When Jack Henley ’12 and Steve Carey ’12 spent the fall of their junior year studying in Prague, they found themselves searching for more information regarding the city in which they were living. They realized that while there were plenty of travel guides out there (both online and in print), all of them were out of touch with the wants and needs of college students. They found that the best information on what to do, where to go, what to see, as well as a host of other travel tips, came from a document that had been put together by friends who had studied abroad in Prague in previous years. After realizing that students faced this problem no matter where they traveled, Jack, Steve, and Ellie Schmidt ’12 created Real Abroad, the first student-only travel community on the web. Real Abroad helps students who are studying or traveling abroad connect with one another and share their experiences and opinions. They applied to Thought Into Action in the fall of 2011 and quickly got to work turning their idea into reality.
Jack says that he can’t stress enough how important the Thought Into Action program has been in making Real Abroad come to life. It was the TIA mentors who, in November of his senior year, pushed the team to “just do it,” meaning to take their first leap into building a website. Had it not been for that, “we probably would have spent another 4 months in the library talking about our idea, doing an unnecessary amount of market research, and fine-tuning everything down to a pin-point.” Instead, Jack and Steve built the first rendition of the website over that winter break with WordPress and threw it up on the web. It was entirely static and was a sight for sore eyes, but it got the ball rolling. “Looking back, that was the turning point in our project where we stopped thinking and started doing.”
After graduation last May, Jack decided to take a shot at turning his Thought Into Action project into a full-fledged business venture. He formed an LLC in Massachusetts and invested a small amount of capital in a web development team to build a minimum viable product. Jack is currently building a team of brand ambassadors to help spread news of the website throughout Europe in the coming semester. He has also partnered with a leading student travel agency to work on a user referral program. The plan is that the site will be up and running this spring.
Jack says, “Overall, Thought Into Action has provided me with a great deal of direction and confidence. With the help of my mentors I was able to get over the fear of putting up a less-than-perfect product and realize the importance of learning as you go. Even now, if I ever feel that I’m in over my head or have hit a bump in the road, I’m able to reach out to the mentors for advice on anything from marketing to web design to legal issues. I have heard many other entrepreneurs speak of the importance of having a mentor when first starting out, which is something that I can now affirm. To be able to pick up the phone and talk to someone who is not only willing, but eager to help me with my problems is unbelievable.”
As all entrepreneurs do, Jack has had his share of challenges. The biggest one so far has been getting a minimum viable product developed. “The process has definitely caused a great deal of stress and has continually pushed the boundaries of my patience above and beyond where I thought they lay. At the same time, however, my situation has driven me to essentially give myself a crash course on all things internet, and I am now teaching myself how to program as well. It also taught me the most important lesson of all: things don’t always go as planned.”
Jack Henley graduated cum laude in 2012 with a B.A. in Philosophy and Economics where he was captain of the Colgate University rugby football club. He is currently working and living at home in Longmeadow, MA. He is looking for a partner with technical/computer experience to join the team. Please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org if you or someone you know may be interested.