On discovering your passion, building community & entrepreneurship
Welcome to the first blog post in my new series, Coffee & The Tea, where creative business women, entrepreneurs, & bloggers share all. Join in as we learn more about business, social media, life, and everything between.
The first guest in this series is Tracy Komlos. Tracy is is an experience designer, a global community builder, and the Founder and CEO of Pangea Dreams, which has been acclaimed as the #1 industry leader in women’s educational and creative retreats. Through her work with Pangea Dreams, Tracy is empowering women from all over the world to embrace their passions by learning the skills needed to create a sustainable business and positively impact their community. As a result, Tracy is recognized as an international speaker and leader in the women’s educational and creative space focusing on digital entrepreneurship.
I had the pleasure of attending one of the Pangea Dreams retreats in Bali and can’t wait for you all to read about her experiences turning her love of travel and serving others, into a creative retreat experience and growing a community on Instagram.
In this post:
On getting started & lessons learned
Can you share with me a little bit about yourself? How did you get where you are today?
As a kid, I did not like being told what to do. I would always question authority, and I wanted to understand why I had to do something before just blindly doing it. My parents really encouraged that which led to this sense of independence and forging my own path at a very young age.
I have always loved learning, but the traditional structure of learning in a classroom has never resonated with me. That’s why throughout my life I have taken it upon myself to learn through experiences, which leads me to a life-changing experience I’d like to share with you that happened when I turned 19.
19 was a big year of realizations and experiences for me. These realizations ultimately put me on the trajectory for the life that I have been living over the last 10 years.
The first lesson was shown to me when I worked my first corporate 9-5 job over a summer. I was totally miserable and promised myself that I would never allow myself to feel so insignificant and uninspired again like I did at that job. In that moment I knew I would never work for anyone but myself. In that moment, the “how” did not matter, I knew I was going to figure it out. There was no other option.
Shortly after that, lesson number two presented itself. Which of course, reinsured lesson one and fueled me with the passion and drive I needed to pursue this path.
I took my first backpacking trip to India. I stayed in the slums just outside of Delhi in a town called Faridabad and volunteered at an orphanage. No one spoke a word of English, not even the host family I was staying with. This trip, to date, has had the biggest impact on my life. It taught me so many lessons that I still hold so close to my heart and guide me daily.
I learned that…
- We are all the same, we all want and need the same thing, and ultimately we are all fueled by the desire to love and be loved.
- That communication and connection can happen on deeper levels than just through spoken language.
- There is so much more to life than what we are exposed to and experience in North America. I saw the extremes during my experience in India: extreme poverty, wealth, happiness and illness.
- Happiness cannot be bought and that life is too short to not pursue what you love.
- Most importantly, it allowed me to realize that I am truly my best self when I am at service to others.
I came back from that month and a half long trip with a totally new outlook on life. I was no longer going to compromise and I was going to do whatever it took to pave my own path, on my terms. That is when my entrepreneurial journey began.
A post shared by TRACY KOMLOS (@tracykomlos) on Jan 25, 2020 at 9:29am PST
On building an authentic community
What inspired you to start hosting women’s retreats?
When I was just starting out as a digital creator and solo-entrepreneur, I often found myself lonely, and at a loss when looking for other like-minded women to co-create with. I was craving a sense of community and support, but I simply couldn’t find it. Turns out, I wasn’t alone. So in 2016, I decided to solve this problem and host a retreat for female creators and entrepreneurs just like me to come together to learn new skills, collaborate, and connect. We very quickly proved our concept – in less than two weeks, we sold out of three back to back retreats that took place in Bali.
Now, after 3 years running, Pangea Dreams is the #1 industry leader in women’s educational retreats. We are dedicated to building a global community of female change-makers, thought leaders and creatives. Through our intensive week-long educational retreats, we empower women with the necessary tools & skills to succeed in the digital world.
Do you have any advice for building a community online and in-person?
Start with a problem you are trying to solve. Do you feel like no one around you understands what you are going through? Whether personal or professional? Do you wish that you had other like-minded people to connect to and bounce ideas off of?
Those are the kinds of questions and feelings I often felt myself thinking about. Then I asked myself, who else might be feeling this way and from that I built out who my community was. And the final and most important ingredient to this recipe is adding value to their lives!!! Once you identify who your community is you need to ask yourself, how can I add value to their lives and how can we all support each other so we can all thrive?
Can you tell me more about when you knew it was time to scale Pangea Dreams? And when did you know it was time to start hiring trip leaders and creating a team?
It was in the first year of hosting retreats after the 7th retreat in our 3rd location that I really knew. After speaking to the girls and asking them why they came, some answers were because they wanted to meet me personally and right there was a red flag for me. I have always wanted to grow and scale a business that wasn’t completely dependent on me. Of course, that’s flattering to hear, but in that moment I needed to separate myself from the value of what the business does. Through that, it would enable us to grow and scale.
Once I identified that I could not be leading all of these retreats anymore, (as much as I absolutely love it – it’s very physically and emotionally exhausting) I started to think about building out a team that could support and operate the business.
A year and a half later after that realization, I was able to bring on an incredible team of trip leaders that successfully led the last 4 retreats of 2019 on their own, without me being there. That was an incredible moment for me and for the business because that is when I realized this business could truly scale and grow based solely on the value of what Pangea Dreams offers. It was surreal.
Now moving into 2020 I’m not slotted on any of the 2020 retreats which is a huge milestone and accomplishment for us so that I can really start focusing on scaling the business in a whole new way.
What are your top tips for networking and meeting new people?
I really don’t like the word networking as it feels too transactional. I love going to events and meetups with the sole intention of connecting with other people. That being said, I am very selective about how I spend my time, so I always make sure that what I am picking to attend aligns with my values and will attract like-minded individuals. Then it’s just about making friends and asking people real questions other than the typical “what do you do?!” When we can connect on a more human level, rather than, what can you do for me, the opportunity in the future is so much greater. So in short, go into any event with open arms, a smile and the intention to connect.
What is your favorite part about being an entrepreneur?
The exciting thing about being an entrepreneur and being in this industry is that no two days are the same. I’m constantly meeting new people, taking phone calls, and collaborating with other communities with similar values as Pangea Dreams. One day I could be in New York City hosting a women’s entrepreneurship brunch and the next day I can be in LA hosting an Alumni retreat with over 30 of our alumni from all over the world. It’s always changing and constantly challenges and excites me.
I love taking an idea and turning into something, whether it’s a tangible item or experience. Creating just brings so much joy and fulfillment to my life. To me though, my absolute favorite thing about being and entrepreneur is taking responsibility for my life and living life on my own terms. It’s scary but empowers me to do push myself and constantly work towards my dreams and goals.
What are your must-have business tools?
Shift: It is a desktop app. It’s been great for streamlining all of my email and app accounts in one place. It definitely keeps me organized.
Evernote: This helps keep my mind and thoughts organized. I love the different notebook and note features. I have this synced on my laptop and phone.
iCal/Google Calendar: There is always so much going on so my calendar is how I keep track of my life. I will send calendar invites as a plan has been made or create reminders on my calendar for everything that is coming up so that I never forget a meeting, birthday or a followup email.
What advice would you give to women who want to succeed in running their own business? What first step or action would you recommend?
Surround yourself with like minded people and people who inspire you to be better, to achieve more and to dream big! This might sound cliche but it is honestly the biggest game-changer. The energy you surround yourself with determines your outcome. So if you don’t have a strong support system of people who “get it” and you feel like you are constantly trying to explain or justify your dreams- find a community or group that will elevate you and push you forward.
Also, starting a business is scary and very difficult but lean into the discomfort of that and push through. Those moments of pain and challenges you will face will be your biggest teachers and your biggest opportunity for growth.
The best thing to do, is to just do. Get started. The outcome is never the outcome because you never know what starting will lead you to.
Were there any challenges or fears you had around entrepreneurship? If so, how did you overcome them?
Even 4 years into running my business, I am still worried it’s going to fail. I wonder if those feelings ever go away? But then I think, that’s what also gives me the drive to work harder and do more. When feelings of doubt arise, I allow myself to feel them, I acknowledge them and then I will ask myself – “is this in my control?” If the answer is no, then I will accept that and let those feelings pass. If the answer is yes, then I start brainstorming ways in which I can solve for the doubts or problems I am being faced with. Being able to be honest and check-in with yourself as an entrepreneur is crucial.
On marketing & content planning
What are your favorite tools for marketing your business?
The original marketing strategy for Pangea Dreams was all through Instagram and leveraging the community I had built through my personal IG account @tracykomlos. It all started by first asking the women in my community what they loved, what they wanted to learn, and what they felt like they were lacking in their lives. Through directly asking this, I saw a major gap that so many women were experiencing – a lack of community! So I decided to create something special that would fill that gap, and now the Pangea Dreams community is stronger than ever!
I also can’t stress enough how crucial organic, word of mouth is! It’s all about creating an experience or product that will bring real, true, honest value to someone’s life and in turn, they will share that experience.
We spend a lot of time building our community through outreach initiatives and actively searching for women who we think could benefit from our program.To date, Instagram has been our biggest driver for acquiring new customers as it’s allowed our brand to not only be seen globally but has also allowed for us to share our experiences to such a wide audience. That’s why we post value-based content DAILY on our Instagram stories and feed every SINGLE day!
Do you have a content strategy? And if so, how far out do you and your team plan?
First and foremost we ask ourselves, how can we add value to our audience?
We do this through a weekly newsletter, blog posts, and daily Instagram posts and stories that we know our audience will love and always get value from.
For Instagram, we plan out about 2 weeks in advance and for our blog and newsletter we usually plan at least 1-2 months in advance.
On social media & partnerships
Can you talk a little about your experience with working with brands and monetizing your social media platforms?
This is actually how the idea for Pangea Dreams was originally sparked! It all started when brands wanted to send me a product to shoot and feature on my personal IG account. I quickly started to realize that creating content was a lot of work and decided to turn it into a business! Pangea Dreams started as a production and content creation business where I would work with multiple different brands and shoot content for their marketing initiatives in beautiful destinations around the world.
In our first year, we went to Bali, Iceland, the Bahamas, and Tulum. It was at the start of when customer-created content was really starting to grow, so I saw an opportunity and ran with it. From there, women from all over the world were DM-ing me and asking me how I was traveling and making money, so that’s when I decided to host the first Pangea Dreams Retreat in Bali back in February 2017. The rest is history!
Do you have any advice for beginners who want to start partnering with brands?
Firstly, I want to set something straight right off the bat, do not value your worth based on your number of followers or likes. You have so much more to offer than just that. So be super clear with what value you can add to anyone you want to work with.
Ask yourself, What are your strengths and skills? How are you going to help them achieve their goals? Once you have those answers, write out a well thought out email, try and make it personal to the brand and tell them exactly what you want to do for them, don’t leave it up to them to think of ways in which they can work with you- own it and tell them. That way, you take any guessing out of the equation.
Also, there is power in numbers, so email as many brands as possible– you don’t need all to say yes, just a few to begin with.
Lastly, don’t take no’s personally, it has nothing to do with you! Brands, hotels, tourism boards etc.. have so much going on, your timing might not align, so don’t be scared to reach back out at a later date.
How to connect with tracy
On instagram at @tracykomlos – shoot me a DM and say Hi!