Loes Daniels is the founder of the two travel gift card brands Flightgiftcard and Hotelgift. She believes in experiences as a gift rather than material things. She launched both concepts after a career in consulting at Monitor Deloitte and EY.
Flightgiftcard is the world’s first cross-airline gift card solution, allowing giftees the flexibility to choose and book flights with over 300 airlines to any of 980 destinations in 70 countries worldwide via the Flightgiftcard website.
Sister brand Hotelgift is a gift card providing access to over 110,000 hotels in 170 countries worldwide
Hotelgift and Fightgiftcard are currently operating in more than 20 markets worldwide, with the UK, US, Australia and The Netherlands, key markets for both brands.
- How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I’ve always known what I wanted and, in the end, always found a way how to get things done. However, you can’t control and influence everything, and I’ve learned to sometimes let it go and trust that it will turn out ok. So far, that was true. Also in business, when things go ‘wrong’, I learned not to be stressed about it too much, but keep my head cool, define what the problem really is and what is in my power to resolve it. Knowing that I did everything I can gives me and therefore also the rest of my team rest.
- How has your previous employment experience aided your current role?
My consulting background at Monitor Deloitte and EY is a great foundation for running my own company. Consulting taught me how to work in a disciplined and structured way. I managed multiple strategy and M&A related projects and nowadays can apply these skills to current projects within my company.
- What have the highlights and challenges been during your current role?
The key highlight is the high growth we have experienced since our launch to date. Since the Hotelgift launch in 2014 we have grown double digit each month. So far, tens of thousands of people have received a gift card for over 110,000 hotels worldwide and many beautiful memories were created. I believe everyone deserves a great experience as a gift. Another milestone was the launch of Flightgiftcard last December, our new gift card concept where you can give a flight as a gift. In addition, I’m very grateful to work with a very talented team at our office in Amsterdam to make it all happen. A key challenge for me is how to deal with the imperfection of a fast-growing company, you constantly see opportunities and room for improvement. However, I’ve learned to focus on the bigger picture and stick to our plan to get things done in the best way.
- What advice can you offer to women who want a career in your industry?
I’d advice to talk to friends and family about your idea to further refine and it to get a feeling if it would work. If so, just start! Make a plan of what would be required, prioritize and go. Also, try to launch your new concept as soon as possible. You’ll learn best from real user feedback, and you can keep improving best and most focussed when listening to them.
- What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career to date?
Focus. I’ve learned to set goals, make a plan how to get there and to stick to my plan. When you don’t do this, you will be distracted by the daily activities around you. If you focus on your plan, you’ll see results.
- How do you maintain a work/life balance?
This remains a challenge, with your own business your thinking about to do’s and improvements 24/7. For example, when I can’t sleep, and I think of an important to-do or a new idea, I always write it down, so I can mentally park it. The notes app in my phone is full of ideas that came up on random events or timings. However, I’ve also learned that I perform best when my mind is clear. I therefore try and focus on things that give me energy like spending time with family and friends, exploring new places, eat healthy, exercise and (during weekdays) try to sleep at least 8 hours per night.
- What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
Women are often not aware of how good they are in their work. They can be more modest than men when talking about their achievements, which may result in the environment perceiving them in the same way. However, I strongly believe that if a woman is good at her job and has the ambition to make a career, she will make it.
- How can we encourage more women to start their own business?
I think to encourage them to start step by step, potentially just a few hours per week, as they work their current job. When they really want it, it will be fun to start and work on. When doing it as they work their job, the risk is very limited, and they can test how to make it work. Personally, I also combined Hotelgift for a while with my job at EY M&A consulting, in the end it was long hours, but it gave me the option to organically grow Hotelgift (without external investors), whilst keeping an income to being able to pay my rent and do fun things.
- How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
I believe mentorship is very important. You need family and friends to encourage you to continue when you’re in a low space, both from a personal as well as a professional perspective. In addition, since a year I’m part of the Entrepreneur’s Organization, this is a global network that enables entrepreneurs to learn and grow from each other leading to greater business success and an enriched personal life. It really helped to me to reflect and see my ‘problems’ in perspective. In addition, it is fun to learn from other entrepreneurs about their ways of working.
- Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
Neelie Kroes, she is a Dutch retired politician who achieved great changes as a European Commissioner for competition first and later as European Commissioner for Digital Agenda. She is a very strong team leader and negotiator. It is impressive how she managed to get things done in an environment with so many stakeholders and diverse interests. In addition, I think it is great that at her age, she is still active as an advocate for start-ups and is still occupying a seat in multiple supervisory boards.
- What do you want to professionally and personally accomplish in the next year?
In the coming year I want to further grow my company by launching two additional experience gift card concepts, triple revenue again and further build our great team. On a personal level, I want to make a long trip to explore new places of the world and enhance my travel experiences. I would either like to go to South America or South Africa as I haven’t been to both places yet.
- What are the top three tips you can offer to an entrepreneur starting out?
Focus – create a plan, block time in your agenda and go for it!
Go to market fast – don’t spend months on making your concept perfect, but go to market as soon as possible to learn from real user feedback
Make it fun – ensure you enjoy the ride, that’s the only way it will work!