Lillian Rafson is the Founder and CEO of Pack Up + Go, a surprise travel agency that plans getaways around the US.
Here is what Lillian had to say when we asked her about embracing the entrepreneurial adventure:
What inspired you to start your company?
I have always loved travel. Travel encourages you to expand your horizons, break out of your comfort zone, and experience new adventures. You can make traveling as off-the-beaten-path, or as metropolitan and familiar as you feel comfortable. No matter what, travel opens doors to new cultures, foods, and places that you wouldn’t encounter in your day-to-day life. I was actually traveling, backpacking in Eastern Europe, when I first heard about surprise travel. I decided that I would come back and try this concept in the states—that’s when Pack Up + Go was born.
What are the three most important skills you utilize as an entrepreneur?
The first is organization. People cannot read your mind. When I first started my company, I realized that things that were obvious to me were not obvious to others, so I needed to write everything down and put systems in place to set my team up for success. Someone should be able to walk into your business and understand everything that is going on. The second is communication. It is important to be an effective communicator when leading your team and working with customers. The third is flexibility. I start my day thinking it is going to go one way and something always comes up that requires my attention and I have to go another way. Adapting quickly is essential. I learn how to solve new problems every day.
For people interested in starting their own company, what are the first steps they should take?
You should first register your business with the state. The state will send you an EIN number, which you use to open a bank account or a credit card. Then, buy the domain name for your business to gain ownership of its IP address. Check out Google Domains or GoDaddy. Lastly, you should build a simple website. Try using Squarespace or Shopify. Before you start hiring people for your business, you have to identify what you want those people to do. I started making lists of things that I needed to do, but I didn’t necessarily enjoy doing, and started writing job descriptions based on these lists and found people who enjoyed doing those tasks to join the team. I tend to hire people who are flexible, collaborative, and think creatively—it’s more about soft skills than a certain educational background. If you want to learn more about starting your own company, I recommend reading The Lean Startup.
How do you find mentors in the startup community?
I found my mentors in a few different ways, such as at conferences, through a friend-of-a-friend, or someone I read about and wanted to meet. I would reach out to them through a cold email and ask them to hop on a 15-minute call. Most people are willing to share more about their journey, and they get inspired learning about what other people are working on.
What is your favorite place to travel to and why?
Some of my favorite trips were to small towns you might not usually go to, including Savannah, Portland, and Maine. It is humbling to get lost in a new environment, and to see a place from a local lens. Traveling gives you the space to think creatively and refresh your world view. It doesn’t have to be expensive.
What is the most important lesson you have learned throughout your career journey?
Take the leap! Dive in and get started!
Lillian Rafson is the Founder and CEO of Pack Up + Go. She launched her business in January
2016 at 23 years old. Originally from Pittsburgh, PA, and a graduate of New York University’s
Gallatin School with a major in Consumer Culture, Lillian has always had a passion for travel
and supporting small businesses. Lillian is thrilled to share her love for exploration through Pack Up + Go’s mission of embracing the unknown and encouraging spontaneity in each of its