We talked to Marianne Perez de Fransius of Bébé Voyage on how the startup helps families connect and travel with their small kids.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Marianne Perez de Fransius: We’ve been in Argentina throughout the pandemic, where we’ve had the world’s longest lock-down and travel restrictions (ongoing since mid-March!) We are definitely ready to have our first grader back in school and anxiously awaiting the day when our baby (born in June… at home!) can meet his grandparents, who are in the US and Sweden.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Bébé Voyage.
Marianne Perez de Fransius: Being a French-American born in Brazil and always attending international schools, travel has always been a part of me. I married a Swedish diplomat, which basically means that we move internationally every 3-5 years.
Our first son was born in Stockholm, Sweden, and when he was 7 weeks old, we moved to Maputo, Mozambique. I was posting about our adventures and got so many questions about traveling with a small baby that I thought there was an opportunity there. I teamed up with Juliet Perrachon, a family friend (our parents and grandparents are friends!), who was also traveling a lot with her newborn. We started an online community (with some trepidation on my part), and right away, it took off.
How does Bébé Voyage innovate?
Marianne Perez de Fransius: We’ve discovered the niche of parents traveling with very small children, i.e., 0-5 years old. Most family travel products and services focus on travel with older children. But millennial parents are eager to start traveling with babies and up until now have been underserved. They turn to Bébé Voyage for everything from inspiration, planning, helping at their destination, and keeping the spirit of travel when they get back home. We’ve been introduced to a cottage industry of products for travel with small children through our hyper-engaged community. This spawned the creation of a B2B community and facilitating the introduction of these brands to our audience.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Marianne Perez de Fransius: As a travel community, you would think that coronavirus would have killed us. Fortunately, our company mission extends beyond travel and has kept us going even while planes are grounded.
Bébé Voyage empowers parents to raise children to be curious, open-minded, and global citizens. We encourage parents to bring up lifelong explorers by exposing them to new cultures and experiences to build a better, more peaceful world for all.
So with all our travel-loving families stuck at home, a global connection has become more important than ever. We launched a Penpal program in the spring and have developed a lot of content around exploring the world from home. We’ve adjusted the timeline a bit on the launch of our B2C membership program, but it is clear that families, more than ever, are looking for trustworthy information about traveling with small children.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Marianne Perez de Fransius: Honestly, our most difficult choice was to terminate our relationship with our previous web developer because we outgrew him. We’ve been learning the value of having the right people on our team and that it keeps changing as we grow.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety, how do you project yourself and Bébé Voyage in the future?
Marianne Perez de Fransius: I have been seeing my osteopath a lot lately to alleviate my stress-induced back and neck problems. Fortunately, our team right now is really strong (and much smarter than I am in their respective domains) and generating a virtuous cycle of confidence. I am just trying to be an orchestra conductor and harmonize all these talents.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Marianne Perez de Fransius: Honestly, we don’t really have any direct competitors. There are a lot of individual content creators who write about family travel, but as their children grow older, they stop focusing on the 0-5-year-old market. But no one has a community as dynamic and engaged as ours.
Your final thoughts?
Marianne Perez de Fransius: When we started Bébé Voyage 5 years ago, we took the time to lay out our company mission and values. This has served us well over the years and allowed us to organically attract people to the community and our leadership team.