‘I THOUGHT, WHAT IF I COULD PROVIDE THIS EXPERIENCE TO OTHER PEOPLE?’
For Valenti, the beauty and value in travel is connecting with the locals and learning their traditions and rituals. He didn’t want to do it from the perspective of a tour guide. That same summer, Valenti went on a trip to a remote Fijian village with no electricity or running water. He ended up in a moving kava ceremony with the village elders. Kava is the drink offered by village chiefs to welcome visitors to their community.
“Up until that point, I was going into business school looking to develop my skills in recruiting schools and groups to take these trips, to expand the business,” Valenti says. “After the experience in Fiji and the feeling of being accepted through a ceremony that never would have happened had we not had the connections already in place, I thought, what if I can provide this experience to other people?”
Valenti had seen firsthand the power of a unique and special experience shared between groups of people. “Booth students who have participated on these trips still get together for dinners and get-togethers,” Valenti says. He just wanted to make them extra special and unique.
A SOCIALLY-BASED TRAVEL EXPERIENCE
So he used his extensive network built from more than five years of guiding trips for Rustic Journeys and itinerary planning and organizing skills to create TripWeave. It is a one-stop service for pre-MBA students to take organized trips together. “The idea of TripWeave is two-fold,” Valenti says. “We want to offer that bonding experience as a whole and the second layer is trying to do it better geared toward young and educated people.”
Students entering select schools can signup to take organized trips together starting this summer. Valenti has approached some school officials to discuss the schools sanctioning events to no avail. Nevertheless, pre-MBA students planning on attending Columbia, Darden, Fuqua, Kenan-Flagler, Stanford, Harvard, Stern, Wharton and Yale can now signup for an unsanctioned trip.
Valenti says having unsanctioned trips is ideal because there are no insurance hoops to jump through and they can be flexible with input from schools and students on how to improve trips. According to Valenti, future Kenan-Flagler and Fuqua MBAs have shown the most interest in signing up for trips this summer.
“Socially-based travel is the first value we bring,” Valenti says. “From my traveling experiences, you can only have breakfast so many times with someone before they end up being your best friend. I don’t want to be negative towards LinkedIn or coffee chats for networking. Those are valuable to a certain extent. But we want to help create lasting and personal bonds that go beyond business to personal. And travel is a great way to facilitate that.”
Incoming MBA students at the nine business schools can choose among 15 different trips that range from a trek through Cambodia and Laos and America’s West to Iceland and a mystery trip for the uber-spontaneous. Trips usually last a week and range from $1,000 to $2,000 plus airfare.
THE WEAVE EXPERIENCE
The next point where Valenti sees value is the local contacts that weave in and out of the trips. “We have my global network as well and the Rustic Pathways network,” Valenti says. “Our contacts weave in and out of each trip when wanted and necessary. We also help take away some of the painful points like figuring out an itinerary or trying to book hotels based on the budgets of 10 different people.”
Valenti says the ability to design a class schedule focused on entrepreneurship and running a small business has already made his MBA experience valuable. “There’s so much value in being able to have a safe space and time to hash out and pursue different ideas,” Valenti says. “I’m able to bounce ideas off of and receive input from professors and fellow classmates.”
As for TripWeave, registration for a trip is officially open.
“We are trying to find a sweet spot of giving a detailed itinerary of suggestions on what to do but the freedom to pick and choose,” Valenti says. “We hope to have the message of ‘you’re 28 so you can go off and do your own thing’. It’s the ease of us taking care of the booking and them having the freedom to do what they want.”