Beth Santos is the founder and CEO of Wanderful, a global lifestyle brand and inclusive community of thousands of travelers and travel content creators. Wanderful reaches over 45,000 women each year through a thriving online membership network, local chapter events in 50 cities, global summits and small group trips.
But this is only a fraction of who Beth Santos is and what she does. In this interview we delve deep into how she supports female founders, is an active voice for inclusivity and anti-racism, why she was named a change-maker shaping the future of the travel industry by Business Insider, is a Tory Burch Fellow, Zell Fellow, has been recognized as one of 10 people shaping the future of Boston by Timeout, and has even visited the White House under the Obama administration.
Oh yeah – and when I spoke with her, she had just given birth to her second daughter. Beth Santos is an unstoppable force!
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I first met Beth at TravelCon in 2019; we had been paired up to host an event for solo female travelers. Later that year, I spoke at her conference WITS (Women in Travel Summit) in Latvia. Even after these two encounters, I didn’t truly understand how amazing Beth was until we sat down together for this interview. She has multiple businesses, is recognized as an acclaimed thought leader, and has some kind of invisible power source she connects to that keeps her constantly innovating and creating new things.
In this interview we explore not only what Beth is doing, but why; what drives her to keep going to change the narrative for women in travel and business.
Click here to watch the video on YouTube, or just hit play below!
The WITS Travel Creator and Brand Summit is a leading event for women and gender diverse travel creators and industry members hosted on two continents each year, and is listed by Forbes as one of the top inspiring events for women to attend.
In this interview, I humbly admit that even after speaking at the Women in Travel Summit in Latvia, I didn’t truly understand why Beth was so focused on female travel content creators with this arm of Wanderful. I learned through this interview exactly what Beth’s vision is…and it’s brilliant. We cover things like:
- The two narratives you’ll find online when you look up “women in travel”.
- The systemic problems in the travel industry that are preventing women from traveling with confidence and getting proper representation.
- The dichotomy of how women as consumers make 80% of travel decisions, but the industry is predominantly led by white males.
- How changing the narrative starts by fostering the voices of female travel content creators.
WITS is only one arm of the Wanderful empire, which was created in 2014 to widen the scope of women in travel and combat the problems listed above. Wanderful has a lot going on, and there’s more to come, including Wanderfest, which is going to be the first major outdoor festival for women travelers. In talking about Wanderful, we cover:
- The growth of Wanderful as an organization that literally connects women around the world (eg: you can land at an airport and be connected to a Wanderful member for anything from coffee to a place to stay).
- The standard entrepreneurship creation model and how Wanderful started differently.
- How the different components of Wanderful work together (community and creators).
- The vision for Wanderfest and how it is the part of the evolution of the Wanderful community.
Beth is incredibly vocal about diversity and inclusivity – and not just for women (and people who identify as women), but for all those who are marginalized or discriminated against. While one might wonder what this has to do with travel, Beth would probably say “everything”. Here are some of the things she said:
- “Travel is inherently a political act,” and what that means.
- The buying power of every traveler (spending thousands of dollars on every trip) and the opportunity/responsibility to vote with our dollars.
- How intersectionality has been ignored in that “women in travel” tends to imply “white women in travel”.
- Why the travel industry wasn’t initially responsive to the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020, and how silence is a position.
- The idea behind Wanderful’s Anti-Racism Town Hall gatherings.
- How the Town Halls have provided guidance and ideas to travel brands and creators, but it’s still a slow change, which boils down to not only messaging but also hiring and moving the juggernauts of large companies which takes time.
- Understanding that mistakes will be made by everybody and that’s okay.
We eventually switched over to how Beth founded and continues to run Wanderful, which was fully remote right from the start. She jokes that before the pandemic, she would get on calls and pretend she’s in some fancy office setting (instead of the guest bedroom). Now, we are all working out of the proverbial guest bedroom, so all pretence has been dropped! Regarding the structure and operation of her remote company, we discuss:
- The beauty of Wanderful’s remote structure in encouraging/allowing the team to travel whenever they wish.
- How hiring people remotely from around the world has helped with diversity and inclusion.
- The importance of fostering team communication and collaboration that doesn’t require input or participation from “the boss”.
- The importance of patience and flexibility in managing remote teams.
- Tools and techniques for remote teams.
- Boundaries! And how they’re crucial for work-life balance when work is always there and team members communicate/work at different times and in different time zones.
- The importance of not letting meetings run long so nobody ever resents meetings.
Beth contends that having a baby made her a better entrepreneur! In fact, her first ever WITS conference happened while she was giving birth to her first child, which meant the conference she created had to run without her! And that it did. Here’s what she had to say on the topic of being a mother while running a remote company – a lot of which boils down to work-life balance:
- We did this interview shortly after the birth of Beth’s second child. In many countries people would be on maternity leave, but from all appearances, Beth never stopped!
- The difference between coming back to work because you want to versus needing to.
- Tribute to single parents; she and her husband have the help of in-laws.
- How her duties have changed now that she’s caring for young children and how she communicates with her team.
- The rules are different if you’re an entrepreneur versus working as an employee in a traditional 9-5 job (even a remote one).
- If you have two hours of work but allow eight hours to do it, it will take eight hours.
- How the pandemic has created a world of slight workaholics and the challenges of being available all the time and the precedent that creates.
- Beth takes weekends off, but she might occasionally still post something to her team at 4:30am and her team berates her for it!
- Beth is launching Prosperity Circles to help entrepreneurs create smooth and effective business models.
- The best piece of advice she ever got: do what you love until you stop loving it, and then stop doing it.