We talked to Valentin Shekerov of Camotrek on how they inspire and give people the right tools to explore the outdoors and here is what he said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Valentin Shekerov: We are all healthy, and everything is all right. Each family member went through COVID-19, and we learned that it is a disease one should not underestimate. Having said that, COVID-19 definitely isn’t the plague. “Mind your own business” is among the basic principles that govern my life, so witnessing the insanity surrounding us has been very disappointing and frustrating. The last year has been tough not because of the pandemic itself but more because of the restrictions, lockdowns, quarantines, measures, media coverage, etc. – everything that constantly reminds us of the awkward situation the whole world has been in since the beginning of 2020.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Camotrek.
Valentin Shekerov: Several years ago, after graduating with a master’s degree in economics, I worked as a financial controller for a medium-sized company. At that time, I never thought that someday I’d launch my own business. Then I left my job looking for something that would be more fulfilling and decided to further my academic qualifications by enrolling in another master’s program (Quantitative Economics) abroad. It wasn’t my thing, so I dropped the college and founded Camotrek – a website (blog) focused on the outdoor industry and especially everything hiking and backpacking related. It’s great if you can turn your hobby into a full-time career, and I did exactly that.
How does Camotrek innovate?
Valentin Shekerov: I don’t know if ‘innovation’ is the correct word in our case, but we study our competitors carefully and analyze what they do and why they do it. Then we just try to do things better – nothing fancy. We have extremely high standards, and we’re always looking to improve the quality of our work.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Valentin Shekerov: We noticed that the whole outdoor economy had been hit hard, and we are not an exception. Just like many other businesses, we lost revenue during the pandemic, but the outdoor economy has the potential to bounce back as more people are getting outside. We’ll see what happens in the coming months.
Unfortunately, a medical crisis turned into a socio-economic crisis with implications for a great deal of humanity. Many businesses went bankrupt, and many more have been in financial difficulties. Moreover, too many people lost their jobs as a result of the measures imposed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. While the increase in the unemployment rate may be just a number for the policymakers, it can be a disaster for those who lost their jobs and their families. All I can say is that I feel sorry for everyone who suffered the consequences of stupid decisions taken by others and hope that people could return to normal life as soon as possible.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Valentin Shekerov: As a business owner, you need to be ready to make difficult choices even if you’re not happy doing that. So yes, I had to make very difficult decisions concerning mainly the services we offer. We needed a more flexible approach that would allow us to grasp opportunities.
It’s funny that sometimes we forget basic things. I was reminded how important flexibility and teamwork are.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
Valentin Shekerov: We use a lot of tools and software solutions for analyzing data and finding trends that can help us shape our response to the challenges. Actually, we don’t outsource anything to a specialist firm, so we need to make sure that we are prepared to do various things, from testing gear and creating in-depth content to website design and SEO optimization. So I believe that versatility plays a key role in crisis management.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Valentin Shekerov: The outdoor recreation economy is large. Our competitors are sites in the outdoors space from all over the world but mostly from the US, meaning that they often can rely on more resources. So, we need to cope with fierce competition.
My aim is to grow the Camotrek community and make this site the ultimate learning resource for anyone who wants to learn new things and develop their skills. It’s quite ambitious so we need to do everything we can to make sure that we can keep up with our competitors. Thus working hard and smart is extremely important to be successful.
Your final thoughts?
Valentin Shekerov: Most people do not expect to move from crisis to crisis, and neither do I. So I hope that someday this period will be just bad memory – a good lesson that we need to keep fighting, keep believing, and never ever give in.