We’re 10 years old.
Today marks the 10 year anniversary of SEO Travel.
It’s flown by, with lots of ups and downs. Not least the pandemic that shall not be named that we currently find ourselves recovering from.
Back in 2011, I had no aspirations of building an agency. I just liked the idea of being my own boss and the freedom that would bring.
Slowly we picked up momentum, and grew to the 10 person team we have today. I’m proud of what we’ve grown and the fantastic work we deliver for clients.
But today marks a step change.
The 25 year old who had no particular goals or aspirations has become a 35 year old who recognises the opportunities he’s been given and the obligation to do more with them.
And I’ve had time to come to terms with the challenges of imposter syndrome and think ‘fuck it, let’s give it a go.’
I never thought I’d be someone to change the world (and I still don’t). But I’ve decided it’s time to try and at least polish a bit of it around the edges and to see where that leads.
To do that we’ve decided to give away all of the profit SEO Travel makes from this moment forward. That is 100%. All of it.
The main thing anyone who I’ve run this idea by has asked me is “why?” (after first looking at me a bit strangely and clearly thinking I’ve lost my marbles).
The answer to that lies in the pandemic.
The 6 months from March 2020 were the hardest of my life.
Two thirds of our clients had to pause their work. Businesses around the world were falling apart. It felt like the rug was being ripped from under us. (n.b. I’ll be forever grateful to those clients that opted to carry on.)
Furlough. Grants. Staff. Clients. Office. Family. Friends. Health. School. Nursery. Bills. Savings. House.
There was an overload of things to deal with. To think about. All the while wondering if the thing we’d been building for 10 years was about to bite the dust.
I don’t want to get the violin out too much. With perspective I recognise we’ve had it easy compared to so many. But it’s hard to see that at the time when you’re caught up in the whirlwind.
And as we came out of the fog I did the same thing as so many people have.
I looked at what we were doing and what we were trying to achieve. And when I asked myself these big questions, I didn’t really have any answers.
So I set off looking for them.
I came back with a realisation that growing a business for the sake of it wasn’t enough. Money wasn’t enough of a driver (and I recognise the privileged position I’m in to say something like that). Ego and status wasn’t cutting it either.
To make the struggles of 2020 worth it, we needed to do something different and something bigger.
I had also come to recognise the important place that learning and education had developed in my approach to life. I was never overly motivated at school – I did well, but I wasn’t fussed about learning, I just wanted to pass the tests and get the grades.
Having 3 young children and watching how they soak up everything around them emphasised how important it is for children to have access to the tools that allows that development to flourish.
And consistently telling the team we’d grown that a passion for learning was crucial to their growth and our progress loomed larger than ever.
Then things started to happen. I began to notice educational charities being run by our clients or linked to in emails by our suppliers. I started acknowledging statistics and news stories appearing about how many children go without a proper education.
It was everywhere. And selective attention or otherwise, it got stuck in my head.
Finally, my path led me to Adam Braun and I infused the incredible things he’d achieved. I watched interviews with him and it was like he was talking out of the screen at me. The subtitle of his book, The Promise of a Pencil, is ‘How an Ordinary Person can Create Extraordinary Change.’
And that was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
The ‘ordinary person’ in me stood up and paid attention.
It was time to do something different. Education and learning would become our mission. It was just a case of working out how to do it.
And the answer to that also lay in the pandemic.
As our world crumbled around us in late March/early April, we recognised that we needed to do something new. Travel was one of the first industries to suffer and would likely be one of the last to return.
So we went about setting up anything and everything we could think of. New specialist agencies, new editorial websites, lead generation properties. If you can think of it, we probably tried it. And I’m extremely proud of how the team came together at the hardest of times and created so many amazing things.
As a result, we’ve been left with other assets that can provide revenue streams and so we are no longer fully reliant on the SEO Travel side of the business to bring in income.
I was out running in December when it dawned on me, looking out over the snow covered Ilkley moor. Give it all away.
Pay the staff. Pay our overheads. Pay ourselves. And then give it all away.
Give that money to charities which make an impact on education and learning for kids who need it most.
I feel obligated to highlight this isn’t a selfless act. We don’t plan to go and live in a hut and not have any belongings.
My belief is that this approach will help us bring on more clients, which in turn will help us grow into a better team with a wider offering that achieves better results for those clients. And as a result more clients will want to join. All the while ‘profits’ increase, which we promptly give away to our chosen charities in their totality.
Everyone wins. We get more stability and the ability to grow our team and improve our offering. Clients get a better service than ever as well as access to a wider suite of services. And as the pot of money we make gets bigger it all goes to fantastic causes.
We’ve set a goal to give away £1 million over the next 10 years.
This will initially be split between 2 charities. The first is Moving Mountains, a charity focused on social enterprises in Kenya, Tanzania and Nepal. The second is Zarach, which helps improve living conditions of children living in poverty right here on our doorstep in Yorkshire, so when they turn up to school they are in a fit state to learn and succeed.
We’ll also be providing our marketing skills to these organisations (and hopefully more like them) to help grow their audience and attract investment from other parties.
In addition to this, we plan to develop free training and courses in our industry for children in underprivileged areas to access, along with work experience and apprenticeships that help them get on the career ladder.
These are ambitious targets, and I’ve no doubt we’ll struggle to hit them. But I want to try. And I’d rather fail and get halfway there then not give it a go.
You can read more about our new ‘Purpose-led’ approach here, and we’ll be sharing updates on our progress throughout the journey here on the blog and on our social media channels.
I hope you’ll come along for the ride and we’d be so grateful for any support along the way.
That could be something as basic as sharing this blog post, or as committed as joining us as a client.
In return we promise to give everything we’ve got to help as many children improve their educational prospects as possible, both on our own doorstep and around the world. 100%.
I can’t believe it’s ten years since we started SEO Travel from a kitchen table in Chapel Allerton. I can’t wait to see what we can achieve in the next ten.
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