to ‘word of mouth’, or we get positive feedback. A few times a trip has sold out a couple weeks in advance. Which feels amazing, given the stressful start.
We’ve made a million changes since the start, as we are very concerned with making the best possible product for what our target audience (young, long-term budget travellers) want. Over the next 2 weeks, I will continue to write about our journey.
What has this experience taught me? That deadlines are king. And you should just get stuff DONE!
Thank you to the 250+ people who have travelled with us in the last year! (and a special thanks to that first group!) It’s been amazing 😉
And thank you to the people who will travel with us. When you join us, you help us grow and improve our story. Check out the trips here.
Happy birthday Share Bus!