What is your story and background?
I am Iris Rangil, CEO & Founder of Hero & Creatives, (a platform that allows travelers to book local photographer-guides to capture their trips in a better way than selfies). I am 24 years old and I grew up in the most forgotten regional capital city of Spain, called Soria. It is a city in north-central Spain surrounded by mountains.
I was a very happy child until I hit the age of 4. After that, I started being bullied by a boy that was in my class at school. This situation made everything a little bit more difficult in my daily life, but still I was a very cheerful little girl. My friends were all boys because I loved playing soccer and I loved doing boys’ things and wearing boys’ clothes.
I was bullied until the age of 16. I had to listen to how embarrassing and ugly I was on aregular basis. This part of my life made my self-esteem completely drop.
For all these reasons I used to play alone at primary school and I didn’t have too many friends as a teenager. I was always creating stories in my mind, characters, and I even created my own games. When I was 6 or 7 I loved to imagine that I was the owner of a hair salon. I used to pretend that the huge old cell phone that my sister gave me when she stopped using it was ringing, and I used to answer like I was talking to my costumers,
“Iris Hair Salon, how can I help you?”
I used Outlook to write down imaginary names of clients, their appointments, and the hair service they wanted to be scheduled for. I basically played with Microsoft Office for years before other children even knew how a computer worked. I was a little weird girl.
Apart from that, the only way I felt good all throughout my adolescence was performing arts: mostly singing and playing the guitar. I had a band and we played at some bars in my hometown. I started teaching guitar when I was 15. I only knew the basics, so when my students knew a little bit, I recommended them to go to an actual music school. I had so much fun teaching!
At school, I really liked language courses, but I was also an outstanding student at painting and drawing so I won many writing and painting school contests.
Because of this background, I decided to study Graphic Design. I had my doubts until the very last minute. I was torn because I loved Psychology, Philosophy, Journalism and Graphic Design but i didn’t know which one to pick. Finally, I picked this last field.
When I was 20 I moved to Portugal. I moved there for a year of study abroad as an exchange student, as part of the Erasmus program. Erasmus is a European exchange program for college and university students to study abroad for an academic year during your degree. I chose Porto in my last year of Graphic Design studies and after 5 days in the city I decided that I was willing to do anything to stay and live there after my program was over. Now I call the city of Porto home.
I just love this city and this culture so much that even when I travel to other places for some days, I miss Portugal. My plans are to travel around the world, but I would like to save money to buy a little studio here so I can leave all my belongings in Porto. That way, I will be able to come back some day. Right now I live by myself in an apartment I am renting near the seaside.
What is your business about and what problem did you want to solve?
I first experienced this problem on my own. I came back from a trip and my pictures were really disappointing. I have been working as a freelance photographer for some years, so taking nice pictures of my trips was not a problem, but I was never in my own photos, nor in my own “memories”. Then I realized that this problem happens on streets everywhere, every day: travelers taking selfies, couples asking someone to take a picture of them.
They take risks by lending their cameras or mobile phones out to strangers. After that, the picture turns out to be bad, but they can’t ask for another one. They don’t want to bother strangers again.
If they don’t ask someone to take the picture, one of the travelers will always be missing from the photo. Is this the kind of memory we want for the unique experience of life known as “travel”? Are selfies the real solution? Of course not.
What I decided to create was the Hero & Creatives platform which I believe solves this problem. We connect travelers and local photographer-guides all over the world.
We offer a platform where travelers can book a photoshoot & tour in order to get the best memories of their trips. And it’s not only about getting nice photos. Meeting a local or a photographer that has been living in the city for a long time and knows the culture, is an invaluable experience on its own. You will get to see everything the place is known for, as well as the unique hidden gems known only to locals. So travelers get real valuable memories, but also a great, new and different experience out of traveling.
Can you discuss some of the challenges you’ve overcome as a millennial and an entrepreneur?
I guess I haven’t gone through many problems, being born in this millennial generation, at least until now. It bothers me that a lot of people consider us poorly educated or less informed about general culture, but I think that always happens when you’re young and are working in a field with older people.
I feel lucky to be part of the millennial generation. I still had a traditional childhood, I played non virtual games most of the time and I consider that shouldn’t be lost. Unfortunately next generation is losing that and it seems children now are born with an iPad in their hands.
I think I have overcome the same challenges as other entrepreneurs. Though I still have a long way to go. Being an entrepreneur puts you in a position where you constantly face new obstacles to overcome. So far, none of them have stopped me. I’d say the biggest challenge was doing all this by myself. A lot of startups start with a team of founders and I started out with just me, myself, and an idea.
It’s only now that I have been looking to permanently gather a team around me. I also believe that being a part of this technological era has helped me to find an amazing team of photographers without having to move from my home or from my office. In previous generations, it would be impossible to do that.
I am kind of positive so I can’t really complain about being a millennial.
What had been your biggest success to date?
First of all, I think my biggest success is being happy with the person I have become. I am proud of all steps I’ve taken and all the things I’ve learnt.
Sometimes I feel a little bit embarrassed because I don’t have a Master’s, many titles or many degrees. I just really believe that being entrepreneur for more than 2 years is the best “course” one can study nowadays.
Since I started building Hero & Creatives, I have had some the most memorable experiences in my life. However, the greatest day was at the 2014 WebSummit in Dublin.
Before I went there, I decided to apply to the Pitch Hop contest created by Paypal and Braintree. I only told three of my friends that I was going to participate because I knew if I would tell my family, they would tell me that I was crazy. My English is not perfect, and the contest was about rapping lyrics in order to explain what my company is about; but I thought “If I am really bad, I might appear in the media for being super ridiculous. If I am very good, I can win the prize.”
I think there is no bad way of advertising yourself, but different ways of doing it so I did not feel any fear and I did it. Furthermore, I am a competitive person, and so I always think that I can win. This trait comes from my sports background (I loved to play sports when I was a kid, mainly soccer).
In addition, I never sang rap but I worked as a singer some years ago, so I tried to use that advantage. I put this performance together with my collaborator Laura Guijarro, and Jorge Arribas. Jorge Arribas is my coach who was supporting us behind the scenes when we were recording. Everyone at the Braintree booth was enthusiastic about us, about our lyrics and our way of rapping. We had to record the voice first, and then we danced in front of the camera while lip-synching. Braintree employees had fake gold necklaces and sunglasses as well as other funny accessories like hats to dress up, and they threw dollars at us while singing. I cannot remember a better moment in my life! We had so much fun!
After we were waiting in the pavilion where people had their startups stands, I was phoned by the organizers of the Pitch Hop to tell me that we won. Jorge was screaming extremely loud because he was so pumped, and full of excitement and happiness. He did that in the middle of the fair, so everyone looked at us to try to find out what was going on. They did not know what we won, but the prize was 1 and a half million dollars of free transactions with Paypal and 100,000$ worth of credit cards transactions with Braintree systems. The prize was worth the excitement.
Finally, I got into the booth and I met William Ready, the founder of Braintree. When he explained to me all I won, I cried so hard that everyone that was there almost cried too. I told them how much I was sacrificing my life for this dream, which is Hero & Creatives, and William said to me:
“Don’t give up; I had to work in three different jobs at the same time to build this.”
He offered me his help for the future in case I wanted to go to the US, so that was a big step for me and it was one of the most exciting and emotional days of my life.
What’s your advice for millennial entrepreneurs today?
My advice is to commit yourself until your limits so you can reach success. Organize your days in the most productive way but don’t obsess over it. For me (an artistic mind) it has been difficult to learn how to do it, but I notice a huge improvement and I keep progressing. For most of us it is going to be tough to get there.
Financially, if you come from a middle/low-class family with no extra money, like me, you will probably have to keep a second job to fund your project and that is hard. Just keep fighting and the achievements will come.
My main advice is not to give up after the first failure or problem you have. Consider how lucky you are for doing something you love. And if you don’t love it, it doesn’t make sense to do it in my opinion. You have to be realistic as well, and accept that things might not work out in the end. That is not a failure, it’s another lecture, another lesson in your life. It has a lot of value.
As my coach used to say, if your business or company doesn’t give you any pleasure anymore, it doesn’t make sense to continue. You must jump out of bed every morning wanting to succeed and work really hard to do it. Just that!
Can you discuss the importance of digital media today?
As I said before, I couldn’t start and develop this project without taking advantage of the amazing tools that digital media has been offering us these recent times.
For my business this is fundamental, the possibility to communicate with my whole team around the world without moving from my office.
When I encountered problems to use digital media, I consequently had troubles in my business. For example, we took a tour to Cuba and it was almost impossible for the photographer to upload the pictures that he had to send us. The communication was kind of inaccessible and I think that a country that doesn’t allow others to communicate can’t experience any real progress.
Our social media channels have been also essential to growing the company. Thanks to that some journalists and bloggers from publications have featured our story. Right now you, Tayo, are giving me the chance to spread the word, and I just never expected you would contact me. I’ve been listening to your podcasts for a while now to improve my English and out of the blue you contacted me. This is definitely in the list of biggest successes, attracting your attention.
It was a simple tweet, just a comment with no further intentions, which made our communication possible. For me that is incredible. The big surprises you can find in people through the Internet.
It is good to know that there are great people everywhere and that digital media can help keep us in touch. It brings people together that are in fact miles away.
I had to Iris! Once I saw your Tweet and the work you were doing, I had to reach out. So who are your biggest inspirations today?
I am reading some books on entrepreneurship to get to know the most influential people in this world of startups, but I am afraid I am still an amateur regarding all this knowledge.
I guess my first answer is Richard Branson. I still don’t know tons about him, but all the videos I’ve seen and the articles I’ve read make me feel like he is a great guy. He is really inspiring, and he is doing good things besides making his own fortune. He is promoting some startup contests (although the one that I knew about this last month was only allowing UK residents to participate, and that made me sad J) and I know he is also doing something related to charity and social programs.
I loved the story of Sophia Amoruso, the CEO of Nasty Gal. Her book amused me. The way she wrote made me feel powerful and free as she is, because she writes without any fear. She can say anything because she is powerful and she doesn’t need to be afraid of anyone. It seems she doesn’t care what the others say, and I love that.
I wish all women could be free to express themselves like that.
I wish I had more time because I would love to do many things, but at this time my main project is Hero & Creatives and it takes my full time every day. You can find me here:
My personal Linkedin: https://pt.linkedin.com/in/irisrangil Personal Twitter and Instagram: @irisrangil
And you can find here about the company in the following places:
Website/platform: www.heroandcreatives.com Blog where we expose some travelers’ stories:
Facebook page of Hero & Creatives: https://www.facebook.com/heroandcreatives. Twitter and Instagram of Hero & Creatives: @herocreatives