They are flying in from Nebraska, Costa Rica, Stockholm and Mumbai. Most have never met, even though they have been working intensely together for well over a year. And now, a 7-day luxury stay at the award-winning Sun Gardens Dubrovnik resort awaits.
As part of next week’s Work. Place. Culture. conference in Dubrovnik, Sun Gardens Dubrovnik generously agreed to host a 7-day workation package for the successful applicants of the conference ‘Win a Workation’ package. Travel app startup NaviSavi won the prize (you can see their video entry above).
CEO Sally Bunnell was more than happy to talk to TCN about what it means to finally meet some of her senior team in the flesh, as well as a fifth visit to Dubrovnik:
1. Congratulations on winning the Sun Gardens Dubrovnik Workation competition. A week by the pool on the Adriatic coast. How did you hear about the competition, and why did you decide to apply?
I don’t know if the universe was listening, but I had just said to myself recently, “I need just one week (literally) to sit still at a pool or a beach, unwind, and preferably somewhere warm!”
I am part of a digital nomad group called the Wi-Fi Tribe and we have a very strong community in person and online. Someone from the Tribe posted about this opportunity in our Slack Channel and I thought, I would love to win that! I had it on my agenda to apply, but I’ve been so busy, I had completely forgotten. When I went back to check it out more, I noticed it was just an hour before the submission deadline! Since we were all spread out in time zones (and it was Friday evening!) I quickly applied on behalf of my entire team. So, I think this was the universe responding, when we found out we had been chosen!
2. According to your application video, you have never met most of your colleagues, and your team is spread across the USA, Costa Rica, India, England and Stockholm. For those of us from older generations, take us through the process of starting a company remotely and working for over a year with colleagues you have never met?
Well, I never intended to start a remote company! I have always worked ‘semi-remote’ and traveled for my professions in the music and entertainment industry, but it was all kind of by luck. I was supposed to release NaviSavi, April 1, 2020, and guess what hit just a few weeks previous…. The Pandemic!
I wasn’t happy with the current development team and since we decided to not release the app during COVID, I thought it was time to look elsewhere for help. I called up an old music industry friend, David Pears, from the UK, who had recently transitioned into Tech, and asked him for some ‘advice.’ Before I knew it, he and his two developer friends from coding school in Edinburg, were building me a brand-new app from scratch.
We were all a bit new to this app building process, but during lockdowns we had the time and technology, in which we could all connect, and build a strong founding team. I then began hiring interns via Zoom interviews for the 2020 Summer and had eight great candidates that helped me prepare research, social media and well, try out my own leadership skills. You’d be surprised, 20-year old’s can be quick intimidating when they all sit there with their mics off!
From there, I expanded the next Fall/Springs Semester 2020/2021 intern teams and at one point we had nearly 40 people working on NaviSavi! I had only met ONE of them in person. I had ‘interns’ who were VPs at Capital One Bank, getting master’s in business, finance, marketing, all working on NaviSavi, as everyone was stuck at home! Some of those have even stayed on and complete our C-Level team!
We even met most of our content creators and influencers at virtual conferences, where we got them signed on to help us populate the app with video content. None of them were able to travel and yet were sitting on thousands of great videos from their past travels and their own cities.
The pandemic was the best thing that happened to NaviSavi. I’m sure not many travel companies can say that.
A year later, I finally got the chance for meet about 10 of the interns and a handful of creators in person, and yet, still many I’ve only seen from a screen. Everyone who works with us is forever a part of our NaviSavi family. NaviSavi was built by a community of people who gave their time, energy, and hearts because they too believed in the idea.
3. How do you encourage things such as teambuilding in such a remote environment?
I always lead with my ‘4H’s’ – Honestly, Humble, Hustle, Have Fun.
You lead a team by being the example you want them to follow.
Honesty – I always give it to them real. We are a startup, there is NO BUDGET for that. 🙂
Humble – You are never too big or too small in this company. I may be the CEO, but I still will ‘sweep the floors’ so we can get a job done. Also, if you are in the wrong, acknowledge it and apologize. I do it all the time.
Hustle – I always encourage my team to charge and take a chance, versus hesitate. It hard to find ‘drive’ and ‘dedication’ but when you do, you never want to stifle that ambition.
Have FUN – Don’t take ourselves too seriously. We are only a video travel app! It’s ok if something goes wrong. Also, it means, Happy Hours! Even on zoom call we play ’NaviSavi Bingo’ or “Caption This” parties in which we all come up with fun social media post captions. I keep doing random, crazy stuff that keeps the team wondering ‘what is Rally Sally going to do next!’
4. You have visited 96 countries so far. Do they include Croatia? What is your experience of Croatia and Dubrovnik so far?
I’ve been to Croatia six times! Four of those times I spent several nights each in Dubrovnik! It is one of my favorite cities in the world. Amazing history, a mix of cultures, and the FOOD! I’ve been sailing up and down the coasts, parties in Hvar, and even the beautiful Plitvice Lakes national Park!
It was an absolute dream to be welcomed back with this opportunity and to be able to now share this amazing country with my own team!
5. Is this your first workcation? How do you envision the week from a work and play perspective? And how to get that balance right?
Technically, as a full-time digital nomad, I’m always on ‘workcation’ – but most people usually only really see it as one big vacation!
I have spoken many times to my team about getting a ‘weeklong house’ where we can all work together somewhere amazing. This now just happens now to be the first honorary “NaviSavi Retreat Week” in Dubrovnik! What a way to start!
I am a big work hard, play hard type of person, but I realize that can’t always apply to my team. The first time I meet a new group of my team members in person, I think it’s best over a casual drink. Break the ice a bit and people loosen up quick around each other. But, the next day, when I say we start at 10AM, I am all business and I expect the team to do the same. It’s a level of respect for everyone there. Have fun but show up ready to work. I know my team will great time this week; having some time to themselves, exploring, relaxing, but we walk away from the day of work, once we all feel accomplished.
As for myself, I get a bit out of balance myself and just end up getting sick in a hotel for a few days, as there is no time to stop when I am jumping from work and events around the world. But as the CEO, I’m learning, taking care of myself is also taking care of my team in the long run.
(The winning team will stay in 2 x 2 bedroom residences. Each bedroom has a kingsize bed and ensuite with shared living area.)
6. Tell us a little about your NaviSavi video app, and how it can be used to promote Croatian tourism. Do you have a Dubrovnik addition in your plans?
NaviSavi is simple — point, shoot, and upload, phone videos of experiences and places you love. The app is free and there are no photos, no reviews, and no bullsh*t. Just unedited and unfiltered videos, that show the exact experience in 30 seconds or less.
We verify each clip for authenticity, so users feel like they are there in the destination with the person holding the camera. We also categorize each clip by location, price and interest so our users don’t have to do any additional research. Since there is no negativity of places, you only see the hidden gems and must do’s things people recommend. Now everyone can build and book travel itineraries with videos.
Our nomads, travel influencers, and even locals are uploading videos and building ‘playlists’ of their favorite places, so others can plan trips from their positive recommendations.
We currently have 25,000 approved videos on our app covering 144 countries, including Croatia. We even brought in one of our favorites, high profile creators, with our team to upload videos of all the must-see places, and the best hidden gems. (We need your suggestions!) In fact, the entire local community can upload and create playlists of their favorite spots, so we can help bring tourists to the small businesses in the area.
This month we plan to officially launch Dubrovnik as our newest Featured City in our ‘Where 2 Next’ campaign for this summer, to help promote tourism and nomads to the city.
7. Tell us about the culture of the workation as a concept. Do you see it becoming mainstream?
There is a new generation of travelers coming, and they are coming with their laptops. The digital age of travel is here, and that means hotels, cities, and businesses need to rethink all the traditional ways of how travel and work used to be. The last two years has seen an absolute boom in digital nomads and remote workers, in additional to how the younger generation craves real experiences, slower travel, and is consuming short form video at an unprecedented rate. I think after this generation has gotten a taste of the work-cation; businesses are going to have a tough time ever getting people back into a traditional job setting.
8. And finally, how do you plan your first evening at Sun Gardens Dubrovnik, finally meeting your team for the first time after all this time?
Well, it will start with big hugs. Even though we’ve never met some of the team in person, we have been together as a ‘work family’ through the ‘screen’ now almost two years! Then, if I know my crew well, you will see us all celebrating being together with some drinks, food, and I’m sure someone will end up in the pool! Oh, and don’t forget we will be shooting videos of the amazing hotel all night on our phones for NaviSavi! 🙂
Check out the magical Old Town and Sun Gardens Dubrovnik video teaser above – why would you take a workation anywhere else?
Looking to attend the Work. Place. Culture. conference? More details here.
For more news and features about digital nomads in Croatia, follow the dedicated TCN section.