Ben describes his challenging experience of moving to a new city, finding somewhere to live and launching an exciting new business in North America.
Moving to Seattle was an exciting prospect: from Starbucks, Microsoft and Boeing to Pearl Jam, Nirvana and Jimi Hendrix to mountains, ocean and microbrews – it seemingly had everything – even Amazon.com!
Although I was sad to leave my friends and beloved pet sharks (RIP George) in London behind, I love a good adventure and the excitement that comes with visiting a new place.
The first week was wild. I slept in the basement apartment of one of our colleagues’ houses, along with another TUI Grad (Ben Ireland), a professional American football player (Brian), and a genius IT wizard straight out of Silicon Valley (Erik). The apartment was small and bedding was sparse. We took it in turns to sleep in the laundry room, the closet and the “art room”, which was interesting to say the least. However, fortunately (thanks initially to my jet lag and then to our nights out in Seattle) I slept like a baby on the hard floor. Then suddenly everybody left.
After only a week, Ben went back to England for training, Brian was extradited to Canada (even Stanford alumni struggle to get a visa for the US nowadays) and Erik flew back to Cal for some sunshine, so I was left alone. Life immediately got a lot quieter and became far more challenging that I had anticipated. Work was fine, finding my way to the office was a daily challenge (until I got my American sim card and was able to use Google maps) and getting into a normal routine was tough.
Fortunately I did eventually sort myself out with a house, gym membership and social life, which combined to help me find my feet and enjoy Seattle once more.
Work has been a lot of fun. I’m currently assisting with the launch of a new company called FanTravel (www.fantravel.com), a joint venture between TUI Travel and 2 former Stanford football players. We’re aiming to tap into the potentially huge market of travelling college (university) sports fans, as most American college football matches attract over 60,000 fans every week, some over 110,000!
I’m working with a small team in the TUI North America office in Seattle, Brian (currently in Canada) and Erik (in California). Due to our dispersed team, we’re forced to use innovative communication techniques. So in addition to the standard male grunts and mumbles, we also use Yammer (like a private Facebook for companies), Skype and Dropbox. These tools have been invaluable, enabling seamless workflow across states and time zones.
I’ve been tasked with creating a marketing plan, strategy and launching the brand. As I haven’t done much marketing before, this was quite a steep learning curve! However I think I’ve finally got my head around it and in a matter of weeks have created a solid brand strategy, style guide, marketing strategy, schedule and budget for the coming year. Now all I have to do is to do it!
So next is the exciting bit… I’ll soon be launching a Facebook competition, Facebook ads and PPC campaign in order to generate awareness of our new brand. Then we’ll be touring around the West Coast (visiting LA, Oregon, and Arizona) in order to meet our target market and promote the new company at the upcoming Spring Practice football games (which are a big deal over here; last year the University of Oregon game attracted 45,000 people!). This should be a lot of fun. I’m really excited about promoting our company that we’ve all been working so hard on to create. Of course, I’m also excited about experiencing American college culture (it is literally just like what you see in the movies…).
Aside from work, I’ve been making the most of living within an hour from the mountains by going skiing as much as possible. Seattle is in a fantastic location, with the Cascade Mountains on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other. It’s an outdoor enthusiasts dream and the standard uniform around here is a fleece jacket.
In fact, the fleece jacket represents Seattle pretty well: not good in wet weather but dries quickly, unfashionable but carefree as there’s so much more to life.
This is my first post since Movember, during which I raised a total of £135 – Thank you. Thank you. Thank you! It was worth it in the end.