“I absolutely am an avid traveler. I love Brazil,” says entrepreneur Beth Santos. “I’ve been to Rio a couple of times and it’s one of my favorite places in the world.”
Santos is someone who can be described as well-traveled. The Durham, New Hampshire native has vacationed and lived in exotic locales. In 2009, after graduating from Wellesley College, Santos was living in Sao Tome and Principe.
Sao Tome and Principe is an island nation off the coast of Africa, where the Portuguese language is dominant throughout. The island is a multifaceted mix of several cultures surrounding southern Africa.
“It’s a very tiny country,” she says. “It’s about 150,000 people.” With a country being small, it wouldn’t be difficult to become accustomed with the culture and people of the area. Santos’ describes her time spent in Sao Tome as becoming one of the locals.
Being on the compact isle is where the start for her company, Wanderful, came from as well.
Wanderful is an online collective of women who aren’t just sharing their fun vacation stories. It is a chance for women abroad to connect with one another in a way that is comparable to social media. However, it is more of an ever-expanding network than just another social media platform. Wanderful allows members to communicate and meet up with other users and become sources of information within a certain traveling spot.
Wanderful initially started out as a travel blog for Santos, when she was living in Sao Tome. Instead of focusing on what trendy restaurants to eat at, or what your “outfit of the day will be,” Santos wanted to focus on non-traditional and serious topics on traveling abroad as a woman.
“You would look up ‘women in travel,’” she says. “And nobody ever talked about the very serious, very true and very global concepts that women have to manage when traveling.” One of the many concepts Santos wanted to write about is maintaining customs and cultures within a foreign country and wanted to touch upon the challenges mothers face when traveling.
Santos has a well-traveled career path as well. She went from an Art History undergrad to working abroad in several countries to maintaining businesses. It was her career with Rotary, an institution devoted to bringing international businesses together, was the catalyst for bringing Wanderful from a travel blog to an online community and business.
“I was working as a Grants Coordinator at Rotary,” she says. “It was in that career when I started going to business school. I ended up studying social enterprise, which goes along with international development.”
Santos obtained her MBA from Northwestern University and combined her love for international development and traveling with the skills she learned in school. In 2013, Wanderful officially became a business. The present-day incarnation of Wanderful includes 25 chapters located not only across the US, but also globally. Spain, Canada and, Santos’ favorite, Brazil are included amongst the international chapters.
Keeping the trend of travel, Wanderful has changed locations as well. Its previous home base was Chicago but it is now based in Boston. Santos has since become acquainted with the Boston startup scene and says, “The amount of energy and movement in the startup space is unreal.”
For the future of Wanderful, Santos is looking to expand. Not just with new members and chapters, but with technology. Santos believes an app for Wanderful is on the horizon.
“There definitely is a desire to have it,” she says. “We’d like to get the word out there about Wanderful, before we can establish a user base for an app.”
Santos’ company has created the Women in Travel Summit, and the Wanderful chapters will host their own meetups as well.
The combination of connecting online and in-person, results in a tight-knit group of users. And anyone who identifies as a woman, regardless of age or biology, is urged to join. To sum up Wanderful’s personal connections between members, Santos says, “There’s a very strong value in our community and there is a very strong value in being a sisterhood.”
Masthead and thumbnail images courtesy of Wanderful. Other images courtesy of Jason Seagle.